Friday, May 18, 2012

House Held Up By Trees

Title: House Held Up By Trees 
Author: Ted Kooser 
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Candlewick 
Publication Date: March 2012 
Genre/Format: Fantasy/Poetry/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: When the house was new, not a single tree remained on its perfect lawn to give shade from the sun. The children in the house trailed the scent of wild trees to neighboring lots, where thick bushes offered up secret places to play. When the children grew up and moved away, their father, alone in the house, continued his battle against blowing seeds, plucking out sprouting trees. Until one day the father, too, moved away, and as the empty house began its decline, the trees began their approach. At once wistful and exhilarating, this lovely, lyrical story evokes the inexorable passage of time - and the awe-inspiring power of nature to lift us up. 
What I Think: I first read this book at NCTE in November at the Candlewick booth - I was drawn to it because it is illustrated, in case you can't tell, by my illustrator, Jon Klassen. I fell in love with it then and have waited since to own my own copy. Now that I do own my own copy, it's one of those books that I can't help but hug before I read and then, as I read, I inevitably find myself running my fingers over its pages.

Earlier in the week, I reviewed Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and remarked on how well the text coordinates with the photographs and how together they put the reader into a state of almost meditative awe. This book does the exact same thing for me. It's magical. It lulled me with its whispers of beautiful text and its stunning, yet sage, illustrations. This book is a wise gentleman who taps the empty space on the bench next to him and announces that the reader will sit and be still while he tells his story.

I have read and read and read this book over and over and over. It's a nice story about people, young and old, growing up and moving on. It's a story about how things change - in ten years, in twenty years, in fifty years - things change. Change is a constant, and yet, there are some things we can always count on. As much as we try, there are just some things we cannot have power over. Most of all, as things do change and we become more technologically advanced, the amazing power of nature remains  ever wondrous.

I e-mailed one of my favorite English teachers (Hi, Lana!) to tell her how I think this book would be a great partner with Ray Bradbury's short story There Will Come Soft Rains. I vividly remember reading Bradury's short story when I was in middle school and being utterly confused. Confused to the point of being borderline irritated with the story. (I am not a fan of not being able to understand things.) When one of my students was in Lana's class last year, he was asked to read the text and I remember inwardly groaning as I recognized the story. With some extra background knowledge of Ray Bradbury and the mentality at the time the story was written, I was able to appreciate the story more. I do have to say that there is a lot of inferring that goes on in order to read that story, though. After a few rereads of House Held Up By Trees,  I can see how the message is similar to Bradbury's point in There Will Come Soft Rains - at least, in the way that I interpret it! I can see how reading Kooser's picture book first would help put students in the right frame of mind to set them up to read Bradbury's There Will Come Soft Rains. (I almost want to say that you could go ahead just forego the short story and read this book instead...but I do see the value of sharing Bradbury's work...even though I'm not sure my middle-school-self would agree.)
Read Together: Grades 5 - 12 
Read Alone: Grades 7 -12 
Read With: Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder, There Will Come Soft Rains (short story) by Ray Bradbury, Grandpa Green by Lane Smith, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Snatch of Text:
"When it was new, the house stood alone on a bare square of earth."
"The sweet smell of the little green flowers floated around him 
as he worked, but he was too busy to notice."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Making Connections - Text to World,  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Metaphors, Descriptive, Tone, Mood, Theme
Writing Prompts: Write about something that is different for kids today from when you were younger. Interview a parent, grandparent, or other adult. Ask about how things were different for them when they were growing up compared to kids growing up today - record their answers and write a response to what you learned or realized from listening to their stories.  
Topics Covered: Change, Determination, Nature, Childhood, Growing Up 
Jen *hearts* It:

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