A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Exposes kids to the tensions and difficulties of a tough divorce and custody arrangements. It's written as a "collective memoir'" by a fifth-grade class for a writing contest, with running notes from classmates. A bookworm classmate makes lots of references to other books such as Anne of Green Gables and Watership Down. The characters learn about consulates, embassies, and their rights as citizens. There are illustrated inserts in the text about how to make or do certain things, like friendship bracelets, Scrabble tips, and puppet crafts.
Friends can support you when you feel alone. Everyone is good at something. Kids have their own wisdom. Kids can ask for what they want and what they need from parents.
Positive Role Models
Winnie's Uncle Huck is a helpful adult who builds her tree house and supports her when she's feeling overwhelmed. Winnie's parents, however, think of themselves first.
Violence & Scariness
A kid falls out of the tree house and breaks his arm.
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Products & Purchases
Froot Loops are Winnie's main meal -- they're mentioned often. A recipe based on Cheetos. Scrabble.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that veteran kids' books author Lisa Graff tackles the subject of divorce and kids' rights in The Great Treehouse War. The parents in this book literally put their daughter, Winnie, in the middle of their divorce at the end of her fourth-grade year. They demand an absolutely even time share, argue in front of her ("I'd like to erase you," her mother says to her father), and build rituals and holidays around besting the other parent. It's up to the child to act, and she sequesters herself in a kitted-out tree house, where she's been spending her Wednesdays to keep the time share even. But by the end of fifth grade she's nearly failing due to her parents' disruptive behavior. Luckily her friends join her fight, bringing laughter and support. The book is presented as a "collective memoir" written by Winnie and her classmates. Though the kids-vs.-parents theme is funny, this book might hit a little too close to home for kids caught in a custody battle.
Is It Any Good?
This story's humorous handling of divorce leads readers on a quirky tree house adventure. Kids will love the idea: a tree house that can house 10 fifth-graders, complete with a loft, a bathroom, a sleeping beanbag, a resident cat, a zip line, an artist's corner, and lots of sugared cereal. With the exception of the teachers and a cool uncle, the adults are acting like "idiots," putting their interests first. That behavior, of course, is the point of the story -- told in the form of a "collective memoir" by Winnie and her fifth-grade classmates -- and the point of the "Tulip Street Ten," who protest the unfairness of life at home.
Behind the fantasy and humor, however, lie serious subjects, such as child neglect and the fallout of divorce. Funny? Winnie doesn't think so -- she's terrified of failing fifth grade because her parents don't let her do her schoolwork. The threats and one-ups, arguments and manipulations are squirm-worthy. Author Lisa Graff has said this story was inspired by her own parents' divorce, but she has the advantage of being an adult who has a 30,000-foot view of it. Winnie does learn to speak up for herself, but kids who are going through custody battles might get triggered by the sheer selfishness and meanness of these parents' behavior. Though it's fun to follow 10 kids who pull off a 19-day protest in an awesome tree house, the larger question is whether the means of this story justify the end.
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