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.
Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley
Jane Doe is a very ordinary person, which wouldn’t be that odd, except she lives in the town of Remarkable, which is filled with the most gifted and talented people anywhere. Her family is full of gifted people, like her grandmother the mayor, her mother the architect, her brother the painter, her father the best-selling author, and her sister the mathematical genius. Jane on the other hand is just like her grandfather, easily overlooked and ordinary. They are so ordinary that they can’t get noticed long enough to get ice cream at the local soda shop. Jane is the only student left in the regular school, since all of the other children are in the gifted school. But then things start to change in Remarkable. A pirate captain comes to town, followed by three of his crew who are searching for him. Jane gets two classmates who have been kicked out of the gifted school because of their mischief. In fact, Jane’s life might not be quite as dull and ordinary as she first thought.
Foley takes the idea of a very ordinary character and runs with it. Jane is completely normal and it is her surroundings that are wild, extraordinary and unusual. At the same time though, Foley does much to celebrate the ordinary and to point out that the quiet, the plain and the unassuming have gifts too though it may take some time to find them or notice them.
Foley’s writing is great fun in this book that mixes a huge sense of humor with some wild adventures. The book starts slowly, nicely building towards the incredible ending that is filled with pirates, storms, music, cheap jelly, and even a sea monster. The story has wonderful little touches, side characters who are nice diversions, and plenty to love.
This would make a great pick for a class read aloud in elementary school and it would also make a remarkable read this summer. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books for Young Readers.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter and Pinterest accounts that you might find interesting:
If you’re interested in general library and e-book news, I also tweet about that and compile it on my Sites & Soundbytes blog.
‘Charlotte’s Web’ at 60: By the numbers http://j.mp/HGhmde
Conrad Mason’s top 10 magical objects | Children’s books | http://j.mp/ooI9mF http://j.mp/HGcJQw
How to Make Reading Fun: 6 Simple Suggestions « Literacy News http://j.mp/Im1Ws8
Hunger Games: How Controversial Books Build ‘Empathy Muscles’ | LiveScience http://j.mp/Im237d
JK Rowling: further details of first adult novel emerge | Books | http://guardian.co.uk http://j.mp/HAoCE1
Popularity of Newbery Medal Books for Kids May Depend on Decade http://j.mp/HGckNU
Q&A with author Kate DiCamillo – JSOnline http://j.mp/J898HA
Tolkien and Dickens grandsons join for two new children’s fantasy books http://prsm.tc/9mFJTR