Nominated for a Blue Spruce (Forest of Reading) Award

“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 castle turrets and working lights. Russell is in awe until it dawns on him that it’s not worth worrying about who has the better tree fort when he has a loving dad there to build one with him.

In this subtle, humorous story, Jessica Scott Kerrin explores the idea of keeping up with the Joneses — and what that means when you’re a kid with a tree fort. Qin Leng’s lighthearted watercolour illustrations show the unshakable bond between a father and son, as well as the delightful details of two tree forts.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • Included in Contemporary Canadian Children’s Books: A Critical Review for Educators, Librarians, Families, Researchers & Writers, by Beverley Brenna, Richard Dionne and Theresa Tavares, Brill Publications, 2021.
  • Shelf Awareness, STARRED REVIEW: “Together, artist and author affectingly construct The Better Tree Fort that has little to do with its exterior, and everything to do with the love contained within.”
  • Atlantic Books Today: “Jessica Scott Kerrin’s first foray into the world of picture books has yielded a gentle, beautiful story that is heartwarming and as perfect as Russell’s tree fort itself. The story is simply and elegantly told, with an understated quality that renders it even more poignant.”
  • Canadian Children’s Booknews: “Jessica Scott Kerrin has written a delightful story about the genuine love between a father and son. Quality time shared between two people is more important than possessions.”
  • Horn Book Magazine: “Kerrin includes subtle moments of humor throughout the story line.”
  • Booklist: “Leng’s playful artwork, in loose ink lines casually filled with naturalistic color washes, is a warm complement to this sweet, supportive father-and-son story. Its message of what matters most—including love and spending time together—is one many readers will welcome.”
  • Kirkus Reviews: “Kerrin’s story of father-son love is endearing and warm-spirited. Leng’s ink, watercolor, and pencil-crayon illustrations are softly hued, fluid, and filled with enough details to engage readers. Time together is truly wonderful for one father and son.”

Bonus materials