What We’re Reading: Magic Treehouse as an Antidote to Princess Craziness

April 30
The princess antidote -- though notice the sparkly vest. (Allison Klein)
The princess antidote — though notice the sparkly backpack. (Allison Klein)

My kindergartener loves sparkly pink and princesses. The fluffier, the frillier, the better.

Then, one day, she brought home a Magic Tree House mystery book from her school library and her transformation was swift. Soon she was asking me detailed questions about knights and sabertooth tigers and the Paris World’s Fair.

She had discovered Mary Pope Osborne’s chapter books chronicling the time-travel adventures of 7-year-old Annie and her 8-year-old brother Jack. The series starts with Dinosaurs Before Dark, the siblings’ exploit into pre-historic times.

The duo, who live in fictional Frog Creek Pennsylvania, find a tree house near their home that transports them around the world and to past decades and eras. In some books, they end up in fictional places. The smart, brave siblings go on missions, solve riddles, rescue objects and animals, and often help sorceress Morgan Le Fay and Merlin the Magician, who are sometimes battling forces of evil.

One book sends the duo to the time the cro magnons lived, another to New York City during the depression and another into space. There are 51 books in the award-winning fantasy series, which was first published in 1992. We’ve read about ten of them so far. They’re so popular, sometimes it’s hard to find them at the library.

My daughter cheers on Jack and Annie as they find themselves in dangerous situations, like in Knight at Dawn when they were transported to the Middle Ages and chased out of a castle, falling into a moat.

My daughter especially likes Annie, who is the bolder one in the pair. While sometime Annie makes rash decisions, I’ll take her as a role model over Cinderella. Jack enjoys the adventures, but is more cautious and bookish than his sister.

My daughter can’t read the books on her own yet, but she follows along as I read. Sometimes she’ll reach over and read a sentence or two to me.

And when the books are over, we usually have great talks about history, geography and fantasy versus reality. It is a nice break in our house from listening to the soundtrack from the movie Frozen.

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Note to parents and those interested in children’s literature: Politics & Prose Bookstore will host a picture book panel Sunday, May 4 at 5 p.m. Joining the discussion will be Richard Jackson, educational director at Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books; author Jen Bryant; illustrator R. Gregory Christie; and authors/illustrators Brian Floca, Susan L. Roth, and Duncan Tonatiuh.

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Mari-Jane Williams · April 29