Magic Tree House books have a pretty strong hold on an entire generation of readers. (The first one was published in 1992, so alas I wasn’t able to grow up on these. I’m making up for it now, though.) Whenever we go out, my 5yo has one of the Magic Tree House books under his arm. Sometimes we bring two. (You know, in case dinner takes awhile.) Sometimes it’s a new one (although those are dwindling as he reads more and more) and sometimes it’s an old favorite he’s planning to read again. But there is one thing that never changes: people always comment on them!
“Oh, I LOVED those books” says our waitress as she pours water into my 5yo’s cup. But he doesn’t notice because he’s on the trip, too, with Jack and Annie and their magic tree house and right now he’s riding a dolphin or walking on the moon or running from Samurai.
“I grew UP on those books,” says another girl, walking past us on thestreet, as I steer my son, my hand on his head, his head in a Magic Tree House book.
So it’s unlikely you don’t know these books, but if you are just entering the beginning-reader stage and haven’t hear of them, I cannot recommend them too much. Series books in general are good for beginner readers. They have the same characters, the same patterns, many of the same plot elements. So they can get comfortable in the traveling tree house world and their reading can be stretched because of it.
We actually started Magic Tree House long before The Wizard of Why was hiding them under his covers at night, though. I would use them as read-alouds (there are some pictures so if you choose a time when your kid’s attention span is maximized, this can work.) We also bought the audio CDs and we use those in the car a lot. They’d also be great for bedtime, if you have kids that like to fall asleep to some sound.
My son did not like a lot of the early reader books…(you know, the leveled ones that are about 5 pages long…they are so short and simplistic and he figured out that just because he COULD read them didn’t mean that he WANTED to. Magic Tree House books were a little above his level when he started them, but because he was familiar with the characters and the stories from the CDs and me reading them aloud, he struggled through. Only he didn’t feel like he was struggling because he loved them so much. Now, over 30 books later, many of which he has read multiple times, his reading has reached the level he needed it to.
The other totally awesome thing about the Magic Tree House series is that it has an accompanying nonfiction series. So if you read the first book Dinosaurs Before Dark, you can also read the Dinosaur Fact Tracker. And after Dolphins at Daybreak, you can read the Dolphins and Sharks Fact Tracker. A lot of boys gravitate toward nonfiction, and these are great entry-level nonfiction books. The reading level is a little bit above the stories, but they are still short and sweet and they include the characters Annie and Jack to keep the magic alive.
Something to know when you are choosing a book: While any book can be enjoyed on its own, it’s best to go in order. Especially for a beginning reader who might have a hard time filling in a whole back story based on just the introduction. (And that’s if they read the introduction!) Also, every four books is a mini-series (which you would never know until reading them). For example, in the first four books, in addition to each unique adventure, there is an overall question: who owns the tree house and all the books? In other sets of four books, Annie and Jack are out to collect various objects or free someone from a spell. So it’s best to read 1 – 4 together and 5 – 8 etc. Although, like I said, each book is a perfectly good standalone story.
The original Magic Tree House series is 28 books, plus the Fact Trackers. There’s also the Merlin Missions, which are books 29 and over. These are a little more advanced (slightly longer and there are more main characters. Also, Annie and Jack are older (10 and 11 in the Merlin Missions versus 7 and 8 in the regular series).
These books are phenomenal. With this series, your kids will have an awesome time with the fun-loving Annie and the cautious and studious Jack. And they will visit and learn about topics as varied as dinosaurs, pirates, ninjas, tornadoes, Ancient Rome, the ocean, the Civil War, and sabertooth tigers. And that’s just a few of the over 30 titles. So whether you use these as read-alouds or books for your newly independent reader (or a little of both), I highly recommend this series as a good place to enter the magical world of books.d Jack are a little older (10 and 11 in the Merlin Missions as opposed to 7 and 8 in the regular series)…one thought about books is that kids tend to like reading about characters who are slightly older than they are.