Parents' Guide to

The Great Treehouse War

By Joly Herman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Zany kids-vs.-parents tale is set against a tough divorce.

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Kids say (3 ):

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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