The Magic Tree House Books
by Mary Pope Osborne

The Magic Tree House books
by Mary Pope Osborne

Children's books review by P.J. Rooks

Ages 4-8

Jack and Annie of Frog Creek, Pennsylvania are wrapped up in some pretty weird business and I'm not sure that their parents, if they knew about it, would approve.

To find out, for example, that while you were in the kitchen, happily making dinner, your nine-year-old son (who was supposed to be playing in the back yard) was instead flying on the back of a Pteranodon, some 65 million years distant and a mere wing's-breadth clear of a furiously snapping Tyrannosaurus rex... Well, somebody's getting sued, right? (I mean, the kid wasn't even wearing a safety helmet for Pete's sake!) Review continues.

Jack rides a Pterandon, Jack and Annie flee T-Rex

But whom?

Our first (and only) candidate would have to be Mary Pope Osborne, author of the beloved Magic Tree House books and I'm glad to report that in the face of any pending child endangerment accusations, she's got a pretty good defense lined up -- after all, the fact Jack and Annie aren't real should hold some definite sway with the jurors.

Jack and Annie hold some definite sway with their readers, too.

While their parents bumble unwittingly along, safe and comfortable and feeling like they've got their kids under control, Jack and Annie are time-hopping through history (and occasionally, the future too), dodging tornadoes, saber-tooth tigers, ghosts, earthquakes, volcanoes, sinking ships, and more -- much more. With the Magic Tree House series now some 49 books strong, the question is, what haven't Jack and Annie done! 

A lot of research goes into the Magic Tree House books and each one is packed with interesting information -- even for grown-ups. Like, did you know that on the moon, the sky is black and the stars are out even in full daylight? Jack's got it covered in Midnight on the Moon. Or that, when threatened, a mother kangaroo will leave her joey behind and try to get predators to chase her away from the baby? Annie's in hot (make that fiery) pursuit in Dingoes at Dinnertime.

It's a surprising mix that in a series so dedicated to presenting real information to kids -- the stuff that most kids snooze through in social studies class -- Osborne relies on magic and fantasy to make it fun. Annie's a little bit psychic; Jack's a little bit, well, geekish. So while a trip back in time to jam with Louis Armstrong may be meticulously accurate in biographical details and setting, dancing pirate ghosts rush in to keep things lively while Annie's breakin' it down with a magic trumpet.

In our house, we follow the adventures of Jack and Annie just to have a chance to learn new things about old times and to pick up some fresh vocabulary words, but the wonder never seems to end when we close the book and turn off the light. Oh no. Between the daily rounds of "Mommy, you be Jack and I'll be Annie," our own magic tree house whisks my daughter off to bed, to the car, to the store -- granted, it isn't quite as exciting as riding a dolphin or watching the original Olympics, but Mom's arms or Dad's shoulders can only be so enchanted -- the rest is in the books.

Click to all those Magic Tree House  books.

Read more of P.J.'s reviews.

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