CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 31. . . .April 13, 2018
The Better Tree Fort.
Jessica Scott Kerrin. Pictures by Qin Leng.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books, 2018.
32 pp., hardcover & PDF, $17.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55498-863-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-864-8 (PDF).
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.
Review by Tamara Opar.
When his dad was done, Russell painted the trapdoor robinís egg blue.
ďItís perfect,Ē Russell said, breathing in the sweet smell of fresh-cut wood.
ďBut thereís no skylight or balcony,Ē Russellís dad admitted. ďOr escape slide,Ē he added.
ďItís perfect,Ē Russell repeated.
They ate peanut-butter-and-jam sandwiches for dinner in the tree fort and slept up top in their sleeping bags as the night sky filled with glittering stars. They even thought they may have heard an owl.
Russellís imagination is sparked when he sees the giant maple tree in the backyard of his familyís new home. He wants to build a tree fort with his dad. Although Dad confesses that he doesnít know much about building or tree forts, Russell takes matters into his own hands and draws up the plans which include some very intricate additions. Dad is a great sport about his sonís project, and they head off to the hardware store to stock up on supplies. The reader can feel the dadís pain at not quite knowing how to approach this father and son project, and he fumbles his way through the store until a salesman comes to the rescue. Somehow, with a little bit of persistence, lots of measuring and a few more trips to the hardware store, the fort is completed. Russell has the honour of putting on the finishing touches with some robinís-egg blue paint. This project is truly a shared effort. Russell loves his tree fort, even though his father admits that it does not have all of the bells and whistles that were in Russellís original drawing. Father and son celebrate with the best of evenings together, sharing peanut-butter-and-jam sandwiches and a sleepover in the tree fort.
The next morning, while enjoying the view from his tree fort, Russel spots some construction a few houses away. A bigger and better tree fort was being built by a crew of construction workers. Russell scrambles down and makes his way over to check out the neighbour kidís new tree fort. Russell and new neighbour Warren introduce themselves and then check out the new structure. It has everything that Russellís fort doesnít have, except for the kitchen sink it turns out. While Warren obsesses over the missing kitchen sink, Russell goes back to his yard where he finds his dad mowing the lawn. The two climb up to the tree fort, and Russell realizes that, although there will always be a bigger tree fort, there will never be a better dad than his own.
The Better Tree Fort is truly a lovely story about patience and love where, in a very gentle way, Russell and the reader learn about the value of spending time together with loved ones. Kerrinís writing is clear, concise and includes a little humour to carry her sentimental story.
Qin Lengís charming illustrations are created in ink, water colour and pencil-crayon. They complement the story and include great details which emphasize what is transpiring in the story, such as Russellís dad scratching his head in confusion over the pile of supplies that he is tasked to turn into a tree fort with his son. There are many lovely details with which children can engage.
Tamara Opar is Section Head of Childrenís and Teen Services at the Millennium Branch of Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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