Series Review: The Magic Treehouse

MAGIC TREEHOUSE SERIESMy son has been reading The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne for some months, now. He is what is termed a reluctant reader, so we take his reading interest where we can find it, even with comic books or the Jack Stalwart series (see previous review). I’m not super fond of the Magic Treehouse, but my son is determined to read his way through the entire 57 (and counting)-book series, and it has been a favorite with elementary-age kids and new readers for years.

My main issues with the series are the stripped-down nature of the writing and the complete lack of plot. Maybe I should say complete lack of plot sophistication. Even for a new reader, I think that a story with some twists and turns is needed. Even fairy tales involve some complexity. These stories? Let’s just say that Osborne reuses whole phrases and paragraphs at the beginning and end of each and every book because, yes, they all start and end exactly the same. That wouldn’t be so horrible, but the middle part is also shamelessly predictable. Jack and Annie go in the treehouse and through a book to a new place and time (from the dinosaur age to the Revolutionary War). They have to retrieve something determined by the magical Morgan le Fey, and they encounter one or two simply-cast obstacles on the way back to the treehouse. As far as I could pay attention (I often slide out of consciousness), this is all there is to every book. We are on number eleven.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: if you think that these books will help your children with grammar, you are sorely mistaken. Osborne is very fond of writing in sentence fragments and of too-short paragraphs, which drives a homeschool mother crazy. I spend half the day reminding my son to capitalize, punctuate, and complete his thoughts, and then hand him a grammatically farcical book before bed? Oi.

And the illustrations. Not a fan. Simply okay, but not great and definitely nothing special. (See what I did with the sentence fragments there?)

MARY POPE OSBORNEI suppose that one of the up-sides to this series are the information books that you can get to supplement the fiction books. Although not tremendously deep with knowledge, these books seem to be easy to access and interesting for children and would be a great resource for a project or paper. However, my son—and I am sure plenty of other kids—refuses to read the Fact Tracker series in lieu of reading yet another Magic Treehouse adventure. I think he does glean some history and maybe even science from the books, but I’m not sure it’s completely worth it.

At any rate, I’m not going to stop my son, or other children, from devouring these books like I did The Babysitters’ Club. Many children love them, and they have only increased literacy, even for “reluctant readers” (which does make me reluctant to be harsh in my review). But although extremely popular, they are not literary classics, and I would recommend trying Beverly Cleary or E.B. White first to see what happens.

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My son has read out to me the first twelve, around-75-page books from Random House. The series is listed here. (Note: The official Magic Treehouse website’s list of books was down, so I looked to fan lists.):

  1. Dinosaurs Before Dark
  2. The Knight at Dawn
  3. Mummies in the Morning
  4. Pirates Past Noon
  5. Night of the Ninjas
  6. Afternoon on the Amazon
  7. Sunset of the Sabertooth
  8. Midnight on the Moon
  9. Dolphins at Daybreak
  10. Ghost Town at Sundown
  11. Lions at Lunchtime
  12. Polar Bears Past Bedtime
  13. Vacation Under the Volcano
  14. Day of the Dragon King
  15. Viking Ships at Sunrise
  16. Hour of the Olympics
  17. Tonight on the Titanic
  18. Buffalo Before Breakfast
  19. Tigers at Twilight
  20. Dingoes at Dinnertime
  21. Civil War on Sunday
  22. Revolutionary War on Wednesday
  23. Twister on Tuesday
  24. Earthquake in the Early Morning
  25. Stage Fright on a Summer Night
  26. Good Morning, Gorillas
  27. Thanksgiving on Thursday
  28. High Tide in Hawaii

Merlin Mission Books (Advanced series)

  1. Christmas in Camelot
  2. Haunted Castle on Hallow’s Eve
  3. Summer of the Sea Serpent
  4. Winter of the Ice Wizard
  5. Carnival at Candlelight
  6. Season of the Sandstorms
  7. Night of the New Magicians
  8. Blizzard of the Blue Moon
  9. Dragon of the Red Dawn
  10. Monday with a Mad Genius
  11. Dark Day in the Deep Sea
  12. Eve of the Emperor Penguin
  13. Moonlight on the Magic Flute
  14. A Good Night for Ghosts
  15. Leprechaun in Late Winter
  16. A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time
  17. A Crazy Day with Cobras
  18. Dogs in the Dead of Night
  19. Abe Lincoln At Last
  20. A Perfect Time for Pandas
  21. Stallion at Starlight
  22. Hurry Up Houdini!
  23. High Time for Heroes
  24. Soccer on Sunday
  25. Shadow of the Shark
  26. Balto of the Blue Dawn
  27. Danger in the Darkest Hour
  28. Night of the Ninth Dragon
  29. A Big Day for Baseball

Fact Trackers (formally called Research Guides)

  1. Dinosaurs
  2. Knights and Castles
  3. Mummies and Pyramids
  4. Pirates
  5. Rain Forests
  6. Space
  7. Titanic
  8. Twisters and Other Terrible Storms
  9. Dolphins and Sharks
  10. Ancient Greece and the Olympics
  11. American Revolution
  12. Sabertooths and the Ice Age
  13. Pilgrims
  14. Ancient Rome and Pompeii
  15. Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters
  16. Polar Bears and the Arctic
  17. Sea Monsters
  18. Penguins and Antarctica
  19. Leonardo da Vinci
  20. Ghosts
  21. Leprechauns and Folklore (or Auguste Bartholdi, unsure)
  22. Rags and Riches: Kids in the Time of Charles Dickens
  23. Snakes and Other Reptiles
  24. Dog Heroes
  25. Abraham Lincoln
  26. Pandas and Other Endangered Species
  27. Horse Heroes
  28. Heroes for All Times
  29. Soccer
  30. Ninjas and Samurai
  31. China: Land of the Emperor’s Great Wall
  32. Sharks and Other Predators
  33. Vikings
  34. Dogsledding and Extreme Sports
  35. Dragons and Mythical Creatures
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One thought on “Series Review: The Magic Treehouse

  1. Great post. My older kids read The Magic Treehouse books a few years ago (and revisit them from time to time). I’m in favor of just about any book that encourages kids to read, even if it isn’t “high literature.”

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