During a panel at the L.A. Times Festival of Books this year, the writer of one of my favorite books, Linda Urban, mentioned a picture book called Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn. I quickly got my hands on it.
(Disclaimer: first published in 1965, the gender stereotypes are quite dated, but the story transcends.)
Andrew Henry is a middle child whose talent for building isn’t appreciated by his family. So Andrew Henry departs through the woods to the meadow and makes camp on his own. In fact, he builds a really elaborate fort. A bona fide house.
“…The walls were made of clay and rocks and poles. The roof was made of fir boughs, and outside one window there was a fine landing field for dragonflies.”
Other kids start showing up at the meadow. They’ve exiled themselves too because they feel undervalued in their own homes. So Andrew Henry builds them houses. Or more specifically, a tree/birdhouse, a boathouse, a dugout, a teepee, a castle. Each child gets the kind of place suited to their particular passion.
The recent film The Kings of Summer is like an expanded, teenage version of Andrew Henry and his Meadow. The main character, feeling undervalued at home and needing to work some stuff out, convinces two other guys to hike through a patch of forest nearby to a clearing to build their own house. Which they do. (My favorite bit is the blue porta potty door.)
I was quite a fort builder myself as a kid, using what was available in my room: pillows, sheets, blankets, and stuffed animals to tell stories to.
So in the spirit of a classic book, a new film, and sumsumsummertime, I give you FORTS. From the simple to the sublime:
You could make your own Super Hero Fort Kit a la Meg + Andy. If you’ve already got the tent for the yard, include all the fixings any superhero spending the night out there might need for her/his adventures.
This one that the owner of Zilverblauw.nl crafted is jaw-droppingly exuberant inspiration.
The Teepee Guy on etsy has a bunch to to buy, but I like this one you can decorate yourself.
This is more like a backyard getaway idea for a staycation or dinner party, but it’s just so beautiful and whimsical and fort-like.
And then there’s always a castle made from hazel branches, fit for any prince or princess.
Or leave a fort memory or idea in the comments!
For one more picture book about a magical place children create for themselves, check out the exquisitely wonderful Roxaboxen.