Kooser, Ted. House Held Up by Trees. Jon Klassen, illus. Candlewick Press, 2012. 32 p. ISBN 978-0763651077
SUMMARY: "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."
RISKS: Um...grown-ups might like it more than children? Is that a risk?
EVALUATION: I should put it out there right away that I love this book. House Held Up by Trees is not the kind of book I would label fun, its colors are not bright nor its story cheery. The art is enthralling, painted with subdued colors and clean lines. The story is sort of melancholy, but beautiful and mesmerizing, I would even say mystical and sublime. Some elements of the book - perhaps the tone and simplicity of the story, or the feeling that there is something deeper happening, not just what is obvious and visible - bring to mind the film The Straight Story (1999). But, that connection is tenuous and could be entirely my own construction - especially since it's been a number of years since I saw the film. Anyway, as soon as I read this book I had to have it on my shelf. And then I had to give it to my mom to for her shelf. Great picture books need to have language and images that come together in a way that tells the story so perfectly and completely that it would be hard to imagine it any other way. I think Kooser and Klassen have done this.
TOPICS: nature; trees; passage of time; change; growing up; families; homes; abandoned buildings
AWARDS: A bit early to say, but this book has been talked about lately (see links at the bottom of this post). And what finally got me to check it out from the library was Flavorwire's article on the 20 most beautiful picture books of all time, which has a great selection of truly gorgeous books.
You can watch Ted Kooser talk about his inspiration for the book, and see the mysterious house in this video. (Thanks, mom, for sending me the link!)
Other blog posts that talk about House Held Up by Trees: