Booktalk for THE GREAT TREEHOUSE WAR by Lisa Graff

When Winnie’s parents get divorced, they want to make sure she spends exactly the same amount of time with each of them every week. She’s going to live with her mom on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. She’ll be with her dad on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

And on Wednesdays — that pesky leftover day — she’ll stay in a treehouse right on the property line between the two houses. It’s the only way her parents can agree on the arrangement.

At first Winnie is horrified that her parents expect her to live by herself in a treehouse once a week. But as the months go by, Wednesday become her favorite day of the week. It’s not that she dislikes her parents, but they’ve gone crazy trying to outdo each other.

It all starts when Winnie’s mom realizes she’ll never get to spend Thanksgiving with her daughter again. Thanksgiving is their big family holiday of the year. It’s always on a Thursday, and Thursday is the dad’s day. So her mom makes a huge deal about celebrating Flag Day instead. When her dad hears about that, he goes all out for World UFO Day — he gets sleeping bags and binoculars and they camp in the back yard, searching for signs of extraterrestrial life. Of course then the mom has to do something even better. Before long, Winnie is spending six nights a week in some extravagant celebration — Ice Cream Sandwich Day, Cow Appreciation Day, National Slinky Day.

There’s no time for doodling, daydreaming, or even doing her homework. Except on Wednesdays.

When Winnie finds out she’s in danger of failing fifth grade because she’s been too busy celebrating crazy holidays, she tries to talk to her parents. They don’t listen. So she declares that she’s going up in her treehouse and not coming down until they can be reasonable. This is the start of The Great Treehouse War.

Genre: fiction, humor

Grades 3-6.

 

Anna’s take on it:

I first heard about The Great Treehouse War at a writing conference last year. Lisa Graff’s editor, Jill Santopolo, was one of the faculty at the event, and she shared tidbits about the forthcoming book. I could immediately tell that it would make a great booktalk title — and I haven’t been disappointed. The fifth graders especially, but also sixth graders, have been strongly drawn to it.

When I booktalk The Great Treehouse War, I start by showing the cover around the classroom. “Take a look at this treehouse!” I loved the basic wood-plank platform treehouse of my youth (especially the fire pole descent option), but Winnie’s treehouse is in a completely different league. Designed by her architect uncle, it features an art nook, loft, bathroom, mini-kitchen, bookshelves, zip line, package/mail delivery lift, daybed, windows… The premise of living in such a treehouse — while waiting for unreasonable parents to concede to demands — brings to life fantastic daydream material.

With its combination of humor and a lot of white space on the page, this is a good choice for reluctant readers. Winnie is the primary narrator of the story, but her friends — who join the treehouse stand-off — add their comments on “sticky notes” throughout the narrative.

Lisa Graff has published several acclaimed middle-grade novels, including National Book Award nominee A Tangle of Knots (2013). I did not absolutely love Absolutely Almost (2014), but I did admire the brave choice to feature a protagonist who is simply not very smart. Lost in the Sun (2015) — about a sixth grader who inadvertently kills a classmate with a hockey puck (the classmate had an undiagnosed heart condition) — is one that I recommend for its voice. It’s a good choice for strong sixth and seventh graders who like realistic fiction.