Time passing can be sad thing, but even in that sadness there are wondrous things that happen. A quiet tale, House Held Up By Trees is both bittersweet and soothing. Illustrator Jon Klassen puts readers in a trance with his beautiful artwork while author Ted Kooser keeps us engaged with his melancholy story and rich writing.
What Happens in ‘House Held Up by Trees’?
A lone house sits upon a plot of land, sheltering a boy, a girl, and their father. Every day the children will sneak off to the woods that border the lawn and play amongst the branches of the trees. The forest is cool and shaded, and their imaginations run wild there. Every day they also watch their father meticulously groom the lawn, ensuring that no trees will ever grow around the house. Every year, the trees blow their small green seeds into the yard and try to take root, and each time the father wipes them out as soon as they wave a tiny leaf above the soil.
Time passes. The boy and girl grow up and move away and the father, unable to care for his lawn any longer, moves away in hopes that he will see his children again. With nobody to look after it, the house begins to fall apart. Nails rust, boards rot, the roof begins to crumble and the frame begins to collapse. But in the time since the father moved away, little trees had seeded themselves and begun to grow. They are now saplings, and strong enough to keep the house from falling in on itself. As the trees grow, they slowly begin to lift the house off its weak foundation until it is nestled safely amongst their branches, high above the ground.
I’ve read a few of Jon Klassen’s books now, and with each one I grow ever fonder of him as an illustrator. He uses muted colors such as umber, greys, browns and dull greens to portray his stories. His style is exceptionally distinct and each double spread page is a work of art in this book.
House Held Up By Trees is better suited to an older age range (5 and up) and makes an excellent one on one or group read. The writing is rich but plain and easy to grasp.
Would We Recommend It?
Yes. This is a beautiful story about the inevitable passing of time and the change that comes along with it. It puts on grand display the patience, power and persistence of nature, even when we do our best to tamp it down. In the end, it will come back and create something more beautiful than any of our attempts to manipulate it (i.e. the house getting held up by trees versus the meticulously groomed lawn.) The only thing I would like to be slightly different is the ending. It caught me off guard and wasn’t particularly a strong conclusion but rather abrupt. That, however, pales in comparison to how lovely the book was as a whole, and that opinion aside, I found it to be near perfection with its woeful tale and enchanting illustrations.