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The Tree House that Jack Built: Bonnie Verburg & Mark Teague

Book: The Tree House that Jack Built
Author: Bonnie Verburg
Illustrator: Mark Teague
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5-7

The Tree House that Jack Built by Bonnie Verburg starts out something like the cumulative British nursery rhyme This is the House that Jack Built, only set in a very cool tree house. However, a few pages in, Verburg branches out from the standard cumulative format, eventually introducing story time for a bunch of Jack's animal friends. Then at the end, The Tree House that Jack Built turns into a bedtime book, with Jack and his animal friends settling down to sleep under a full moon. It's a bit disjointed, in truth. Sort of a stream-of-consciousness blending of several different types of books.

Here's what I mean. After several pages of build-up, we have:

"Here is the parrot
who pecks at the lizard
that snaps at the fly
that buzzes by
the tree house
that Jack built.

But who swats the parrot?"

And on the next page:

"Of course it's the cat!

He jumps on the swings, 
the ladder, the birdbath,
the marvelous things
Jack made with his tools--"

See what I mean? That's not to say that it's not fun to read aloud, with punchy, active text. There's a tremendous wish-fulfillment to The Tree House that Jack Built. Jack lives without adult supervision, in a marvelous tree house beside the sea, surrounded by tame animals that gather around him as he reads stories. I can see this story appealing to adventure-seeking kindergartners and first graders. 

Teague's illustrations capture the dazzling tree house, with plenty of browns, greens and blues. He uses various perspectives, to give a sense of being high above the ground. The animals are not strictly realistic, but they do add color and life to the story. Tree house details like a mini water wheel and system of pipes, and a line that the rabbits use to send carrots into the house, will please attentive young readers. 

The text in The Tree House that Jack Built is fun, though it could have been tightened a bit. But the tree house is hard to resist, as are Mark Teague's bold illustrations. I do think that kids will enjoy The Tree House that Jack Built.

Publisher: Orchard Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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