Title: In The Tree House
Author: Andrew Larsen
Illustrator: Dušan Petričić
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
Lexile Score: 60 (ages 3-7)
In the Tree House is a wonderful, engaging picture book that totally succeeds at taking the reader out of their own world and transporting them into the world of an un-named narrator; a boy who loves summer, his tree house, and his older brother.
Right from the beginning, we are welcomed into his tree house on a really hot day – hot enough to crunch ice cubes – and treated to view of his neighborhood. From here we are told the story of how the tree house had been built the year before. Like many tree houses, it grew through the collaboration of a father and his sons. In this case, it was inspired by the narrator who started making tree house plans to help him adjust to a move and a new house where he no longer shared a room with his brother.
From the tree house, Dad and his sons watched the twinkling lights of their sleepy neighborhood because the city sky is too bright for them to see the stars to shine. It was the best summer ever – full of comics, cards, flashlights, and endless hours shared between brothers in the tree house.
But this summer is different because the narrator’s brother is growing up and no longer has time for the tree house. His brother is busy with friends and he is alone – the King of the Castle with no one to share it with – until one night when everything goes dark and a black out brings everyone together.
In the Tree House is a simple story about growing pains and the bond between brothers. The text is plain and straightforward, relying on illustration to portray much of the emotion behind the words. The pictures are purposefully stark, leaving lots of room for readers of all ages to fill in the blanks. Together, the illustrator and author have succeeded in making this book both poignant and timeless.
Everyone will want to spend their summer in a tree house after having this book read aloud to the class. Some readers will want to savor the book privately and then make plans to build their own tree house. Older readers will be forced to reflect upon changes in their own relationships with siblings and other family members. Still others will be touched by the notion that turning off the lights for a while can put everything into perspective.