House Held Up by Trees Hardcover – Mar 27 2012
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Though there’s a family involved, the real star of this multilayered modern parable is a plot of land...the artwork initially functions as stoic background for the story, with wide-angle perspectives filled with plenty of open space and muted colors. But in the second part, as the trees take over, Klassen’s compositions command more and more attention, elbowing the text into the periphery and subtly reinforcing the themes in play... Unfolding with uncommon grace, the environmental heart of this story is revealed obliquely but powerfully.
—Booklist (starred review)
The former poet laureate Ted Kooser’s HOUSE HELD UP BY TREES is a lyric, poetic story, stark but also imbued with a haunting beauty…Jon Klassen’s illustrations are quiet, delicate and nuanced, amplifying the text in fresh, original ways through the use of unexpected angles and perspective.
—The New York Times
Poignant and lovely.
About the Author
Ted Kooser, the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems Delights & Shadows. He is the author of twelve full-length volumes of poetry and several books of nonfiction, and his work has appeared in many periodicals. Bag in the Wind, illustrated by Barry Root, was his first picture book. Ted Kooser lives in Garland, Nebraska.
Jon Klassen is the author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back. The first picture book he illustrated, Cats’ Night Out by Caroline Stutson, won the Governor General's Award for illustration in his native Canada. Jon Klassen now lives in Los Angeles.
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House Held Up by Trees
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Of course, followers of Kooser's work through the decades might read this new book as an offshoot of Kooser's earlier family memoir, Lights on a Ground of Darkness: An Evocation of a Place and Time. Anyone who knows Kooser's poetry and especially his family memoir immediately will recognize his voice within these new pages so beautifully illustrated by Jon Klassen.
Kooser wrote the earlier Lights on a Ground at the point when his own family was vanishing and their familiar haunts were fading. No, none of his family had a house consumed by trees, but Kooser makes it clear in his memoir that our human lives and our favorite family stories are woven through the places we love.
He opens the memoir with a poem to his late mother, Vera Delores Moser Kooser: "Mid April already, and the wild plums bloom at the roadside, a lacy white against the exuberant, jubilant green of new grass and the dusty, fading black of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet ..." But clearly those leaves are coming in "the month of my birth ... the best month to be born in," Kooser writes. And how does he remember his mother best? By moving some of the irises she loved over to his own yard. Soon, they will blossom in the "feast" of spring. Then, he writes to his mother: "Were it not for the way you taught me to look at the world, to see the life at play in everything, I would have to be lonely forever."
What an elegy! For that reason, in recommending House Held up by Trees today, we also urge readers to pick up Kooser's Lights on a Ground. Together, the two books are a full meal, as Kooser might put it, about the ephemeral quality of family, the ever-changing nature of place--and the potent place of nature in preserving what is best in all of us.