I first discovered “The Magic Tree House Books” by Mary Pope Osborne when my daughter outgrew the beginning readers and wasn’t quite ready for the older reader books. My librarian was very helpful and pointed this series out to me.
The series revolves around Jack and his little sister Annie, typical children from our time who have a tree house on their property.
The first book in the series is called “Dinosaurs Before Dark.” In this book, Jack and Annie discover that the tree house is owned by Morgan le Fay, who is King Arthur’s sister and also a librarian. She has been using the tree house to collect books from all over time and all over space to go in the library at Camelot, and she enlists Jack and Annie’s help on her quest. In order to travel, the children open a book, point at the picture inside, and say, “I want to go there.” The tree house transports them to that place, they collect what they came to get, and then they go back home.
While the children are having their adventures, they learn a lot about the places they visit. I’m pulling three of the books at random to illustrate what I mean.
The ninth book in the series is called “Dolphins at Daybreak.” The children meet up with Morgan at the tree house, and she tells them they can become master librarians by learning how to do research. She then sends them to an ocean reef, where they learn to extract information and take notes on the pertinent points. What a great way to teach kids an important study skill!
#24 is called “Earthquake in the Early Morning.” The children go to San Francisco, California, in 1906 – and are present when the San Francisco earthquake hits. All of the facts relating to the quake and the subsequent fire are there, but children can read about this important time in history without becoming afraid.
“Good Morning, Gorillas” is the twenty-sixth book. Jack and Annie learn a special kind of magic by talking with their hands and their hearts. As they go to meet the gorillas, they discover that they can communicate with the animals with basic sign language.
As the series goes on, the children’s mission changes a bit, but they’re still traveling, learning, and growing.
I really like the way this series doesn’t teach just history or just science or just social studies, but how it encompasses many different topics. Plus, they’re a lot of fun to read, and children don’t feel like they’re having lessons crammed down their throats.