It all blended together until your head started to spin.
It spun faster and faster.
Then everything was still.
Mary Pope Osborne really got the perfect blend with this one. The Magic Tree House series has at least one grab for every child be it an interest in fantasy, history, science, mystery, or simply a good adventure, these books are a quick informative read with two satisfyingly engaging lead characters that will keep the kids interested even through some of the stranger additions to the series. Really, this is a fantastic series for any beginning reader with a little curiosity and/or imagination.
Even better, there are a whole bunch of them to choose from!
Now if you’re a parent looking at this series for the first time for your child(ren), you probably think I’m crazy for saying that. After all, it’s a massive amount of material to sort through. So, this is going to break down what these books are about, the different types of books in the series, and advice on different ways to buy and/or read the books with your kids.
One day Jack and Annie find a tree house in the woods by their house. Curious, Annie climbs up into the house and Jack follows. Inside, they find books, lots and lots of books. They also soon find out that they can travel to places in the books by pointing at a page and saying, “I wish I would go there!”(How the traveling happens is similar to the opening of this very article).
Obviously, this discovery opens up boundless opportunities for adventure for them both. In every book, they travel to the place in the book and try to solve some sort of mystery. Jack is bookish and tries to prepare them for what’s coming by taking notes on what the books say while Annie, who’s his younger sister, just starts exploring- which gets them into trouble. The chapters are short and engaging with a lot of cliffhangers to keep readers interested. It’s well-written series that’s both fact-filled and fun.
Outside of individual books, the novels are organized into larger arcs, which are typically four books each. For example, in the first arc they’re determining who the Tree House belongs to(it’s not a big spoiler to say that it’s Morgan Le Fey). After that, the next six arcs focus on different missions they go on to help her out. Overall, there are 28 books in this first series of arcs and are good for 6-8 year olds or students from the 1st to 3rd grade reading level. Despite the overall story, each book can function on its own if read on their own.
The next series of arcs, which starts with Christmas in Camelot, are called the Merlin Missions. They are focused on Jack and Annie’s education in magic under the tutelage of the aforementioned wizard. Because of this, they are a lot more interlinked and have a lot more fantasy elements. Each book still features a separate adventure, but there are a lot more elements of long-range storytelling and the four book arcs that are set up are more involved(they’re also harder to find boxed sets for). As such, I’d say this arc is more for 8-10 year olds (3rd-5th grade) than 6-8, though if your first or second grader wants to read them, don’t stop them.
In addition to the novels, there are Fact Trackers, non-fiction books about the same topic as the novels. You liked Dinosaurs Before Dark? There’s a book on dinosaurs. Is Vacation at the Volcano your favorite in the series? Here’s a book on Ancient Rome and Pompeii. Or you just loved Summer of the Sea Serpent? Mary Pope Osborne wrote an accompanying book on those too. While there are not books to accompany every novel in the series, most have one(there are 35 Fact Trackers and 55 books). The books are well researched and fairly readable, but they can be a little dense for kids. Still, if they want to learn more about a topic, these books are a great resource and a good introduction to non-fiction reading for kids.
There’s also the new Supersized edition, but that’s geared to older readers, so I will not be discussing it in this article.
So, as said before: That’s a lot of books.
However, the bright side, as I mentioned earlier, is most are fairly self-contained, so if you don’t want to get into the series, getting a book on a subject your child is interested in from a library or store will be fine(though I’d recommend starting with one of the first 28 books). If your child says they want to get through the entire series, buy one 4 book arc at a time, that way the kids can get through one book at a time at their own pace, but there’s also another book waiting for them when they’re done. The boxed sets make great holiday and birthday gifts or can be used as a reward for completing a goal. As for the Fact Trackers, get one at a time, as asked. They are wholly independent of one another so you can purchase them in any order. There are also Fact and Fiction versions of the books, which have both the novel and the complementary Fact Tracker if you find your child likes the educational parts of the books more than the adventure parts.
Overall, Magic Tree House is a series I’d highly recommend for any elementary school reader, both as individual stories to read and as an entire story. They’re good for not only helping children develop an interest in reading, but in history, zoology, mythology, and so much more.
PS: There’s now also a website with a game, to get kids even more involved.