House Held Up by Trees – Cybils Picture Book Fiction

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House Held up by Trees

Written by Ted Kooser, Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Published by Candlewick Press, March 27, 2012

Ages: 4+

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

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21 Responses to House Held Up by Trees – Cybils Picture Book Fiction

  1. I love the lines you tell us! The cover is very prettty!

  2. This book looks and sounds lovely. Thank you! (And I, for one, am glad that there is still a place for books that are reflective and not “typical short-texted humor.”)

  3. Deb Lund says:

    As a fan of both of these creators (writers, check out Kooser’s THE POETRY HOME REPAIR MANUAL), I’m looking forward to seeing this book.

  4. You make it sound a bit like a dream! Thanks

  5. What a very unique book. I agree with Julie — it has a dream-like quality to it. The cover is so inviting. Am curious — will check this out!

  6. Joanna says:

    It’s a book for many senses, Pat!

  7. I’m going to have to read it now! Yay, for quiet, reflective books.

  8. Tina Cho says:

    Sounds very interesting with beautiful words. Wish I could write poetic prose!

  9. Kathy Cornell Berman says:

    It sounds like an enchanting book. I love stories about nature. Thanks for highlighting the book. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  10. I’ve seen this book reviewed somewhere else… can’t remember where… and it looks so incredibly lovely. Everyone seems to think very highly of it. The concept and the language are beautiful and a little unusual for a picture book. I will definitely have to read this!

  11. Joanna says:

    One of the appeals is the uniqueness of having a house/plot of land as the protagonist, Susanna!

  12. I really want to read this one. I just checked online, and my library doesn’t have it. Hopefully they will get it. I saw another book of his, BAG IN THE WIND. I put it on hold. It sounded interesting. Thanks for making me aware of this book, Joanna.

  13. I’ve been meaning to read this book. Thanks for the reminder to go get it!

  14. Hannah Holt says:

    This sounds exactly like the kind of book I love. Thanks for the pick, Joanna.

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