Poet Ted Kooser explores the tension between human and nature in a poetic story, beautifully illustrated by Jon Klassen

Ted Koose, House Held Up By Trees. Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Published 2012 by Candlewick Press, 32p


Ted Kooser’s House Held Up By Trees is an impressive story that reminds us about the power of nature and the tension that erupts as consequence of human effort to tame the wild.

A man and his two children live in an isolated house on a bare square of earth. While the children love to explore the neighbourhood and play among wild trees of all kinds, the father works hard to keep the lawn tidy and perfect by cutting down the grass and plucking out the sprouts.

As the summer passed, the flowers on the trees would drop away and be followed by the appearance of seeds, which had tiny wings and sails, would blow onto the lawn of the house. And, later, some would sprout and begin to grow. But the children’s father, who worked hard all day but liked to have his lawn look perfect, would go out in the evening and pluck out the sprouts or cut them down with his lawn mower. Trees are not so easily discouraged, however, and every summer they would send more seeds flying his way.

When the children grow up, ready to go off into the world, they move and leave their home. The father, old and with a stiff back, still persists in keeping the lawn neat, fighting against the sprouts that keep coming up.


And then he realizes he is too old and the house is too big for him so he decides to sell it and move in the city, closer to his children.

And maybe they’d invite him over for dinner once in a while.

A sign FOR SALE is placed outside the house but nobody wants to buy it. In time, the building deteriorates, water runs off the roof in the cracks and sprouts come out along the foundation. Gradually, trees grow inside the ruins and lift the old house off its place.

The trees lifted it and lifted it, and maybe you will drive past it today or tomorrow, as if floats there above the ground like a tree house, a house in the trees, a house held together by the strength of trees, and the wind blowing, perfumed by little green flowers.

Klassen’s illustrations are tender and warm, contributing to the atmosphere of isolation and decay. The more the house decomposes as years and seasons pass, the more evident the power of nature is, culminating by totally taking its tribute.


Complement House Held Up By Trees with Carson Ellis’ Home, a gorgeous picture book that illustrates the many possibilities a home can be.


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