5 Books Featuring…Treehouses!

Not really the right time of the year for this topic…but maybe as you’re huddled by the fireplace or your radiator, you might enjoy reading about these adventures in the (warmer!) outdoors.  And once you thaw out from this winter blast, maybe you could stop by the library and check out a book about building a tree house in the spring!

In case you don’t remember, our 5 Books Featuring are five related Books–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite of library staff–but you’ll have to guess which is which! Each book has a short synopsis and link to the book in the catalog, so you can easily find and request it.

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Graff, Lisa.  The Great Treehouse WarThe Great Treehouse Wargreat treehouse war
Winnie’s last day of fourth grade ended with a pretty life-changing surprise. That was the day Winnie’s parents got divorced and decided that Winnie would live three days a week with each of them and spend Wednesdays by herself in a treehouse between their houses, to divide her time perfectly evenly. Too bad no one consulted Winnie.
By the end of fifth grade, Winnie decides that the only way to change things is to barricade herself in her treehouse until her parents come to their senses–and her friends decide to join. It’s kids vs. grown-ups, and no one wants to back down first. But with ten kids in one treehouse, all with their own demands, things get pretty complicated! Even if they are having the most epic slumber party ever.

Griffiths, Andy.  The 13-Story Treehouse13 story treehouse
Andy and Terry live in the most amazing treehouse in the world!   It has thirteen stories, a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a secret underground laboratory, and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots marshmallows into your mouth whenever you are hungry.  Life would be perfect for Andy and Terry if it wasn’t for the fact that they have to write their next book, which is almost impossible because there are just so many distractions, including thirteen flying cats, giant bananas, mermaids, a sea monsters pretending to be mermaids, enormous gorillas, and dangerous burp gas-bubblegum bubbles!  (If you read the whole series, you’ll find out that the boys will get up to 91 stories…)

Kimmel, Haven.  Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree Housekaline klattermasters
Kaline Klattermaster loves his mom. Adores his mom. But she can be, well…a bit forgetful sometimes. A bit lax. A bit…crazy? For instance, when she gives him a chicken leg for breakfast…or forgets that he needs to go to school. And he’s not completely sure his mother understands how time works.
His mom has been  a bit more crazy since his dad left. So it’s a very good thing that the folks in Kaline’s tree house are not so crazy.  The two brothers and one hundred dogs that live in his tree house–and his strange neighbor Mr. Osiris Putnaminski–help him cope. They understand him.  His mom hints that the tree house is imaginary, but Kaline is unconvinced. Kaline Klattermaster is a boy who understands the importance of a few good friends!

Roberts, Willo Davis.  The View From the Cherry Treeview from the cherry tree 2
Rob is the youngest in his family, and is used to being ignored.  But with his older sister getting married, and everyone wrapped up in wedding preparations, Rob is left to his own devices even more than usual.  He doesn’t mind though, he kind of enjoys sitting up in his perch way up in the cherry tree, looking down on everyone while he remains unseen.
But when Rob looks over at Mrs. Calloway’s house, he sees something he never expected; the murder of his elderly neighbor.  Rob tries to tell his family, but no one believes him.  No one, but the murderer.  Rob didn’t see his face, but now he has to figure out who it is, before he’s the next victim.

Wyss, Johann David.  The Swiss Family Robinsonswiss family robinson
A terrible shipwreck; a deserted island. One family will emerge alive from this terrible storm: the Robinsons–a Swiss pastor, his wife, and their four sons, plus two dogs and a shipload of livestock.  As they struggle to create a new life on a strange and fantastic tropical island home, each boy must learn to utilize his own unique nature.   Their adventures lead to difficult challenges and amazing discoveries, including a puzzling message tied to an albatross’s leg. Featuring amazingly resourceful characters and a wondrous landscape bursting with exotic wildlife and plants, (as well as a treehouse home!) this is an irresistible tale of ingenuity.  A wonderful adventure, where each moment brings a new thrill.
If the original is too old-fashioned in language and style, try the Classic Starts version by Chris Tait.  It retains the flavor of the original for modern readers.

