Today’s selection seems like an obvious choice and it might seem odd that it didn’t make the list sooner. The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne often shows up on top ten lists for young readers and is wildly popular with the book fair scene. But the truth is, my son never seemed to connect with the series or the characters, so I never thought to review it on the site. This, however, doesn’t mean we don’t have a large collection of the books. I’d bought a couple of collections back when my son was in kindergarten, thinking he’d enjoy reading them together and on his own. But after reading the first 7 or 8, they sat on the bookshelf collecting dust.
I decided to list them on eBay because large collections actually sell for an impressive amount. My thought was that I’d take the proceeds and use them to buy new books that better align with my son’s current interests. But as any parent who has ever tried to dispose of something their child shows absolutely no interest in knows… as soon as he saw the books stacked on the dining table, he couldn’t stand the idea of no longer owning them.
And so I’ve put them back on the bookshelf, with the express goal of reading them over the next several weeks. I’m not usually one of those ‘we must use every single thing we own to the last drop’ sort of people but you have to understand that my kid is going through a bit of a packrat phase right now so if he insists on keeping 35 Magic Treehouse books, we should probably give them a proper go.
I’m realizing that I should probably stop and give some background on series, for the uninitiated. Jack and Annie are two American siblings, 10 and 8, respectively, who discover a treehouse in the woods near their home in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania. Inside, they discover a library of books on many subjects. They soon learn that by opening any given book, pointing to a picture and declaring ‘I wish we could go there’, they’ll be spirited away to a setting that matches one found in that particular book. There is also a book about Frog Creek that the children must bring along on all of their adventures. When they are ready to return home, they point to a photo of Frog Creek and say, ‘I wish we could return home.’ It’s also important to note that time stands still while the children are on their adventures so their parents never notice their absence. Bases covered!
Using this technique, the children visit exotic locales and meet many interesting people, not to speak of the extensive time traveling the pair do. In the very first installment of the series, Dinosaurs Before Dark, Jack and Annie are whisked away to the late Cretaceous period where they befriend a Pteranodon who saves them from becoming a light snack for a T-Rex. It’s on this adventure that Jack discovers a mysterious medallion that is imprinted with a letter M. This discovery will serve as the catalyst for the escapades that follow in original collection of 28 books. In short order, the pair meet the time-bending librarian Morgan le Fay, who is close friends with Merlin of acclaimed magic fame. She sets them off on many adventures across the globe and throughout time.
The remaining books feature such settings as Ancient Egypt, England during the Middle Ages and the American Wild West. Along the way, they befriend children in Brazil, meet George Washington and help animals of all species. The pair visit such doomed places as Pompeii on the eve of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, as well as the ill-fated Titanic. These storylines are helpful in opening the conversation about tragic historic events.
I will admit that the range of time frames, locations and adventures are varied, though if you are reading the books to your child, you will likely tire of the formulaic style of writing.
Because of this, I highly recommend that if you have a strong reader, you encourage them to take the lead in reading the books to you or independently. The repetitive nature of the adventures will likely be a comfort to the reader and they will learn a lot through exposure to the many different plotlines.
Worthy of mention, because it’s definitely a sticking point for my kid – the character of Annie can grate on the nerves a bit. She is ‘headstrong’, which we all know can sometimes mean that she has a proclivity to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, who cares about the consequences. Maybe it’s my birth order speaking (I’m the oldest) but Annie’s tendency to take off into the unknown of a place they’ve just arrived in and her propensity to ignore the pleading of her older brother gets really old, really fast. I just feel like her recklessness causes Jack to be the fuddy-duddy of the series when really, he’s just trying to keep the pair alive. With Jack only being 10, Annie sure is asking a lot of her older brother, whether she realizes it or not.
Okay, so that was my Magic Treehouse rant but I think we can all relate to getting a little too invested in the subjects of our children’s favorite shows, movies and books. You start to form opinions and even assign backstories to the characters after the 50th watching of Ninjago or Boss Baby… that’s’ not just a me thing, right?! So it’s highly possible that I may be just a bit too close to the situation. You may not be bothered by Annie at all (but I highly doubt it!)
So now that I’ve roller-coastered all over this review, I will close by saying, give this series a try. Maybe check out a few books from the library, focusing on topics and settings that your kid is most interested in. Though it’s somewhat helpful to read them in order, it’s not necessary. The Magic Treehouse may not be go-to series in our family library but it is for many other homes and might be perfect for yours. There’s a plot line for any child in this collection and sparking that love of reading is what this site is all about. Go forth and find the right story for your young reader!