Most of us grew up reading what are now called 'Classics', and the various tales by Enid Blyton. So, we are used to what I like to call the more 'traditional' books. However, in the present day, writing for children has evolved to such an extent that the line between cartoon, comic and novel has blurred. This has brought to the forefront some exciting new formsof literature that appeal to younger readers.
The book I have selected to write about today is a case in point. I have to admit I had not even heard of the 13-Storey Treehouse until it was selected for a book club that I wanted to enrol my son in. I had heard of The Magic Treehouse though, and I wondered if this was written in the same vein. I had only to flip through it to realise - no, it wasn't!
The 13-Storey Treehouse is about two friends, Andy and Terry, who live in a fantastic treehouse that boasts a Games Room, See-Through Swimming Pool and Man-Eating Shark Tank plus various techno gizzmos that are mind boggling to contemplate. Andy is a writer, and Terry is an artist. They are under contract to produce a book for their publisher, Mr. Big Nose. Actually, they had one whole year to write the book, but realise nothing has been done in the past 364 days. So, this story is about that last day prior to their meeting with their publisher.
The day begins with them turning their friend Jill's cat into a catnary (a cat that can fly!) Then Terry receives a box of sea-monkeys. Unfortunately, one of them is actually a sea-monster and the two friends have to battle for survival. Once they finally get rid of the monster, Terry receives another batch of sea-monkeys. Unfortunately (again), they turn out to be ordinary land monkeys who wreck the treehouse. The boys get rid of them by firing an enlarged banana out to sea. Unfortunately (yet again) a giant gorilla finds the large banana and pursues its scent back to the treehouse, and the boys find themselves under siege. They are saved by the flying cat and her friends. By this time they only have a few hours left to write their story, so they describe their eventful day. The book gets published and everyone lives happily ever after.
The story looks quite bland when written as a synopsis (as above), but what truly brings it to life are the illustrations. Half the story is conveyed through the artwork. They are black and white line drawings which are quirky and eye-catching.
I tried reading this as a bedtime story, but that didn't work since I had to stop and explain the pictures and who was saying what it the speech bubbles to my younger son. My elder one, though, found in quite hilarious since he can read by himself. But let me reiterate - this is NOT a comic book (I know some parents do not want to encourage the reading of comics). It also has a 'proper' story laid out in the traditional way.
Another fact that struck me was that there was nothing rude or offensive in the book (so much of what is known as children's literature nowadays crosses that line for the sake of a laugh and I always screen the books I buy).
The book also has a little surprise at the end - there are some activity pages and riddles to keep children busy. I thought this was a great addition since it becomes more than a mere story book.
I believe (going by the many chuckles and outright laughter of my son) that it will appeal to kids and will encourage them to leave the TV and pick up a book. After all, that is the battle most parents fight now, isn't it?
NOTE - This is the first in a series. There are 7 books altogether - 26, 39, 52, 65, 78 and 91 Storey Treehouse