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The Better Tree Fort

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  226 ratings  ·  55 reviews
“Let’s build a tree fort,” Russell says to his dad when they move into a house with a big maple tree in the backyard. His dad doesn’t know much about building, but he gamely follows Russell’s plan. Several trips to the lumber store later, the tree fort is done. There is no slide, balcony or skylight like Russell imagined, but it is perfect — right up until he notices anoth ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published March 1st 2018 by Groundwood Books
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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  226 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-borrowed
Please pass me the tissues because this story got the waterworks going. Russell dreams of building a tree fort in the maple tree behind his new house. He and his father spend weeks putting it together. Although it doesn't look exactly like Russell's plans, we see Russell and his Dad enjoying their together time. Soon a neighborhood boy also receives a tree fort that Russell goes to check out. I won't give away the rest but" oh it made me cry!" Great message about appreciating what you have . ...more
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for Good New Picture-Books Featuring Fathers
When Russell and his father move to a new house, the young boy decides he wants a tree fort with all the trimmings, from a slide to a skylight. His father doesn't know much about building, but he gamely steps up, and together they build the best tree fort they can. Then Russell spies a swanky new tree house going up down the street, and visits the young boy whose play-place it is. Although it has everything Russell originally wanted, the perceptive young boy realizes something: there will always ...more
Molly Cluff (Library!)
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of my emotional weaknesses in books is when adults spend a lot of thought and time making or gifting something to a child that the kids then don't appreciate (stab to the heart!). I thought this book would be same, but luckily I got all the feels while also enjoying a much happier ending! A little boy and his dad work forever making a (ramshackle) tree house. Then the boy next door gets a fancy schmancy tree house that his dad hired contractors to make. The little boy with the ramshackle tre ...more
Michele Knott
In this day and age where bigger is better, this is a breath of fresh air. Great message to pass along to young readers.
Like so many youngsters before him, Russell wants to build a tree fort, and he enlists his father's help in doing so. Although the man has no idea how to do so, he's willing to figure it out, and works hard to make sure the structure is as sound as it could possibly be. But Russell's elaborate plans far exceed his father's construction abilities, and there are features that simply had to be left out. Still, the tree fort is perfect in Russell's eyes. When he happens to see a much more elaborate ...more
Storytime With Stephanie
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Better Tree Fort by Jessica Scott Kerrin, illustrated by Qin Leng, published by Groundwood Books is a wonderful reminder that there are some things that will always be better but nothing is as special as the love of a parent for his/her child.

Russell has just moved into his new house, a house with a giant maple tree in the yard. What better way to enjoy a giant maple tree then by building a spectacular tree fort? Unfortunately, Russell’s dad is not the handiest dad around but not to fear, Ru
J.L. Slipak
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Let’s build a tree fort,” Russell says to his dad when they move into a house with a big maple tree in the backyard. His dad doesn’t know much about building, but he gamely follows Russell’s plan. Several trips to the lumber store later, the tree fort is done. There is no slide, balcony or skylight like Russell imagined, but it is perfect — right up until he notices another tree fort going up three houses over.
When Russell goes over to investigate, he meets Warren, whose bigger tree fort has ca
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Better Tree Fort is the story of a boy, Russell, who builds a tree fort with his father. It doesn’t have a skylight, an escape slide, or a balcony like he dreamed of having, but he made the tree fort with his father, and that was why he loved it. Across the street, a bigger, better tree fort is made, and Russell goes over to visit. Russell meets the owner, a boy named Warren, and Warren seems to be upset at the thought of someone ever having a better tree fort than him. When Russell goes bac ...more
Russell's dad doesn't know much about construction and when Russell asks him to build a tree fort at their new house, it takes multiple trips to the hardware store and a lot of hard work to accomplish the task. Even though it doesn't exactly resemble the plans that Russell drew up, he loves his new tree fort, and he loves his dad even more. THEN, Russell watches another tree fort take shape a few yards over. An entire construction CREW shows up and builds an amazing structure (with electricity, ...more
“There will always be a better tree fort ... but not a better dad.”

Russell would love to have a tree fort in the huge tree in his new backyard. Though his father isn’t sure how to build one, Russell draws up the plans and they get to work. Slowly, but effectively, Russell’s dad completes the tree fort, though it is missing some of the special features that Russell had wanted (like an escape slide.) Nevertheless, Russell thinks it’s just perfect — especially when he and his dad spend the night in
There's a lesson here in this story of a young boy who wants to build a tree fort, draws a picture and the father, who doesn't seem to have much building experience, gives it a go. After working and adjusting, they spend lovely time together having a sleepover in this new 'fort' up in a gorgeous maple tree. But, a young boy down the block also wants a tree fort and his dad hires a team of workers to build this amazing castle/fort, which even has electricity! No feelings are shown but the first b ...more
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Two neighborhood boys have treehouses: one a homemade treehouse and the other a fancier, professionally built treehouse with electricity and bunk beds. My dad and I used to make doll furniture out of wood together, so this picture book brought back those memories. Jessica Scott Kerrin's simple story about comparisons and class emphasizes the importance of quality time over material goods without getting preachy. The final line of the book (spoken by the main character) beautifully captures this ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Age: Preschool+
STEM: DIY Engineering
Family: Dad and son

Lots of uncommon scenarios in this DIY building book. For one, the dad is not a Mr. Fix-It and is hesitant about the tree house construction but encouraged by his son. After four trips to the hardware store, they have the supplies and set to work. Although the finished product doesn't have all the commodities of Russell's original plan, he loves it, nonetheless.

