cover image The Fort That Jack Built

The Fort That Jack Built

Boni Ashburn, illus. by Brett Helquist. Abrams, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4197-0795-7

All items that go into a living-room fort come from somewhere, and those doing the building don’t always think to ask permission before appropriating them. This is the astute observation made by Ashburn (I Had a Favorite Dress) in her anti-cumulative tale that riffs on the “House That Jack Built” nursery rhyme. Among those reclaiming objects that have been borrowed to build one such fort are young Jack’s sopping wet teenage sister, who was clearly in the tub when her brother nabbed the shower curtain. Soon, Jack’s mighty fort, once adorned with “Keep Out” and skull-and-crossbones signs, is no more: “Without sheets or pillows, the curtain, books, chair/ Jack’s fort’s not the same as it was under there./ New holes, gap, and cracks, and way too much sag.../ almost collapsed the fort that Jack built.” Helquist’s (Grumpy Goat) chronicle of the fort’s disassembly veers too much toward tableau, and the colors are curiously muted. But his Jack is a spirited fellow with expressive features and plenty of righteous indignation to win readers’ sympathy and inspire a little insurrection. To the sofa cushion barricades! Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)