A pizza this, a tomato spat, and on with the storey
The 52-Storey Treehouse By Andy Griffiths Illustrated by Terry Denton Pan Macmillan, 330pp, $12.99 WITH each 13-storey addition to Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s fantastical treehouse, first erected in 2011, it becomes harder to decide which new feature is the coolest. Take the enhancements we find in the opening pages of The 52-Storey Treehouse: who doesn’t want a watermelon-smashing room, a chainsaw juggling level (ouch!), a rocking horse racetrack, a Disguise-o-matic 5000 or a life-sized snakes and ladders game, with real snakes?
But the room to which my nine-year-old, Syd, and I keep returning is the make-our-own-
November 22-23, 2014 pizza parlour, with its array of crazy ingredients. Deciding which four-topping pie would be the most disgusting is a challenge. Syd goes for liquid bats’ brains, custard, eggs and wood.
There’s also a Ninja Snail Training Academy (which Andy stresses is “Terry’s idea, not mine”), though he will have reason to thank these glacial gladiators in the course of an adventure that starts with the disappearance of the duo’s publisher, the gruff and excitable Mr Big Nose.
On arriving at the headquarters of Big Nose Books, Andy and Terry find Mr Big Nose’s empty office in violent disarray. On the floor is a clue, a book called Fun With Vegetables by one Vegetable Patty.
The book is a declaration of war on vegetables, with the medievally armed Ms Patty shown whipping, boiling, slicing and skewering a variety of veg. Now, Andy and Terry are no greenies, but this seems a bit over the top.
The boys are about to leave when they spot a caterpillar trembling in a pot plant on Mr Big Nose’s desk. A witness! If only caterpillars could talk. Of course! Their friend Jill can talk to any animal.
So it’s off to Jill’s. However, they find her and all her animals asleep, in the Sleeping Beauty sense. The answer is a kiss from a handsome prince, so Andy, Terry, the caterpillar and the comatose Jill head for the nearest castle, which to their surprise and consternation turns out to be the palace of Prince Potato, ruler of the Vegetable Kingdom. Scenes of high drama ensue, not least when the deranged Vegetable Patty enters the fray.
Syd and I read this book in a sitting: there was no way we could wait to find out what would happen next. We also laughed a lot. An extended sequence in which the boys argue with a belligerent tomato, outraged to be called a fruit, is priceless.
And the voracious caterpillar (it eats rhinos, steamrollers and much more) puts a wellknown rival in the shade. There’s also (I think) a Don Quixote riff going on, which made for an educational side discussion.
The Treehouse books are a treasure: clever, funny and, most important, a reminder that a child’s imagination has no limits. Syd and I have lots of suggestions for the next 13 storeys.