The Better Tree Fort
Jessica Scott Kerrin, illustrated by Qin Leng
(Ages 4 to 8)
What could make a new house better than the last one for a young boy like Russell? A fine old maple tree with giant limbs, a tree that is just right for a tree fort!
When Russell shares this idea with his dad, his dad admits he doesn’t know a lot about building. But Russell makes a plan and off they go to the lumber store—multiple times.
Russell’s dad does his best and soon they have a tree fort. It doesn’t have a balcony or a skylight or an escape slide as Russell had envisioned it but when the two of them eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches and sleep in their sleeping bags in his new tree fort, Russell knows it is truly perfect.
But the next day, a construction crew shows up three houses over. Soon there is a new tree fort in the neighbourhood, with turrets, bunk beds, electricity, a skylight and a balcony. When Russell visits the boy whose father ordered the plans for this magnificent structure, he realizes something profoundly wonderful about the nature of things, and about dads.
Jessica Scott Kerrin’s first foray into the world of picture books has yielded a gentle, beautiful story that is heartwarming and as perfect as Russell’s tree fort itself. The story is simply and elegantly told, with an understated quality that renders it even more poignant. Neither Russell nor Warren (the boy with the castle-like construction) say too much but the message that is conveyed is timeless and important.
Russell dreams big but in the end he recognizes the value of what he has, both in terms of the tree fort and the loving man who worked so hard to build it for him. The delightful watercolour illustrations are loose and fluid, with sketchy outlines and muted tones. They are earnest and expressive and capture a sense of whimsy and playfulness. Together the words and images tell a tale of familial love and gratitude.