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Stay warm in this cold as you enjoy these tropical (and not-so-tropical) adventures!



Old Favorites: Wren to the Rescue

Quests are always a fun topic for an adventure book. The more dangerous the adventure, the more exciting the read.  What’s not to like?  Daring heroes, impossible tasks, magical mischief, mistaken identities and more await every lucky reader.

Wren to the Rescue, by Sherwood Smith, is full of all of these elements…and more!

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Wren was left at a mountain orphanage when she was just a baby.  At nine, she was transferred to Three Groves Orphanage because of overcrowding.  At Three Groves, she learns how to clean, cook, mend and do farm tasks.  Wren would rather learn how to read and write, act or go on adventures!  But Wren is stuck in life as an orphan; when she’s twelve, she’ll be hired out.  Until then though, she makes a name for herself creating stories and sticking up for other kids.  She meets another orphan, Tess, when she rescues her from some of the bigger orphanage bullies.  Three years later, Wren and Tess are still best friends, doing everything together.

So when Tess announces that she isn’t really an orphan at all, but a princess in disguise, Wren is amazed.  Tess has been under a curse and in hiding from an evil sorcerer the entire time she’s known her!  Wren is completely envious that Tess–quiet, shy Tess–is about to go to the palace to live in luxury and have grand adventures.  Tess though, would rather stay an anonymous orphan with her best friend. When she asks Wren if knowing she’s a princess changes Wren’s opinion of her, Wren tells her of course not. But she does think that their personalities are better suited to each others positions.  Fortunately, Tess isn’t angry–she knows it’s true.

Tess asks Wren to join her–not as a maid servant, but as her friend. Wren promptly agrees, and both girls are magically whisked away by Mistress Leila, one of the orphanage teachers who is actually Tess’ aunt, to the Magic School.  There, Tess meets with her parents and learns that she’s not completely out of danger.  But, reassured by the precautions the King and Queen have taken, the royal family and Wren return to the Palace.  But the curse seems to come true when, during the preparation for her 13th birthday, Tess vanishes. Kidnapped!

Wren saw the person who took Tess, and she saw the magic that was used.  But no one listens to her; they think she’s just a poor girl.  So Wren repeats the phrase she heard Mistress Leila use, waves her hand the same way, and is transported to the Magic School, where she meets a young wizard.  This wizard can’t seem to perform magic reliably, and is stunned to learn that Wren can do a difficult spell just from hearing it one time.  He also has a best friend, another boy training to be a warrior.  They’re willing to listen, so Wren tells them all she knows of Tess’s disappearance.  All three bond over their worry about Tess, and soon Wren, Tyron and Connor are defying the King and setting out on a quest to find and rescue her.

But Wren doesn’t know that both her traveling companions have secrets.  She also isn’t quite sure what to do with the magical abilities she seems to be developing; will they help or hinder in the search for Tess?

Facing evil magicians, enchanted beasts, and magical warriors led by an enchantress, Wren leads the boys over the mountains on a continuing mission to find Tess.  But when her magic backfires, will Wren be able to continue on her quest?  Only by finding Tess and confronting her evil captors will Wren find the answers to her questions.

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Wren to the Rescue was written in 1990, and was followed by two other titles, Wren’s Quest and Wren’s War. The trilogy stopped with some unanswered questions, so I was happy to see that there is now a fourth book, Wren, Journeymage available online through the author’s website.

Although there are princesses and evil sorcerers, dragons (well, sort of) and potential romance aplenty, it’s refreshing to meet a heroine who starts out with no special status or powers.  She’s not a princess or a magician herself, but an ordinary girl with determination, stubbornness and  principles.  Wren is the power behind the quest, the one who organizes the other rescuers, the one who is motivated by to find her friend.  She consults with the boys, but is usually the one they turn to to make important decisions.

If you like quest stories, spunky heroines and magic, you’ll love Wren to the Rescue.  So what are you waiting for?  Read it and find out!


