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.

What’s Under Your Cape? – Book Giveaway

what's under cape untitledWhat’s Under Your Cape: Superheroes of the Character Kind

Barbara Gruener, Author

Ferne Press, Nonfiction, May 2014

Suitable for: Elementary Teachers, Counselors, Parents

Theme: Character Education, Elementary Students, Teachers, Character Traits

Winner: Mom’s Choice Gold Award for Adult Books

Cover Synopsis: What if students in your classroom could excel in academics and character education? What kind of impact would they make on the world? Through stories and activities, learn how Barbara Gruener uses the word SUPERHEROES to define positive character traits. This powerful handbook will change the way you look at character education. 

Why I like this book: Barbara Gruener’s work with character began when she was a girl active in 4-H. She learned a pledge which she took to heart. “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to great loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living.”  It molded her own character and became the core tools she used to help students find their own strengths and superpowers. She has written an inspiring and powerful book that will motivate educators, counselors and parents to want to teach character education to children. This practical and user-friendly guide is brimming with ideas, projects, hands-on activities, games, stories, and songs. Barbara says “SUPERHEROES are all about service.” Her material can be used with any age group. If character development is included in every school in America, just think how different our world would be. These superheroes will be our future leaders and bring change. Teaching character development from a young age could lead to a major paradigm shift in our schools, homes, communities and world. This is a must-have guide for educators and parents.

Barbara Gruener is a counselor and character coach at Westwood-Bales Elementary, a National School of Character. With 30 years of teaching and counseling children K-12, she’s believes that we must begin implementing character development among children at a very early age.  Make sure you visit Barbara Gruener at her popular website Corner on Character.

Book Giveaway: I will be giving away one copy of What’s Under Your Cape. If you’d like a copy, please leave a comment by Sunday, September 21, and let me know that you’d like to be entered in the giveaway.  I will announce the lucky winner onWednesday, September 24.