House Held Up by Trees

Overview

From Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser and rising talent Jon Klassen comes a poignant tale of loss, change, and nature's quiet triumph.

When the house was new, not a single tree remained on its perfect lawn to give shade from the sun. The children in the house trailed the scent of wild trees to neighboring lots, where thick bushes offered up secret places to play. When the children grew up and moved away, their father, alone in the house, continued his battle against ...

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Overview

From Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser and rising talent Jon Klassen comes a poignant tale of loss, change, and nature's quiet triumph.

When the house was new, not a single tree remained on its perfect lawn to give shade from the sun. The children in the house trailed the scent of wild trees to neighboring lots, where thick bushes offered up secret places to play. When the children grew up and moved away, their father, alone in the house, continued his battle against blowing seeds, plucking out sprouting trees. Until one day the father, too, moved away, and as the empty house began its decline, the trees began their approach. At once wistful and exhilarating, this lovely, lyrical story evokes the inexorable passage of time — and the awe-inspiring power of nature to lift us up.

A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book of 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Though there’s a family involved, the real star of this multilayered modern parable is a plot of land...the artwork initially functions as stoic background for the story, with wide-angle perspectives filled with plenty of open space and muted colors. But in the second part, as the trees take over, Klassen’s compositions command more and more attention, elbowing the text into the periphery and subtly reinforcing the themes in play... Unfolding with uncommon grace, the environmental heart of this story is revealed obliquely but powerfully.
—Booklist (starred review)

The former poet laureate Ted Kooser’s HOUSE HELD UP BY TREES is a lyric, poetic story, stark but also imbued with a haunting beauty…Jon Klassen’s illustrations are quiet, delicate and nuanced, amplifying the text in fresh, original ways through the use of unexpected angles and perspective.
—The New York Times

Poignant and lovely.
—Kirkus Reviews

Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
"That's a very sad book," my six-year-old reader admonished me as I picked up this book. Her four-year-old brother had tears in his eyes. They had eagerly opened the package when it came in the mail, but were stopped flat-footed by the emotion this volume inspired. The story is sparse. A new house is inhabited by a family of three. The father keeps his lawn impeccable; the boy and girl children are drawn to the wild trees that remain on either side of their lot. Time passes and soon the children are grown and gone. The father continues living in the home, maintaining the lawn, until he feels it has become too much for him. Then, he puts the house on the market and leaves, trading in his isolated house for a city apartment. More time passes, and his return visits become fewer and fewer until they stop. The uninhabited house is soon overrun by the wilds of the woods on either side. Trees grow and push the house off its foundation. Soon, it is suspended in the trees. Life goes on, and nature is powerful. It's hard to say if my child readers were more unsettled by the storyline or Klassen's accompanying gouache and digital illustrations. Characters' faces are seldom seen and, when they are seen, are bereft of detail. The characters seem remote and statically-drawn. Their absence is signified by the father's empty folding chair, which remains in the yard after he has gone. This book seems to have more appeal for adult readers, who may better understand the cycle of life and growth, the family changes that occur over time. Child readers may need some explanation, and even some comforting. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
S. poet laureate Kooser is paired with ethereal illustrations to tell the story of a house and the family who once lived there. A man raises his daughter and son in a little house surrounded by lawn, which he keeps mowed and totally devoid of trees. But on each side, luxurious woods flourish, luring the children to explore the mysteries of nature. When they grow up and leave home, and the father becomes too old to care for the property, he moves to the city, abandoning the house, which no one wants to buy. As it falls into ruin, the seeds and pods so long squelched by the man's mowing begin to sprout and grow, some so close around the walls of the house that they keep it from falling down. Eventually they lift it off its foundation and raise it high above the ground "like a tree house...a house held together by the strength of trees...." A palette of muted browns, grays, and greens predominates in illustrations where the little white house and two iconic folding chairs out front suggest a subtext of loneliness and loss, even as strong verticals and occasional splashes of red lend a sense of hope. Varies perspectives provide strong visual interest and should keep older readers engaged in a story brimming with sadness and a touch of wonder and promise.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Elizabeth Spires
…a lyric, poetic story, stark but also imbued with a haunting beauty. One could easily imagine the tale, in a slightly different form, as a Kooser poem for adults…Klassen's illustrations are quiet, delicate and nuanced, amplifying the text in fresh, original ways through the use of unexpected angles and perspective.
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763651077
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 3/27/2012
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 320,002
  • Age range: 4 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.70 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted Kooser
Ted Kooser, the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems Delights & Shadows. He is the author of twelve full-length volumes of poetry and several books of nonfiction, and his work has appeared in many periodicals. Bag in the Wind, illustrated by Barry Root, was his first picture book. Ted Kooser lives in Garland, Nebraska.

Jon Klassen is the author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back. The first picture book he illustrated, Cats’ Night Out by Caroline Stutson, won the Governor General's Award for illustration in his native Canada. Jon Klassen now lives in Los Angeles.

Good To Know

Kooser revealed some interesting facts about himself in our interview:

"I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a young man, but realized that I'd have to make a living somehow. I tried high school teaching but was incapable of maintaining discipline in the classroom and the students ran right over me. In 1964, after being tossed out of graduate school because I was a completely undisciplined scholar, I went to work at an "entry level" job in a life insurance company and over twenty five years was gradually elevated to a vice presidency.

During those years I wrote every morning from 5:30 till about 7:00. I never saw myself as an insurance executive, but rather as a writer in need of a paying job."

"I love living in rural America, away from the noise and clamor of the city, and I am completely content to go all week without speaking to anyone but my wife and my dog. My wife, Kathleen Rutledge, is the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star, the daily newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska, and she helps keep me up on the news. I rarely leave home unless I can't find a good excuse not to go.

I write and paint and do chores around the farm, and am immensely thankful for every new day."

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    1. Hometown:
      Garland, Nebraska
    1. Date of Birth:
      1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ames, Iowa
    1. Education:
      B.S., Iowa State University, 1962; M.A., University of Nebraska, 1968

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