Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Hidden House by Martin Waddell illustrated by Angela Barrett and House held up by trees by Ted Kooser illustrated by Jon Klassen

This post is about two books that seem to go together like bookends.  One comes from US and was just published last year and the other is from England and was published in 1990.  I read so many reviews and book lists that mentioned House held up by trees that when it arrived in my library this week it was the first book I pulled from the box to read.

House held up by trees is about life, the passing of time and nature.  In our suburban lives we try to tame nature by trimming our trees and mowing the grass.  The man in this book makes this his life's work. His house stands alone "on a bare square of earth.  There was a newly planted lawn around it, but not a single tree to give shade in summer or to rattle its bare twigs in the winter cold. ... But in the lots on either side, there were wild trees of all kinds - maple and elm and ash and hackberry and cottonwood, all noisy with wind and birdsong."

The children who live in the house love to explore and play among the trees that grow each side of their garden but each evening the father plucks out any trees that try to sprout from seeds blown on the wind so he can maintain his perfect lawn. The children grow and leave home and the father now lives alone but then he too must leave because he is too old to maintain the house and lawn.  Slowly, slowly over years and years things begin to change around the house.  No one comes to buy it and so the seeds can finally sprout "the young trees kept (the house) from falling apart and as they grew bigger and stronger, they it together as if it was a bird's nest in the fingers of their branches."

The final pages of this book are are very special - you can see the image on the front cover.  Here is an excellent review.  The author talks about his inspiration.

When I finished reading House held up by trees I immediately thought of The Hidden House.  Once again we have the story of an abandoned house where mother nature takes over.  The original owner of the house makes three dolls called Ralph, Maisie and Winnaker.  The dolls are left behind and these three are witnesses to the changes to the house over time.  "They didn't say anything because they were wooden dolls, but I think they were lonely."  Mice, insects, birds and trees move into the house but one day a man discovers the hidden house.  Many months later he returns with his family and together they restore the house. Even the dolls are given new faces and clothes and more importantly a new family.

House held up by trees also made me think of The Tin Forest by Helen Ward and Joseph's Yard by Charles Keeping.

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