Eleven-year-old Brianna Bridges loves climbing trees, and spends every free moment pursuing her sport. She has set herself the goal of getting to the top of every tree at the Cedar Grove Townhouse Complex, and happily imagines the look on Tyler’s face when she accomplishes it. It comes as a bitter shock when Bree discovers that the complex’s Neighbour Council has enacted an interim bylaw against tree climbing, one that promises fines of $250 for the first infraction and $525 for subsequent infractions.
At first she tries to find other places to climb, but climbing trees are scarce in Vancouver. Those along the Fraser River are trimmed regularly to remove their lower branches, while the trees in the field next door to the townhouse complex have been cut down to make way for Ultimate Frisbee.
Tyler, with whom Bree’s always butting heads, seems pleased with the bylaw or, at least, by how miserable it makes his rival. Ethan Matheson, the eight-year-old son of the President of the Cedar Grove Neighbourhood Council, on the other hand, seems almost as sorry as Bree. After talking to the younger boy, she realizes that it’s because Ethan injured himself falling out of a tree that the interim bylaw has been put in place.
Her best friend Sarah suggests she speak to Ms. Matheson, who advises Bree that she needs to address the Neighbour Council. Bree reads up on tree climbing and visits the website of Tree Climbers International in preparation, and draws up a list of ideas for her presentation. At the meeting she talks about the importance of exercise and fresh air, but notes that the adults present seem more preoccupied by the issue of safety.
It seems to her that the council members pay more heed to old Mrs. Leary’s demand that dogs be banned from the complex because of their noise and their unscooped excrement than to her arguments in support of tree climbing. She is disappointed but not surprised when the council fails to rescind the interim bylaw.
Her social studies teacher, Mr. Vandermeer, inadvertently gives Bree her next idea for fighting the tree-climbing ban when he shows her class a slideshow about the protests against old-growth logging in Clayoquot Sound. She decides to organize a protest rally.
With some support from Sarah, Bree convinces the kids from Cedar Grove that, if they don’t take a stand against the prohibition on tree climbing, street hockey, basketball and skipping will be next. Michael volunteers to make signs, Salina agrees to bring noisemakers, and Ashley says she’ll prepare snacks. However the question remains: what pressure can the kids bring to bear on the council to reinforce their demands? Bree is surprised when Tyler comes up with a suggestion. The protesters will refuse to shower or bathe until the bylaw is repealed.
The rally draws a lot of attention from residents of the townhouse complex, and helps to unite the kids, but doesn’t succeed in changing any minds on the council. After nearly two weeks without a bath, even Bree and Tyler cave in, unable to stand the itchy, dirty feeling. Bree figures that, unless her father takes her camping, she’ll never get to climb a tree again.
It’s only a few days later, during Cedar Grove’s annual Easter egg hunt, that Bree makes an unanticipated discovery. Searching for eggs, she notices that, according to the map provided by the organizers, the three trees near the railroad tracks are off the townhouse complex’s property. Better still, they are perfect for climbing.
It isn’t long before Bree is sneaking away to climb The Spoon, The Fork and The Knife, and offering to teach Ethan to climb them, too. She is pleased to see that, under her careful instruction, the younger boy has soon mastered The Spoon and is ready to tackle The Fork. She is less pleased when she learns that he’s let it slip Salima that they are climbing, and that the other girl wants to climb, too.
By the time Tyler finds out what she’s up to, Bree is coaching half the kids in the complex to climb trees. Tyler threatens to tell the council, before his friend Michael talks him out of it, but Michael cautions the girl that it’s only a matter of time before the adult residents of Cedar Grove learn about the tree climbing.
With the Annual General Meeting of the Neighbourhood Council, at which the interim bylaws is due to be ratified, just around the corner, Michael persuades Bree to state her case for tree climbing to all the residents of townhouse complex. Her father helps her and Ethan put together a PowerPoint slideshow, and present their argument for tree climbing, but will the kids get enough votes to overturn the climbing ban?
Written by Yolanda Ridge, Trouble in the Trees is the story of one young girl’s efforts to get the housing complex in which she lives to overturn a ban on tree climbing. With a nice demonstration of the importance of civic engagement, competitve tensions between two strong-willed characters, and some lovely ventures to the top of the tree, this book will appeal to readers from Grade 4.