The Better Tree Fort

In Russell's new backyard stands a giant maple tree with "great big limbs and a trunk so wide, even Russell's dad could not wrap his arms around it." When Russell deems it ideal for a new fort, his dad initially hesitates: "I don't know much about building." Russell assures him, "I'll draw you a plan." After extensive measuring and re-measuring and four trips to the lumber store, the fort takes shape. Despite the lack of a balcony, quick-escape slide or star-viewing skylight from the original plan, Russell deems his new fort "perfect."

After a father/son slumberfest in their hardwood hideaway, Russell notices a construction crew working three backyards over. Their efforts eventually produce a "bigger," "straighter," turreted tree castle, from which a boy named Warren invites Russell up his spiral staircase. Russell is "astonished" with the interior--bunk beds, electric lights, apple juice. Since the fort has "everything," Russell asks about a kitchen sink to rinse his used glass. Warren scoffs in reply, then becomes concerned, realizing another, "better tree fort" might be out there somewhere. Russell returns home with a priceless revelation to share with his dad--who's just about ready for another adventure.

Canadian author Jessica Scott Kerrin (Lobster Chronicles series) makes her picture book debut with a resonating lesson on the importance of not keeping up with the Joneses and the immeasurable value of presence over product. Artist Qin Leng embellishes Kerrin's thoughtful narrative with whimsical ink, watercolor and pencil crayon illustrations that emphasize and celebrate the parent/child partnership as collaborators and adventurers--especially their supportive companionship and wordless understanding. Together, artist and author affectingly construct The Better Tree Fort that has little to do with its exterior, and everything to do with the love contained within. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

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