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Kaline Klattermaster's Tree House

Review

Kaline Klattermaster's Tree House

written by Haven Kimmel, illustrated by Peter Brown

Kaline Klattermaster lives in a treehouse with his two very cool older brothers and 100 puppies. The couch is shaped like a hot dog, and they spend their days eating s'mores and writing comic books. Okay, that’s not exactly true, but Kaline's real life is almost as exciting as his fantasy one. In reality the precocious just-turned seven-year-old lives with his eccentric mother next door to the even more eccentric Mr. Osiris Putnaminski. At school, a year younger than all the other third graders, the imaginative Kaline is an outcast, bullied by three big kids who steal all his stuff, even his pants! None of this is made any easier by the fact that Kaline's orderly and dependable father is gone.

In KALINE KLATTERMASTER'S TREEHOUSE, Haven Kimmel --- the bestselling author of A GIRL NAMED ZIPPY --- tells the story of a sweet, sensitive and creative boy dealing with change and finding his own, however quirky, voice.

Kaline, though physically small, is a bundle of energy. But who can keep still when there are imaginary bugles to blow, exciting questions to ask, and even chaos and “pangemonia” all around? Not Kaline. This fidgety boy is constantly dancing, climbing and marching (to his own drummer he learns), and always thinking, inquiring and pondering. Kaline is at once a typical kid and a totally unique character.

Even before his father's disappearance, Kaline’s mother was scatterbrained --- but now she is downright forgetful. She feeds him a chicken leg for breakfast, leaves him in the tub for hours and hours (so it seems to Kaline), and is knitting the world’s largest afghan. Kaline's father was the one who kept the house running smoothly, the lawn neatly clipped, and Kaline properly bathed, dressed and fed. But now he is missing and Kaline's mom won't tell him where he went.

Thank goodness for Mr. P. right next door. With his ponytail, big house, old car and mysterious hobby, Mr. P. becomes a source of comfort and curiosity for Kaline while the boy’s family is going through a major transition.

Kaline's father is gone, but he is not told why until the end of the book. This stress is glossed over, and it’s hard to tell if Kaline's anxieties stem from it or are only exacerbated by it. The author tells us that he has been a strange kid all along. And therein lies the problem with this otherwise charming book: it lacks a focus. Kaline is a fantastic character, his parents are interesting and Mr. P. is intriguing. The subjects of divorce and not quite fitting in are both important ones in children's literature, but here they don't add up to a cohesive whole.

Still, Kimmel's first foray into juvenile fiction has many merits. Her characters are great, her style is readable, funny and thoughtful, and her examination of Kaline's amazing inner world is compelling.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on February 5, 2008

Kaline Klattermaster's Tree House
written by Haven Kimmel, illustrated by Peter Brown

  • Publication Date: February 5, 2008
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0689874022
  • ISBN-13: 9780689874024