The Fort, by Gordon Korman, is a novel about four 6th grade boys who all share a clubhouse in the woods.
Their special place has remained secret until a new kid, Ricky, follows them into the woods. Together, the group discovers a hidden bomb shelter complete with food, a sink, a stove, a TV and a couch. These kids, working to keep their find from everybody, must also strive to accept Ricky as a new member of their group. All the while, each boy is facing serious life challenges. It’s inspiring to watch how the fort helps all the characters with their own individual problems but still helps each of them bond together as friends who confide in each other.
One special feature of the novel is that each character encounters an individual problem that makes all of them need the fort in different ways. One example is CJ who uses the fort because his parents are divorced, and he does not like his new stepfather, Marcus. The fort helps CJ escape from his stepfather who gives CJ many presents but is abusive. When Marcus gets mad, he hits his family members, and then after that goes back to being his happy self again. CJ is frustrated with his mother and her texts, “12:02 AM from Mom. Why are you doing this?” CJ explains, “ It bothers me because my mother knows the answer to that question. I’m doing this because my scrapes and bumps and bruised ribs have nothing to do with the bike jumps or skateboard stunts, or death-defiers. They come from the man who became my stepfather when she married him.” The readers learn that not only is Marcus hurting CJ, he is also hurting CJ’s mother. He uses death-defiers as a way of making purposeful injuries in order to cover up the real ones and, as a safe place, CJ needs to hide out in the fort.
The second reason I like this book is because the characters know how to deal with bullies. The bullies in this book are Jager and Luke, who are older and carry a knife, and their whole mission is to find out what these five kids are doing in the woods alone after school. The fort kids come up with ways to mislead Jager and Luke, like making a decoy fort and creating a lookout tree. They find victory in other great ways as well.
Third, through the character of Mitchell, this book helps readers understand the struggles of kids with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). For example, Mitchell needs to make sure the couch in the fort is positioned perfectly before he sits down. For him, this is just a normal thing he does, and he does it with anything he sits, stands, or lays on. Mitchell’s need to control his environment in this way creates special challenges for him because he gets judged for these behaviors. On the contrary, Mitchell thinks these actions are as natural as breathing or walking. Meeting Mitchell helps the readers expand their empathy for kids with OCD.
In conclusion, The Fort by Gordon Korman is a great read for rising sixth graders. I recommend this book because its characters exhibit courage, independence and friendship. It is a wonderful story about how trust binds us together. Similar themes are emphasized in Gordon Korman’s other books like Mixed Up and Restart which are also stories about challenges teens might face.
The Fort by Gordon Korman. Scholastic Press, 2022. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!