as happy as a tree fort

I am a sucker for tree forts.

Not that I had one as a kid, though I spent a good bit of time up in trees, coming home with pitch stuck in my hair and an extra scrape or two. But the idea of living in a tree, listening to the shushing of the leaves, exulting in the ocean of air. That is the life.


Thus I’m magnet-drawn to picture books starring tree forts. I’ve got three new ones to share with you today. Then I went back through the archives, discovering in the process how much I really do gravitate towards these guys! I’ve listed a bunch of great titles, linked to their reviews, so you can go hog wild over tree forts if you’re so inclined!

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The Better Tree Fort, written by Jessica Scott Kerrin, illustrated by Qin Leng
published in 2018 by Groundwood Books

Russell longs for a tree fort. He sketches the essential details for his dad’s reference — balcony, skylight, basket for hauling up important items — and off the two trot to the lumber store.

the better tree fort interior by Kerrin and Leng

Russell’s dad is clearly not in his element in the home improvement department. My heart truly went out to him, standing beleaguered among towering shelves of construction materials.  In the end, however, a tree fort is constructed. Basic and unadorned as it is, Russell declares it to be “perfect.”

the better tree fort interior2 by Kerrin and Leng

But then, three doors down, a tree house to beat all tree houses goes up. Wow. Quite the plush quarters. Does this diminish Russell’s own place, and his dear dad’s efforts? Oh, you will have to read the book to discover this kid’s warmth and wisdom. Melted my heart.

the better tree fort illustration detail by Qin Leng

Qin Leng’s artwork is, as always, tender, amiable, lovely. It’s a perfect book to nab for Father’s Day, or to read any ol’ time with kids ages 3 and up.

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Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses, written by Shira Boss, illustrated by Jamey Christoph
published in 2018 by Sterling Children’s Books

Once there was a boy named Bob who grew up amidst the noise and clamor of New York City. Bob was a kid who flourished in green spaces, quiet places, and that was hard to come by except in Central Park.

up in the leaves illustration by Jamey Christoph

So that’s just where he hightailed it every chance he got, and before long, the siren call of all those lofty, uninhabited tree branches proved irresistible. Perching up in a tree was so idyllic, that Bob built a modest platform for himself. Such a lovely spot to lounge and read — until it was removed, and he had to rebuild in another tree.

up in the leaves interior by Boss and Christoph

Twelve treehouses and eight years later, Bob found a new, city-approved way to fulfill his love for the world of trees. His story is a delight, especially for kids who don’t sit in desks very comfortably. Illustrated with stylish, leafy, optimism. Share it with ages 3 and up.

everything you need for a treehouse cover image

Everything You Need For a Treehouse, written by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Emily Hughes
published in 2018 by Chronicle Books

The summer’s-day-lyricism of this ode to tree houses details a meandering list of ingredients for their creation, from intangibles such as time and imagination, to the nitty gritty of hammers and nails, to romantic extras like rope swings, bookshelves, sleeping bags, flashlights, and of course, snacks.

everything you need for a treehouse interior Higgins and Hughes

Emily Hughes’ illustrations rocket this whole thing to the stars. Her merry, yet subtle, palette is just right for exuberant play in the great out-of-doors. The lovely variance of skin tones amongst these bands of happy kids embraces everyone. Her imaginatively-constructed forts are the stuff of dreams.

everything you need for a treehouse illustration by Emily Hughes

And then her trees!! Immense, gnarled, towering glories!

everything you need for a treehouse illustration2 by Emily Hughes

I wanted to be inside every picture. Grab this gem for ages 2 and up.

Now, here are more tree forts to explore. Click on the titles to read about them.

audrey's tree house cover image
Audrey’s Tree House

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My Old Tree

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Secret Tree Fort

that neighbor kid cover image

That Neighbor Kid


The Tree House

tree houses fairy tale castles in the air cover image

Tree Houses: Fairy Tale Castles in the Air

we were tired of living in a house cover image

We Were Tired of Living in a House
This story has just one tree house, but it’s one I do love.

kildee house cover

Kildee House
A fantastic read-aloud about an old guy who retires to a house built into a massive tree in the Pacific Northwest.


My Side of the Mountain
Another house in a tree, this time occupied by one, solo, adventuresome boy. One of my son’s all-time favorite novels.