The tree house stars to spin.
It spins faster and faster.
Then everything is still.
And you are transported to another time and place.
Well thanks to Mary Pope Osborne, you can journey in that magical tree house, too.
I've always enjoyed reading "Magic Tree House" books with my students and stepsons over the years. I introduced the books to my son Alonzo last year when he was in Kindergarten and we read up through book 19 (and have since skipped around to other books in the series). I'm starting to reread many of the MTH books now to get inspired as I write my own chapter book series - no details to share yet.
The MTH series began in 1992 and is still going strong. There are currently 51 "Magic Tree House" books in the series. In addition, there are 28 Fact Trackers which are nonfiction companions to the fiction titles. You can read "Magic Tree House" books in print form, as ebooks, and as audio books narrated by Mary Pope Osborne herself. There are also the "Merlin Missions", which is a series of MTH books with longer text and higher reading level geared toward older readers.
"Magic Tree House" is THE number one chapter book series out there, in my opinion,
for many reasons:
First, the characters - Jack and Annie - are very age appropriate for the target readers. The series is perfect for children who are on the tail end of reading picture books but not quite ready for middle grade novels. My son was six years old when he started. Although Amazon has them listed for ages 8-12 (grades 3-7) I feel kids as young as 6 or 7 could start reading these books, if not alone then with an adult.
Second, the sentence structure is simple yet complex enough to be challenging. The text and dialogue flow from page to page and make each book an engaging fast read. Most of the books in the series have 10-12 short chapters and are around 100 pages. And each chapter ends with some type of cliff hanger or interesting sentence to make you want to turn the page.
Also, while every book tells its own story, each book connects to the others in some way. For example, every 3-4 books will connect to a larger story, such as Jack and Annie having to find multiple items or clues to break a spell. There are prologues in each book explaining what happened in previous books to remind the readers where they left off. And Jack and Annie will often reference previous stories to further remind readers about their adventures and how the current story relates or connects. (i.e. They're riding on a helicopter over an earthquake stricken town in China and say "Remember when we rode on the helicopter to Antarctica?"). This is so important when writing a series.
Third, the illustrations are placed throughout the books to help readers visualize the text. They also help to break up the text to ease that transition from picture books to novels.
And last but not least, each book deals with some type of historical event or topic that takes readers to another time and place. It's done in such a creative way to not only delight readers but teach them something about history, culture, and geography, among other topics.
Oh, and did I mention there is a magic librarian named Morgan le Fey who asks Jack and Annie to help her break magic spells, solve mysteries and riddles, and save ancient stories from being lost forever?
How cool is that??
I'm glad that my son is only seven years old now and still has plenty of Magic Tree House books left to read with me - and to me. Then again, I'm 43 and am still reading the books. I don't think Magic Tree House books will ever get old - or will ever lose their magic!