House Held Up by Trees by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Jon Klassen
This is the story of a family and a house. When the house was new, it stood upon a newly planted lawn where the trees had been removed. It was bare, not even a stump left behind. On either side of the bare lot were trees of all sorts, the kind that spread seeds and scents. Two children lived in the new house and often played in the trees at the edges, watching their father care for the lawn. Their father mowed down all of the small tree seedlings before they could get started at all. But the children grew up, the man moved away to be closer to them, and the house was left alone. Alone except for the trees, which grew and took over the barren lawn, and eventually lifted the house high on their shoulders.
Kooser writes with amazing depth here, each sentence resonant with meaning and feeling. While the book can be read more lightly, the joy here is in that dark deep that lies behind the lines. The story plays with man vs. wilderness, the American obsession with lawns, children being pulled to the edges to find their own wild spaces, and the return to nature in the end. The writing is beautiful because of that ever-present ache that is there, the tug of the trees, the dance of the seeds.
Klassen has illustrated this book with such delicacy that it shows he feels that same amazing pull. He lets us peek at the house from the shelter of the woods, our eyes almost aching with the bareness in the sun. He captures the tree seeds in flight from high above, allowing us to fly with them and plant ourselves too. He plays with light, shadow and darkness, just as Kooser does.
This book is poetry, without the stanzas. It is a picture book that has depth, courage and looks deeply into our relationship with nature and with our families. Beautiful. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from library copy.