Monday, February 2, 2015

Kildee House, by Rutherford Montgomery

Jerome Kildee, an introverted stonemason, decides to retire to the redwood forest of northern California.  He has enough to live alone simply, and builds himself a cabin with a large redwood tree as its back wall.  But he quickly learns that even in the forest, a hike from his nearest neighbor, he'll never be left completely alone.  Raccoons quickly make their presence known in the house, skunks under it, and mice in the walls.  Over time he befriends the raccoons and the skunks, feeding them at mealtimes and arranging his living space to keep them from getting into everything he owns.

One day his downhill neighbor, Emma Lou Eppys, drops in to become acquainted.  She originally has somewhat ulterior motives (Donald Cabot, another neighbor, has been running his dog after animals on the hill and she's seeking allies to keep him further afield).  But she is instantly charmed by the shy, quiet Jerome and his brood of curious, friendly animals.  And Jerome is likewise charmed by this tall, red-headed, forthright girl.

Over the course of the year, Jerome weathers all four seasons in his little cabin with his animals and Emma Lou as an occasional visitor.  Donald eventually finds his way to the cabin as well, intrigued by the stories he's heard of the animals (especially the skunks, whom Emma Lou has taught tricks).  Jerome would like for them both to get along, especially since he'll need everyone's brain to help him come up with a solution to his growing problem.  All of his animal babies have struck out. . . and returned with babies of their own.  He'll soon be overrun, and stressed skunks mixed with volatile raccoons in your house are a risky proposition.  If Jerome can get his two human friends in his house at the same time, hopefully he can get peace in all areas of his life!

A really fun and pleasant story!  Often times I lose interest in descriptions of the personalities of wildlife, but this book didn't have that effect on me at all.  I also really enjoyed the charming illustrations by Barbara Cooney.

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