Sam's Picture Book Club: House Held Up By Trees

As I was sitting around thinking “I hope someone buys me Jon Klassen’s Hat trilogy for my birthday” (hint hint), I remembered that I actually own a book illustrated by Jon Klassen. 

Written by Ted Kooser, House Held Up By Trees tells the story of an abandoned house, that is, well, eventually overrun with trees. 

At first, the house is inhabited by a father and his two children. The father takes care of the lawn, and the children play in the nearby forest. Eventually, the children grow up and move away, and the father, no longer able to care for his garden, gives up the house and moves away. Because there is no longer anyone there to mow down the sprouts that tried to take root, the trees are able to grow freely, cracking the foundation of the house. 

Ted Kooser’s words are closer to a poem than prose, and there’s a certain emotion to it. You almost feel sad for the house, now abandoned, and the father who may not see his children as often as he’d like (there’s an unwritten sadness in the fact that the children live with their father and there’s no mention of their mother). But there’s also hope in the end, as the trees grow around the house, holding it up so it’s no longer alone. 

...a house held together by the strength of trees, and the wind blowing, perfumed by little green flowers.

Klassen’s illustrations have a subtle palette – greens and browns and reds – but they suit the lyrical words. His people are vague – we never see their faces – but the trees growing near the house exude strength with their solid trunks and distinctive leaves. 

Although there are a lot of words on each page, it’s not a long story. It’s wistful and sweet, and any book that manages to get me to empathize with an inanimate object (like a house) should be considered a success.

Not far from here, I have seen a house held up by the hands of trees. This is its story.