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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In the Tree House, written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Dusan Petricic. Kids Can Press, 2013. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"It's hot. Really hot.
I crunch on an ice cube
to cool off.
There's more ice melting
in the bowl beside me.
I can see the whole
neighborhood from up here.
It's pretty nice."

Do all children dream of having a tree house, and perhaps living there? It is, to say the least, an intriguing way of life. Not long ago, I read of a man who had built such a house as a vacation home for those wanting to experience life in the treetops. They are becoming very popular destinations!

 What a hideout for young children! When the family moves to a new home, the younger son takes to imagining what a tree house might look like in their new big backyard:

“I planned tree houses that could turn into flying ships at the flick of a switch.
 I planned tree houses with secret slides for quick getaways.
 I planned one tree house that had two levels, one for me and one for my brother.”

What fun is that! When he and his brother show their plans to Dad, he remembers that he once had such dreams and sets about helping them build a splendid structure that allows its inhabitants a clear view of the entire neighborhood. The only thing missing are the stars, unseen due to the bright city lights that get in the way.

In the second summer, things change when the older brother no longer has time for tree houses and other such pursuits. He has friends and has no time to hang with his younger brother.  Being the only one in charge of what happens in the tree house is initially appealing; the feeling doesn't last. It's easy to tell in Dusan Petricic's wonderful illustrations just exactly how the boy is feeling...lonely. It's not the same, spending time at the top of the world on your own.

A blackout signals an event in the making. Neighbors emerge begging for help in consuming melting ice cream. They share what light they have, and the older brother returns to the tree house to play cards and spend time with his brother. As they watch what is happening below them, the boy realizes that his brother is mostly unchanged and that they will always be connected.

The lights of the city return, and we see the brothers in silhouette watching the world below them. Lovely!

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