For the Love of Jack and Annie! (Ten Reasons to Love the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne) by Adrian Stevens
I have fallen in love with the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne during my eighteen years as a public school librarian.
Here are my ten reasons for loving this series:
- Jack and Annie are typical children from Frogcreek, Pennsylvania. Jack and Annie remind me of some of my students. Jack likes to read, is very intelligent, and is courageous when necessary. He is the older of the two children. Annie is bubbly, likes the adventure of the mysterious treehouse that they found in the woods near their home, and takes risks where Jack moves with more caution.
- The series has evolved over time and still remained full of adventure, imagination, and history. At the beginning of the series, Annie is seven-years-old. She grows up and learns different things about life throughout the series. Jack’s growth is seen as he becomes more confident and sure of himself throughout the series.
- Mary Pope Osborne has begun to include nonfiction “fact trackers” that accompany various stories. For example, Abraham Lincoln goes with Abe Lincoln at Last! and provides information Abraham Lincoln and the time period in which he lived.
The fact trackers are great when using them in conjunction with the fiction stories. This fiction-nonfiction connection helps students distinguish reality from fantasy. I like to have the students identify which statements are true/fact and which are not by using the fact tracker and the story that we are reading aloud. I have used the Abraham Lincoln books during the month of February which is when his birthday takes place.
- Children love to read these stories that expand their imagination. For example, I have a student who is taken with all things related to pirates. He began with Pirates Past Noon and was ready for more. We looked for and found a great book about pirates which was published by DK. The illustrations, images, and facts were just what was needed to spark his imagination. For the next several weeks, this child checked out other fiction and nonfiction books about pirates. He also used his extra time to draw and write about pirates.
- Children love to listen to these stories about Jack and Annie when read aloud. Over the years, my colleagues have read various Magic Treehouse books to their students, even as early as kindergarten. The children always want more and will check them out to take home for someone in their family to read to them or to read with them (where they take turns reading).
- The Magic Tree House series is a great source to help struggling readers work on their reading skills. Again, I use this series as a way to hook my students. For example, I have a student who is in fifth grade but reads at a second grade level. Because he is interested in tornadoes, I began Twister on Tuesday with him. As we worked along, he began to read more of the story because he became caught up in the excitement. When he came to an unfamiliar word, we worked through figuring it out together. By the end of the book, this child was ready to take on another one.
- The Magic Tree House has a great website that extends learning and fun for children of all ages. There are games that interact with the children like the Fact tracker showdown. This is great way to extend their knowledge and apply it from another angle.
- Mary Pope Osborne’s writing style is such that these stories flow smoothly, are fast-paced, and can be read at one sitting if reading alone.
- The Magic Tree House Club is a fun way for children to connect with other children who are Jack and Annie fans. They can send Mary Pope Osborne mail, watch videos from her, and keep updated with Jack and Annie. The Book Buddies area is an interesting way to help students connect with both fellow classmates and epals.
- When reading any one of the Magic Tree House books, children are engaged and look forward to subsequent discussions sparked by the storyline. I encourage my students to take notes during their reading on Post-It notes which help spark the whole class or small group discussions. As they make points to remember, the children also are creating prompts for writing in their journal or collecting points to add to their book review.
I have read most of this series because I love reading books that excite my students. Also, I have observed that my students begin with the Magic Tree House series as early as kindergarten, then, return to them during their fifth grade year-specifically the spring as the school year draws to an end and they are moving on to middle school in August.
Adrian Stevens has been reading since she was just a few days old when her mother began to read to her. Growing up, she spent many summer days at the public library picking out books to read. Adrian is an elementary school librarian who has been spreading her love of reading and books to children for eighteen years. Soon, she will be a reading specialist who will be able to continue spreading this passion for reading and books, as well as help children become better readers, writers, and communicators.