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Monday, January 2, 2017

Secret Tree Fort, written and illustrated by Brianne Farley. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $22.00 ages 4 and up

"There's even a basket for snacks and other emergencies. Inside the fort, there's a marshmallow and chocolate storage compartment, lots of maps, and a walkie-talkie. There are also different flags that mean different things so I can call for backup. One flag means HELLO! One means HELP! One means OUT FOR SNACKS, COME BACK LATER."

Sounds like the bee's knees, doesn't it? Who wouldn't want to spend time in a fort with such amenities? I think that I must have, at one time or another, dreamed of a place of silence and solitude where I could read  books, listen to  music, drink tea, and let the world pass me by! I no longer dream that dream. I have that place! It is not in a tree - and that's OK with me.

When they are sent outside to play on a beautiful day, the little one wants to PLAY! Her big sister wants to read, and she does just that. She pays no attention to the entreaties of her bothersome little  sister.

I can play by myself.
It will be great.
It will be even better than if we played together.
I know just where to go.


The older one looks totally unimpressed. The little one moves on to describing all the glorious deliciousness of her tree house, never holding her imagination in check as she sings the praises of  this perfect place. It has everything one could possibly need: a skylight, signal flags, secret tunnels, a crow's nest for seeing the ocean ... and it's made of CANDY! Can you imagine?

The older sister's response is less than stellar, insisting that it doesn't exist. A shouting match ensues and the little one succumbs to tears. Seems that is just what was needed. Perhaps, together, they can work out a solution.

Just listening in on the conversation and her imaginings as she tries to persuade her sibling to play will have readers intent on each of the fort's amenities as they are added in a long list. Luckily, they can see the fort grow in the tree above the bookworm's head. The expressions of both are evident in every illustration, which have been created using 'charcoal, pencil, and ink, and colored digitally'.
The older sister's countenance never changes, and that keeps her surroundings calm and serene (and boring!). The younger one's world fills with color, action, people, and secrets as her imagination sky-rockets.

Visually delightful, and so entertaining, you will want to share this again and again. That it concerns the special bond between sisters only makes it even more appealing.

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