Rutherford Montgomery's Kildee House
illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Book review by Shannon Duncan
Kildee House, first published in 1949 was a Newbery Honour book.
Its author, Rutherford Montgomery, grew up on a farm in western America. He loved the wild places and began writing stories about the woodland animals while he was still in school. He wrote many books about the people, landscapes and animals that he had encountered in his young years.
In all, he wrote over 100 books.
Illustrator Barbara Cooney was a two-time Caldecott medalist.
Jerome Kildee was a strange man and when he built himself a house, it was odd too. It was a tiny log cabin on the top of a hill, right up against a giant Redwood tree. The trunk of the tree made the back wall of the house.
Jerome wanted to live there all alone in peace and quiet because he didn't like to speak to anyone and he certainly didn't like to do any work.
He had neighbours, the Eppy family that lived on one side of the hill, all nine of them were friendly enough, but they thought that Mr. Kildee was rather strange and after they had hauled his wood they left him alone. On the other side of the hill there was the Cabot family who didn't even give Jerome a second thought. That suited him just fine because he didn't waste much time thinking about anyone else and certainly didn't care what his neighbours thought of him.
Even though he was living in a cabin in the woods, Jerome soon found that he was not without friends, friends that rather liked his silent ways. They were the woodland animals. Soon Jerome was sharing his house with them and before he knew it, they had also found a place in his heart.
Eventually, though, even Jerome had to admit that things had to be taken in hand, the creatures that lived with him were multiplying at an alarming rate, he feared that there would be no space left for him in his own home!
Jerome desperately needed help from his new young human friends, Emma Lou Eppy and Donald Roger Cabot, but they were sworn enemies. Could Jerome bring them together and get them to work with him to sort out the animal crisis?
Jerome Kildee had moved into the woods to escape people and problems, and now he had more of both than ever before, but he was a happy man.
Kildee House is a wonderfully light-hearted and playful story. The people and animals share the centre stage, it is difficult to say which the story is actually about. The antics of the raccoons and skunks make the story full of action and humour.
Rutherford Montgomery also stresses the value of friendship and shows how people can make a difference in the lives of others.
Although the book is just over 200 pages long, it has a large, easy-to-read typeface and is interspersed with pictures making it manageable for all but the most reluctant readers.
Kildee House is a great read for children who enjoy animal stories.
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