Magic Tree House

When my youngest son was in Kindergarten his teacher often read Magic Tree House books to the class.  He really became a fan.  I tried a couple and found them rather tedious because of the overly simple writing.  However, the summer between Kindergarten and 1st grade I decided I should really take more of an interest in these books that he was so enamored with.  They became like baseball cards to him - tell you a number and he'll tell you the title.  So, that summer we started at #1 and read together through the series.  He also checked every library book sale rack in order to build the entire collection.  The next summer, between 1st and 2nd grade I told him if he read the book to me I would make it come alive through themed play dates.  We didn't make every book - but ideas are included below in case you want to do something similar or different.  These books can be educational tools in such a number of ways.  There are fact trackers that go along with many of the books but we've never used them.  To encourage reading you could replicate a souvenir from each book.  Or if you travel a lot, you could coordinate the books with your travel itinerary.

General Observations

The main characters are an 8 1/2 year old boy named Jack and his sister Annie, who is 7 when the first book begins.  Apparently Mary Pope Osborne is utilizing the Bart Simpson theory of aging because otherwise if you do the math Jack is about to graduate high school and still playing make believe with his sister by the time you get to book number 50.  Both children love books.  Jack wears glasses, likes facts, is more cautious and says "oh man" a lot.  Annie is intuitive, charges ahead, communicates with animals and says "oh wow" a lot.

Each book has a Prologue and are usually ten chapters (except some of the later books or special holiday themes).  The early books change the wording slightly but Ms. Osborne soon settled into repeating word for word the action of the tree house spinning and starting the adventure.  The tree house transports Jack and Annie through time and space; time freezes while they are gone.  A pre-selected book takes them away and the Frog Creek, Pennsylvania book brings them home.  The magic words "I wish we could go there" start the magic.  There are a lot of arcs across four books.  Wikipedia groups them by arc if you like.
 
Title Listing and Timeline

 1.  Dinosaurs Before Dark (1992) - a summer day when Jack is 8 1/2 and Annie is 7
 2.  The Knight at Dawn (1993) - the next day
 3.  Mummies in the Morning (1993) - the next day
 4.  Pirates Past Noon (1994) - the next day
 5.  Night of the Ninjas (1995) - weeks later
 6.  Afternoon on the Amazon (1995) - the next day
 7.  Sunset of the Sabertooth (1996) - probably the next day
 8.  Midnight on the Moon (1996) - later that day or the next
 9.  Dolphins at Daybreak (1997) - at least a few days later
10.  Ghost Town at Sundown (1997) - probably a few days later
11.  Lions at Lunchtime (1998) - probably a few days later
12.  Polar Bears Past Bedtime (1998) - probably a few days later
13.  Vacation Under the Volcano (1998) - "soon", after checking the woods "every morning"
14.  Day of the Dragon King (1998) - two weeks later
15.  Viking Ships at Sunrise (1998) - two weeks later
16.   Hour of the Olympics (1998) - two weeks later
17.  Tonight on the Titanic (1999) - probably within a week or so
18.  Buffalo Before Breakfast (1999) - the next week
19.  Tigers at Twilight (1999) - two days later
20.  Dingoes at Dinnertime (2000) - soon
21.  Civil War on Sunday (2000) - soon, a Sunday
22.  Revolutionary War on Wednesday (2000) - Wednesday
23.  Twister on Tuesday (2001) - Tuesday
24.  Earthquake in the Early Morning (2001) - Wednesday, the next day
25.  Stage Fright on a Summer Night (2002) - summer
26.  Good Morning, Gorillas (2002) - next day
27.  Thanksgiving on Thursday (2002) - Thanksgiving day
28.  High Tide in Hawaii (2003) -
29.  Christmas in Camelot (2001) - Christmas vacation          9 & 7 1/2
30.  Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve (2003) - Halloween          10 & 8 1/2
31.  Summer of the Sea Serpent (2004) - Summer Solstice          10 1/2 & 9
32.  Winter of the Ice Wizard (2004) - Winter Solstice          11 & 9 1/2
33.  Carnival at Candlelight (2005) - February
34.  Season of the Sandstorms (2005) - weeks later, early Spring
35.  Night of the New Magicians (2006) - summer          11 1/2 & 10
36.  Blizzard of the Blue Moon (2006) - November          12 & 10 1/2
37.  Dragon of the Red Dawn (2007) - early March
38.  Monday with a Mad Genius (2007) - Monday, the first day of school          13 & 11 1/2
39.  Dark Day in the Deep sea (2008) - summer          13 1/2 & 12
40.  Eve of the Emperor Penguin (2008) - November          14 & 12 1/2
41.  Moonlight on the Magic Flute (2009) - spring          14 1/2 & 13
42.  A Good Night for Ghosts (2009) - rain and dead leaves could indicate fall
43.  Leprechaun in Late Winter (2010) - late winter          15 & 13 1/2
44.  A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time (2010) - November      16 & 14 1/2   
45.  A Crazy Day with Cobras (2011) - May          16 1/2 & 15
46.  Dogs in the Dead of Night (2011) - spring          17 1/2 & 16
47.  Abe Lincoln at Last! (2011) - spring
48.  A Perfect Time for Pandas (2012) - spring
49.  Stallion by Starlight (2013) - June
50.  Hurry Up Houdini
51.


