The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff

The Great Treehouse War

Lisa Graff, Author

Philomel Books, Fiction, May 16, 2017

Suitable for Ages : 8-12

Themes: Parents, Divorce, Interpersonal relationships, Friendship, Tree houses, Humor

Synopsis: On the last day of fourth grade, everything in Winnie’s world changed. That was the day Winnie’s parents got divorced and decided that Winnie would live three days a week with each of them and spend Wednesdays by herself in a treehouse smack between their houses, to divide her time  evenly. Before the divorce, her parents didn’t care much about holidays except Thanksgiving. When her mother realized she was never going to celebrate Thanksgiving with Winnie because it fell on Thursday, she decided to pick a new holiday and celebrate it better. The competition began and soon every day was a special holiday, as each parent tried to outdo the other: Ice Cream Sandwich Day, Underwear Day, National Slinky Day, Talk Like Shakespeare Day, and so on. Winnie was kept so busy, she couldn’t study or finish her homework. Wednesdays in the Treehouse became a sanctuary with her cat, Buttons. When her teacher warned her she was at risk of  not passing fifth grade, Winnie had enough. That’s when Winnie’s seed of frustration with her parents was planted.  That seed  grew until it felt like it was as big as a tree itself.

By the end of fifth grade, Winnie decided that the only way to change things was to barricade herself in her treehouse until her parents come to their senses.  Her friends ,who have their own parent issues,  decided to join her. It’s kids versus grown-ups, and no one wants to back down first. But with ten demanding kids in one treehouse, Winnie discovered that things can get pretty complicated pretty fast!

Why I like this book:

Lisa Graff’s witty storytelling makes The Great Treehouse War a superb summer read for kids. And it will fulfill any child’s dream of wanting to live in a treehouse — especially a two-story treehouse built 15 feet off the ground.  It is equipped with a bathroom, art station, skylights, bookshelves, a toaster oven, shelves full of fruit loops and a zip line escape to Winnie’s Uncle Huck’s house.

It is a cleverly designed book by Graff for kids who are in fifth grade and preparing to move on to middle school. It offers readers both tantalizing prose and humorous drawings and doodles, maps, sticky note comments, how-to instructions, plans, and treehouse rules. It has a comic book appeal to it and is perfect for the intended age group.

There are 10 Tulip Street kids with 10 very distinct and quirky personalities, which add to the fun and mayhem. Their diversity is uneventful, because the only way you know they are diverse is by their names like Winifred Malladi-Maraj (aka Winnie). Winnie is a spunky, creative, compassionate and courageous heroine.  She possesses what she and Uncle Huck describe at “artist vision,” where she is able to intuitively observe the needs of others. Her cat, Buttons, is the greatest cat in the world.  Other memorable characters include: Lyle and his tooth collection; Jolee the scrabble champ; Greta and her friendship bracelets; the twins Brogan the acrobat and Logan the jokester; and Tabitha and her lizards.

The plot is wacky and unique because Winnie’s divorced parents have her trapped in the middle of their selfish battle for equal access to their daughter. Any child being pulled in two different directions by divorced parents, will relate to the unfairness of it all.  Graff’s silly and sometimes outrageous approach to divorce is age appropriate and makes the topic easier to digest. There are other unusual subplots that make this book such a clever read, but I won’t spoil it for readers.

Lisa Graff is the critically acclaimed and award-winning author of A Clatter of Jars, Lost in the Sun, Absolutely Almost, A Tangle of Knots, Double Dog Dare, Sophie Simon Solves Them All, Umbrella Summer, The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower, and The Thing About Georgie. You can visit Lisa Graff at her website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

Fred Stays with Me!

Fred Stays with Me!9780316077910_p0_v1_s260x420Fred Stays with Me!

Nancy Coffelt, Author

Tricia Tusa, Illustrator

Little, Brown and Company, Fiction, 2007

Suitable for Ages: 4- 8

Themes:  Divorce, Girl and her dog, Parenting, Different Families

Opening “Sometimes I live with my mom.  Sometimes I live with my dad.  My dog, Fred, stays with me.”

Synopsis:  A little girl learns to deal with her parent’s divorce with her very mischievous dog, Fred.  She still goes to the same school and has the same friends.  But, she alternates living between her parent’s homes.  At each home she has a different bedroom, meals and activities.  Fred is a troublemaker — he barks constantly at the neighbor’s dog, steals socks and makes messes.  Both her parents wonder what they’re going to do with Fred.  But, Fred is the girl’s constant companion and stability.  They are inseparable.  “Fred is my friend. We walk together. We talk together. When I am happy, Fred is too. And when I’m sad, Fred is there.”  The girl will have to come up with a solution or lose her best friend.

Why I like this book:  Nancy Coffelt has written a very charming and sensitive story for children experiencing a divorce in their family.   The text is simple and the language childlike. Yet through showing and narration, the word “divorce” is never used in the text.  Divorce is confusing for children and they would resonate with this upbeat book. Fred is lively and a true friend and troublemaker. Tricia Tusa’s illustrations are warm and comforting watercolors  done in soft brown hues and they compliment the story. There are also no pictures of parents in her illustrations.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The “D” Word – Divorce

Divorce9781931636766_p0_v1_s260x420The “D” Word

Julia Cook, author

Phillip W. Rodgers, illustrator

National Center for Youth Issues, Fiction, June 2011

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Themes: Dealing with Divorce, Separation, Different Families

Opening/Synopsis“My name is Otis.  I used to be the happiest kid on the planet!  This is a picture of my family and me…the way it used to be…This is what my family looks like now.  My mom won’t even talk to my dad, and my dad won’t even talk to my mom.”   Otis is so upset that he can’t even say the “D” word — divorce.  His parents use Otis as their messenger and spy.   Otis tells Gram that he feels like “it’s all his fault.”  She wisely tells him he didn’t cause the divorce and he can’t control what is happening between his parents.   Gram says they’ll still be a family, just a different kind of family.  Otis finds a way to adjust to the divorce.

Why I like this book:  As many of you may have guessed, I am a huge fan of Julia Cook’s books.  Divorce is upsetting for children and they don’t know how to do deal with their feelings.  Cook has written a very helpful book for children,  families and educators.  Cook,  a former teacher and school guidance counselor, often heard students comment that they were the cause of the their parent’s divorce.  She came up with three reasons that are very reassuring for kids going through a life altering divorce.  This is an excellent book for children to understand that they aren’t the reason and what they can do to help themselves.  And it is a guide for parents on how to deal with divorce with their kids.  It’s a family book.  Phillip Rodger’s illustrations are priceless.  They are colorful, expressive and emotive.  They capture the tone of her story.

Resource:  The book  is a resource on how to successfully deal with divorce.  There is an introduction in the beginning from Julia Cook.  She has a list of three C’s of divorce that she uses with children:  I did not Cause it.  I cannot control it.  I’m going to have to learn to Cope with it.   She also offers survival tips for parents.  Visit Julia Cook’s website,  to view the many books she has written.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.