Picture book recommendation: House Held Up By Trees by Ted Kooser

House Held Up By Trees cover
THE TREES LIFTED IT AND LIFTED IT, and maybe you will drive past it today or tomorrow, as it 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.

 

This is one of the picture books I have used for teaching writing.  It is about a house that at the beginning stands on a bare square of earth, which by the end is so encroached upon by forest that it is literally lifted out of the ground.  In this sense the narrative is linear.  The advance of the forest is matched by the retreat of the human beings that lived in it, first the children when they grow up, then the father who moves to the city.

Each stage of this reversal is described in the sort of careful detail that needs to be modelled to children in order for them to develop the ability to “‘live through’ the narrative and inhabit their own fictions more fully”, “to fill in the background of the action as well as simply telling the story” (quotes from The Reader in the Writer by Myra Barrs and Valerie Cork).  The interesting dimension that this book has is in providing the opportunity to write from the point of view of an inanimate object – the house itself.

The pictures by Jon Klassen create a sort of wistful atmosphere, with their pale browns and oranges.  They make a big contribution, to the extent that it would be worthwhile to address this specifically by presenting photocopies to the children in black and white for comparison with the colour versions.  Importantly, they very much help to illustrate the text, which has a distinctly literary style, one that is clearly demanding for many children to comprehend and echo.

For those interested in teaching adverbials it offers many examples – not just fronted!  (Anyone who is as much of a nerd as I am can find them all here: click to download.)  Most importantly, it presents children with the opportunity of learning about them within the fully-supported context of a beautifully-written and illustrated text.

Author: writing1to6

Ex-Literacy Lead, Ex-EAL teacher, Ex-Writing Intervention teacher, currently PPA-teacher. Picture book nerd.