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The Tree Hut by Joy H Davidson

Jack must move from his home in the countryside and leave his beloved tree hut behind. His new home in the city is a townhouse with only a small courtyard to play in. There is certainly no room for a tree hut there. Worse still, the house next door with the overgrown garden and spooky tower seems to be haunted.

The Tree Hut was quite a surprise. It started off with great promise, then the story seemed to lag a bit, before coming to a heartfelt and lovely conclusion.

Author Joy Davidson uses some wonderful language to expand children’s vocabulary; words like glanced, grumbled, mysterious and sulking. The designer has also used different font sizes to differentiate certain phrases. This emphasis makes it easy to read aloud, while also helping to teach children to use expression in their reading.

Illustrator Nine Kudinova creates simple imagery alongside the text. Her haunted house and a night scene with young Jack in bed watching the house is equal parts beautiful and spooky. Her paintings are evocative and rich, bursting with colour.

While the story was a little too scary for my pre-schoolers to start with, the surprise at the end delighted them.

It teaches readers sometimes the things we fear the most in life turn out to be frightening only in our imaginations. It is a story of kindness and unlikely friendships too, although these themes are much less pronounced, but perhaps even more important.

Davidson herself moved houses a lot as a child, attending eight different primary schools throughout Auckland before starting high school. Her experience, and perhaps wishes of that time, have obviously helped her tell an authentic tale about the challenges of moving. Jack’s feelings are realistic, while the ending of the book is hopeful.

It is a great book for school-aged children, with a message about change. It would be a wonderful addition to a school library or classroom, to support children who are about to, or who have, had to face a transition around moving home.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

DHD Publishing, RRP 19.99