Written by Ted Kooser, Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Published by Candlewick Press, March 27, 2012
Genre: picture Book, 32 pages
Themes: nature, continuity, cylical
The sentence under the title reads: Not far from here, I have seen a house held up by the hands of tree. This is its story.
While ostensibly about a family, this is the story of a (tree) house on a cleared plot of land. In quiet, contemplative, poetic prose (are we surprised from a poet laureate?) Kooser draws you into these natural surroundings and their subtle persistent lure and power.
“Beneath the trees were bushes so thickly woven together that you had to crawl on your hands and knees to get to the cool and shadowy secret places inside.”
Enchanting phrases like these had me crawling into this wonderland in my imagination sniffing the wildness of the surrounding trees, looking for the seeds in the breeze. Two children live here, with a father somewhat obsessed with the control of his lawn and its tree-less perfection. The children appear to want to embrace the natural surroundings, but are limited but the father’s sterile attitude. The children grow up and leave home for the city, and shortly after, the father follows and puts the house up for sale. The unsold and unwanted wooden house decays and is reclaimed by the wood surrounding it, where the native trees are free to seed and sprout and grow and be. These new saplings surround and embrace the house. They grow with the years and their protective embrace finally lifts the house from its foundations.
Why I like this book:
The language is simple, fluid and yet tight, and for me, quite breathtaking. It is the memoir of a house surrounded by the force, welcome and resilience of nature. Almost a poem to the passing of time and a sense of our continuity with the natural world. From earth to earth. Klassen does an epic job with perspective in these earth-toned subtle illustrations. From closeups of the house, to aerial views, and ground-level shots through the cottonwoods, elms, buckeyes and milkweed. This book has an enduring timeless appeal and, while not the typical short-texed humour we find in so many picture books, I feel it warrants close appraisal.
One of my favorite picture books on 2012
Ted Kooser was the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006 and won a Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems DELIGHTS AND SHADOWS