The 13-Story Treehouse
Terry Denton, Illustrator
Macmillan, 2011 239 pages
The Treehouse Series
Andy and Terry live in an off-the-hook treehouse with no parents. Within the thirteen stories are housed a swimming pool, bowling alley, games room, theater, underground laboratory, lemonade fountain, and man-eating shark tank. They support their life style by writing and illustrating books. The problems is: the boys have a book due the following day and after a year of procrastination are experiencing writer's block. Further distractions include turning their friend's cat into a cat-nary by painting it yellow, making a giant banana with the use of an enlarging machine, and hatching a sea monkey, which turns out to be an evil sea creature disguised as a beautiful mermaid. After a monkey invasion leads to an unwanted visit from a giant gorilla, all seems lost. Luckily for the boys, one of their failed past endeavors resurfaces to save the day. But what of the promised manuscript? The young creators develop a new story based on the character super-finger, but end up deserting this ill-fated concept and embracing the simple secret of writing success: write what you know. The hijinx continues in The 26-Story Treehouse with three more titles to follow, including the latest, set to be released in April.
The Treehouse series is Australia's response to the popularity of America's Captain Underpants. Silly situations. cartoon-like illustrations, potty humor, and irreverence of adult norms are the recipe for success in this very popular series. Heavily illustrated with comic drawings and featuring an absurd and cartoon-ish plot, this book will appeal to fans of graphic novels, other hybrids such as Wimpy Kid and Big Nate, and reluctant readers. Any third or fourth grade boy who picks this book up will finish it. Is it a great work of fiction? Ah, no, but it has the power to turn non-readers into readers and to show children that reading can be an enjoyable activity. I loved designing imaginary dream houses for myself when I was a child. This treehouse with all of its amenities is any child's dream and the absence of adults makes it complete and utter child-anarchy. The story will set a child's imagination on fire and may ecourage kids to begin designing treehouses of their own. The humor is less clever than Captain Underpants, but spot-on for the intended age group. The book relies heavily on absurdity and the cartoon-like illustrations. Adults reading this story may feel as if they are getting whiplash from both the rollicking plot and the barrage of images, but guess what? We aren't the audience. This is currently one of the most asked for series in my library, which is what compelled me to finally read it. Charlotte's Web it isn't, but The 13-Story Treehouse has tremendous kid-appeal that will turn young gamers into readers.