by Lois Spangler
Christina Wald, illustrator
Sylvan Dell Publishing
Inside Jacket: When a young child decides to build a fort in the backyard, Grandpa comes forward to help. But they can’t do it alone—they get help from six simple machines: lever, pulley, inclined plane, wheel and axle, screw, and wedge. The House That Jack Built follows grandfather and grandchild as they build a fort together from start to finish.
Opening: This is the yard on Fourth Street where I’m building a fort that will be very neat! Who will help me build it today, and what will I need to make a fun place to play?
About the Story: Kathleen wants to build a backyard fort and enlists Grandpa’s help. After drawing up a simple blueprint, Grandpa begins building the fort using wheels on a wagon to bring in the wood and then a saw to cut the wood to the appropriate sizes. Grandpa uses an assortment of tools to build the fort and the illustrations demonstrate each tool’s proper use. When finished, the three kids have a place to play with their neighborhood friends.
What I Thought: The Fort on Fourth Street uses rhyme to tell the story about building a backyard fort. The kids have little input into the building beyond telling the story in rhyme, which does not always have the best meter. There is a repetitive phrase for kids that are learning to read. With each spread, this phrase becomes longer by adding the tools used in the current spread. The basic phrase is,
The hands that use simple machines
to build the fort on Fourth Street.
Kathleen uses her wagon to pull in the wood needed for the project:
And my wagon makes a squeaky sound,
when the wheels go round and round,
pulled by the hands that use
simple machines to build the
fort on fourth Street.
Grandpa then cuts the wood to the proper lengths, increasing the length of the phrase as well:
Grandpa’s saw cuts the wood,
making each board fit as it should.
And my wagon makes a squeaky sound . . .
Initially, I thought a cute white dog told the story, with his sidekick, a tortoise shell cat, tagging along. Not until the illustrations show yellow sneakers does the real narrator become apparent. Grandpa makes this fort singlehandedly. I would have liked to see the kids more involved in the actual work. The six tools he uses are simple enough that Kathleen could have used them, albeit with supervision. Once the fort is finished, three kids—possibly Kathleen and two siblings—appear in the backyard, ready to explore the new fort. The dog and cat beat the kids to it, probably looking for safe hiding places.
The fort looks nice. It has a door, a large window, and an open area in the roof as entrances. There is a small decorative top that a child can stand up inside the fort and see the backyard, turning 360 degrees. The story is really about six tools and their functions. To compliment this, the author has written in-depth information about each tool and those that measure, a simple matching game, and a questionnaire one can use to evaluate their own built fort.
The bright illustrations are precise and give a peek into the fort from several angles. I think this would be a good picture book to use in a classroom or in homeschooling. The story is dry and the rhyming does not help elevate the story, though the illustrations give the reader great insight as to what is happening. Boys might like this book for the tools, but The Fort on Fourth Street is not a bedtime story or one that kids will want read to them more than one or two times. Teachers will find this picture book helpful when levers and pulleys become the subject. The Fort on Fourth Street makes an excellent adjunct text.
Dual-language, interactive versions—English and Spanish—with auto-flip pages is available, as is an audio version. The Fort on Fourth Street fits the Common Core Standards in science and social studies, kindergarten through second grade. A teacher’s activity guide is available at the Sylvan Dell website. You can preview the The Fort on Fourth Street here.
DREAM FORT DESIGN CONTEST! (ends December 6, 2013)
by Lois Spangler website
Christina Wald, illustrator website
Released September 1, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-60718-632-8 (pb) & 978-1-60718-717-2 (hb)
Age 5 to 8 / Grade K to 2
© 2013 by Sylvan Dell Publishing, used with permission
Test copyright © 2013 by Lois Spangler
Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Christina Wald
- The Fort on Fourth Street: A Story About the Six Simple Machines (homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com)
- review – The Deductive Detective by Brian Rock (kid-lit-reviews.com)