Monday, January 17, 2022

Judging the Magic Tree House books

 I have been looking for reading material to encourage our son to read and one series that was recommended to me by multiple sources was the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne. So I’ve read the first few books by the power of my library card.

Here’s the elevator pitch. Brother and sister Jack and Annie Smith discover a tree house full of books. By using pictures in the books, they can travel through time and space via the tree house. And, since I read the Wikipedia page, I know they get powerful magical patrons as the series goes on.

I haven’t done a comprehensive study of chapter books for the young but the Magic Treehouse books seem a cut above what I remember reading back when Fred Flintstone lived down the street. The sentence structure is solid. The books don’t talk down to kids. And they are theoretically educational, particularly if your kids read the supplemental non-fiction books.

Of course, reading it as an adult, the plots are remarkably simple and simplistic. The characterization consists of a motivation and a couple quirks. Indeed, both kids show what would be suicidally poor judgement in what would be even slightly more serious setting. Judy Bloom herself couldn’t justify the kids surviving. But all of that is par for the course for this genre.

What has actually struck me as both a pro and a con is that the books are broken down into arcs. And, after the taken the half hour to read the first arc (thanks again, library), it felt particularly like one book had been sliced into four pieces.

Now, if I am able to get our son to try the books, having them come in bite-sized chunks will make them a lot more approachable for him. The books being less intimidating may be a big deal. But, if I’m not getting them from the library, that means the books will cost four times as much :D

While I do enjoy reading young adult literature, and even some juvenile literature, these books aren’t enough to interest me. However, I’d be happy if our son has read a shelf of them by this time next year.

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