When Russell’s family moves to a new house, he has a great idea for the backyard: build an amazing fort in the giant maple tree.

Russell’s dad doesn’t know much about building, but he gamely gives it his best as he attempts to follow Russell’s elaborate plan. Several trips to the lumber store later, the tree fort is finally done. There is no slide, balcony or skylight like Russell imagined, but it is perfect — right up until he notices another tree fort being built three houses over.

He stood at the bottom of the better tree fort. It was so large, it blocked the sun.

When Russell visits the fort down the street with all the bells and whistles he imagined, Russell starts to wonder whether happiness comes from the fanciest fort or somewhere else.

The Better Tree Fort can now be purchased from Groundwood Books as well as from booksellers everywhere. It was released in French in the Fall 2018.

Nominated for a Blue Spruce Award!

Jessica will be heading to Toronto to attend the 2019 Forest of Reading celebrations and to deliver presentations to elementary schools within the Toronto District School Board from May 6-13, 2019. If you wish to book her during this period, please contact Authors Booking Service.


“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.” Atlantic Books Today, Fall, 2018

“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.” Canadian Children’s Booknews, summer, 2018.

“Kerrin includes subtle moments of humor throughout the story line.” Horn Book Magazine, May/June, 2018.

“Canadian author Jessica Scott Kerrin (Lobster Chronicles series) makes her picture book debut with a resonating lesson on the importance of not keeping up with the Joneses and the immeasurable value of presence over product. Artist Qin Leng embellishes Kerrin’s thoughtful narrative with whimsical ink, watercolor and pencil crayon illustrations that emphasize and celebrate the parent/child partnership as collaborators and adventurers–especially their supportive companionship and wordless understanding. 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.” Smithsonian BookDragon, March, 2018.

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.” Booklist, March, 2018.

The Better Tree Fort is the author’s first picture book after numerous acclaimed middle school novels, and her trademark humour and gentle wisdom rings pitch perfect in the new form. A witty tale about the dangers of keeping up with the Joneses, it’s always fun and never preachy, grounded in relatable and lovable Russell.” Open Book, February, 2018. 

“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.” Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2018

Field Notes

Jessica was interviewed about the inspiration for this picture book. Qin Leng, the illustrator, was interviewed about her artwork. Jessica also wrote about her inspiration for her publisher’s blog.

  • Cover used by permission of Groundwood Books. Text copyright © 2018 Jessica Scott Kerrin; jacket art and illustrations copyright © 2018 Qin Leng