When a neighboring boy has a construction crew build a bigger and more impressiv
mary dewley
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A little boy asks his father to help him build and elaborate tree fort. When it is finished, it isn't quite how it was in the plans. The next day, a construction crew is in his neighbors yard building a treefort with everything the boy had ever wanted. He visits the neighbor who shows him inside and all the wonderful accessories his fort has like a kitchen, etc. He asks the neighbor where his dad is and if he helped construct it. The other child answers no and seems somewhat sad. The boy then go ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids
Kait is reading a series of award-winning books at school and her teacher has been tweeting about which ones. So we’ve been borrowing them at the library ourselves, partially because repetition is particularly valuable at her age when it comes to reading and partially because I miss being the main influence in her reading life.

This one was lovely. Russel admires the better tree house that Warren’s father had built for Warren, but he values the time spent making a tree house with his father even
Beleden V
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent picture book with a strong, but not too heavy-handed message. I really enjoyed how the ending shifted the focus away from the tree forts and back onto the relationship between Russell and his dad.

The kids seemed to strongly identify with the concept that "there is always a better tree fort". As I continue to read this one with various classes over the next few weeks, we'll see how the response to this message continues.
FM Family
Love Qin Leng as an illustrator and love treehouses so picked this one up. I like it, the idea of the kid's fanciful vision and yet happiness with the practicality of the treehouse he gets. I liked that it showed (potentially) a male-led single parent household and a dad who doesn't know a lot about building, kind of uncommon to see in a kids book. Nice interaction between the main character and the kid with the super fancy treehouse. Worth a read, but didn't leave a strong lasting impression. ...more
Alice Ball
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Promotes ingenuity and an engineering mindset. The child leads and inspires his Dad to build a great tree fort in the backyard. They plan and complete the task together. Another boy down the street builds a better fancier tree-fort from plans his own dad purchased. After recognizing there will always be better tree-forts, the main character learns to be appreciate what he has, - a great dad.
Ashley Adkins
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it
The message behind this book is something people of all ages can relate to. I read this with my boys, ages 9 and 10, and we had a great conversation about jealously. Though the message is deeply meaningful, I felt the text could have been a bit more developed. The illustrations were very sketch-like but I truly loved the full page illustration of Russell's tree fort at night. ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Nice story with fun illustrations.
Great potential for discussions about consumerism and what we value: things, experiences, relationships.
Activities: plan and/or create your treehouse. Write a one page/paragraph story about it.
Where to build it. With who. What material. Simple or fancy. What happens in the tree house when done. Who would you invite into the tree house?
Kevin W
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
The artwork is colourful and gentle.

The story seems like it's going to be leaning in the direction of something constantly raising the stakes and getting more ridiculous and fun, even if the message is predictable, but it unfortunately does not. The story is so bent on message that it resolves too quickly and is ultimately dissatisfying.
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
I love the watercolor illustrations! The story is adorable as well. A boy & his dad spend a lot of hard work and time on building a tree fort. When the fort is all finished, the boy is very happy....until he sees a bigger better fort 3 doors down. It's a great story about learning to love what you have & the grass isn't always greener on the other side. ...more
Miss Sarah
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
A young boy and his father work very hard to build a tree fort. But what happens when a young boy down the street builds one too? Themes of jealousy, bonding, and perserverence are abundant. preschool and up
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: penelope
My four-year-old granddaughter and I enjoyed the story... I just wish the moral of the story that there will always be something better didn't infer that richer was better. In my humble opinion, Russell had the better fort despite not having all the perks of his neighbor's fort. ...more
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I like the message this story carries of always wanting something bigger and better. It's better to enjoy what you have. Also, the bond between father and son is a theme that parallels the main idea. Great gift for Father's Day. ...more
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I will never not love Qin Leng’s illustrations. Rosy cheeked and whimsical, she brings Jessica Scott Kerrin’s characters to life as wee Russell learns a great lesson about loving what you have.

This would make an excellent book for Father’s Day.
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My kids loved this book! Since we have received it, yesterday, we have read it several times!
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really liked the story and the artwork. Nice reminder that "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence." An reminder of the attitude of gratitude. ...more
Olivia S
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cute story about Russell and his dad building a tree fort. Good lesson. A bit text heavy, so 4+. Could do a fun storytime about FORTS!
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Jessica Scott Kerrin is a Canadian children’s writer who is best known for her middle grade and chapter books, including an eight-book series called Martin Bridge; a trilogy called The Lobster Chronicles; two mystery novels called The Spotted Dog Last Seen and The Missing Dog is Spotted; an adventure novel called The Things Owen Wrote; a picture book called The Better Tree Fort and a historical no ...more

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