Old Favorite: Mindy’s Mysterious Miniature

From The Borrowers to The Littles to The Indian in the Cupboard, little people have been populating children’s books since the days of Gulliver’s Lilliputians. In books, miniature people have a variety of reasons for being so tiny: some were born tiny (or even with tails!) and some of the books take place in a far-away land where tiny is normal. But some of these unfortunate miniature people  were transformed under mysterious circumstances…just like Mindy and her friends in Mindy’s Mysterious Miniature by Jane Louise Curry.

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Mindy is spending a boring Saturday trailing after her parents at a dusty old estate auction.  They have a small antiques store, and their daughter soon grows tired of the same old auction items. After listening to one too many bad jokes from the auctioneer, she slips off to explore the old barn, now empty of all its possessions. In the dusty overlooked eaves of the hayloft, behind a broken sign, Mindy stumbles upon  a forgotten dollhouse. A beautiful dollhouse, if the dusty room she can see through a hole in a tiny window is anything to go by.   She runs to explain her find to the auctioneer and convinces him to put it up for auction. She bids 68 cents and 12 lemon soda bottles (at five cents each) and with no opponents, ends up the proud owner of a grimy dollhouse.

Once Mindy and her parents get the dollhouse home, they start to examine it. Something isn’t right about this house…it’s more like a model of a home rather than a toy to play with. Everything is exactly to scale, with nothing being too big or too little…something almost impossible to find, even in the most carefully constructed reproductions.  There are tiny silver pots that look authentically colonial, minuscule eyeglasses and a beautiful chandelier.  It’s all perfect. Maybe too perfect?

While Mindy and her mother start taking furniture outside to wash in the yard, Mindy’s father, Mr. Hallam, takes the tiny kitchen table to work with him to examine more closely. Mindy suddenly gets nervous about the dollhouse when she finds an oily-looking man snooping around her parent’s store, looking inside drawers where he has no business. She runs to warn her mother, only to find that her mother has already covered up the house after an odd encounter with a persistent TV repairman.

Mindy’s father comes home with the news that the table, when viewed under magnification, seems to be composed of miniature wood molecules, and the whole family isn’t sure what to think. Do they have a dollhouse made out of some previously unknown type of wood, or is their dollhouse a shrunken real-sized house? Mindy’s parent’s scoff, but Mindy isn’t so sure.

When Mrs. Bright from next-door comes over to tell the Halams about her own encounter with the creepy TV repairman,  who turns out to also be the snoopy antiques collector, Mr. and Mrs. Halam decide to go to the police and report him. Mrs. Bright volunteers to stay with Mindy…which may be something that all four regret. Because the strange man…Mr. L. Putt….comes back. He knows the secret of the mysterious dollhouse, and he doesn’t want to share.

Soon, Mindy and Mrs. Bright are actually inside the miniature home. Mr. Putt is not  a TV repairman or an antiques collector. He’s a dangerous man, and he’s stolen the dollhouse AND Mindy and Mrs. Bright. If these two friends are going to survive, they have to keep  their wits about them and figure out a way to outwit the dastardly professor who’s now keeping them prisoner!

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Originally published in 1970, and released in paperback as The Mysterious Shrinking House, this was a Scholastic book staple in the early 70s.  There’s a companion book entitle The Lost Farm., where a boy named Pete and his grandmother have to deal with Professor Putt’s schemes and their shrunken farm.

Mindy’s Mysterious Miniature was an extremely popular book when I was in fifth grade–I think my whole class read it.  Jane Louise Curry was one of my favorite authors when I was  in fourth,  fifth and sixth grade, with her combination of adventure, danger and humor. We still have a few of her titles, and I would highly recommend her to any middle-grade readers. Some are mysteries, some are time-travel adventures, and some are fantasy. Two of my favorites still at the Weston Library include The Bassumtyte Treasure and The Ice Ghosts Mystery. For the books we don’t own, I adore Parsley Sage, Rosemary and Time, and still read it every couple years for fun.  And I see Poor Tom’s Ghost is back in print! Hmm…

So if you’re looking for a satisfying, page-turning summer read, try Mindy’s Mysterious Miniature. You’ll like it, I promise!