Book Notes

1 - Dinosaurs Before Dark

Time period
     65 million years ago, Cretaceous period

Cautions
     The opening words, "Help!  A monster!" (p. 1) are only scary for as long as it takes to read about forty more words.

Pros
     Jack politely says "No, thanks" (p. 2) when he declines Annie's invitation to join in the pretend play.
     Jack displays responsibility when he reminds Annie it's time to go home.
     Jack displays respect for others when he discourages Annie from entering the tree house of unknown ownership.
     Jack does the right thing, even when it's difficult, when he realizes he left somebody else's book on the dinosaur covered hill and goes to
          retrieve it.
     Jack keeps calm in dangerous situations and uses his knowledge to talk his sister to safety.
     Annie is courageous and asks for help for the sake of her brother.

Cons
     Jack displays minor annoyance with Annie's pretend play.
     Jack allows his love of books to override his sense that they should not enter the tree house.
     Annie consistently displays behavior of acting without thinking.
     Jack says to Annie, "Are you crazy?" and "Are you nuts?" and mutters "I'm going to kill her" (p. 34).
     Annie says Jacks teacher will think he's nuts.

Learn About
     Anatosaurus, Pteranadon, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex

Suggested Souvenir
     gold medallion with the letter M

Suggested Activity
     We went to The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country near Canyon Lake, TX to see some preserved dinosaur tracks. 



2 - The Knight Before Dawn

Time Period

Pros
     Jack is responsible for his sister and won't leave without her - even though he wanted to go home.
     Annie is courageous and quick thinking when she uses the flashlight to scare the guards whom she convinces it is a magic wand.
Cons
     Jack and Annie are irresponsible in leaving home before 6am while their parents are still sleeping.
     Jack mutters "I'm going to kill her" on page 24.
     Annie called the palace guards "dummies".

Learn About
     Knights, Armor, Castles

Suggested Souvenir
     Blue leather bookmark with the letter "M" (sample on page 65).

Suggested Activity
     Eat pie with your fingers - feast style.
     Go on a night walk with a flash-light.
     Go for a horse back ride.
     Swim in something like a moat.



3 - Mummies in the Morning

Time Period

Cautions
     Suspenseful and creepy in many different scenes.  A ghost who plays a significant role in this book.  The ghost is looking for the Book of the Dead because, "It will tell me the magic spells I need to get through the underworld,"  ...  "before I journey on to the Next Life, I must pass through the horrors of the Underworld." (p. 27)

Pros

Cons
     Annie was impatient with Jack as he cautioned her to be quiet she yelled at him to go and she "gave him a little push". (p. 18)

Learn About
     Egyptian funerals, hieroglyphs, scepters, mirages, pyramids, tomb-robbers

Suggested Souvenir
     Paint an "M" on a tree house floor

Suggested Activity
     Play a game with several children:  All are blindfolded except for one who acts as a cat and meows to lead the others to safety.
     We invited several kids over who had also read the book.  I bought a bunch of cheap toilet paper and we played two different mummy games:
          1.  Divide into teams.  Give each team one roll and let them choose one member who they will wrap up to see who can make the best mummy.  Strive to not break the paper.
          2.  Divide into teams.  Each person gets a roll of paper.  This is a relay race.  Teams wrap the legs of one person using their roll.  Leave arms free for safety.  Wrapped person must hop down to a designated point and back to their team.  Then they wrap the legs of the next person (while first person is undoing their wrappings).  Play continues like any relay until everyone has completed the action. 
     Serve Crescent Mummy Dogs and Mummy Cupcakes.  
 










4 - Pirates Past Noon

Time Period

Pros

Cons

Learn About

Suggested Souvenir

Suggested Activity
     Visit a talking parrot.
     Go treasure hunting - try geocaching.
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