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Growing Reader


There’s a Magic Tree House Chapter Book for Every Kind of Reader

by Iva-Marie Palmer


Magic Tree House, the long-running series launched by Mary Pope Osborne in 1992, has become a bookshelf staple in homes, libraries, and classrooms. The adventures of Jack and Annie, a brother and sister who discover a book-stocked treehouse that whisks them on magical journeys through time and space, now number more than 60 chapter books and several dozen nonfiction Fact Tracker guides. With so many options, how do you know where to start? I mean, of course I could tell readers to get into the series by beginning with the very first book, but is that really the best entry point for every reader? I wasn’t sure.

So I asked a 7-year-old.

My son is a kid who likes to be thorough and who has now read every installment of the Magic Tree House series, some more than once. I wondered if he thought the books had to be read in order or if I could tell would-be readers that the series could be started with any title, including those right in the middle.

“Well, that’s what I did, don’t you remember? I started with the panda one,” he reminded me, referring to A Perfect Time for Pandas, the 20th installment of the Magic Tree House Merlin Mission books. “And then we read Dark Day in the Deep Sea at bedtime — twice — and then the cobra one, and after that I started reading them from the beginning.”

Apparently, his memory is much more thorough than mine because I really thought he’d started with Dinosaurs Before Dark, the first book in the series, and checked off each book in an orderly fashion. But when he reminded me, I realized he was right: The “panda one” had been sent to me when I edited a family entertainment site and sat on our shelf at home until one day Clark reached for it and read it in a single eager sitting.

Whether the kids in your life are reluctant readers or voracious completists, the Magic Tree House chapter book series offers multiple entry points: dive in with book one and go from there or, as this article is going to suggest, pick up the books most in line with your reader’s interests as a starting point. My son was first drawn to certain titles because he loves animals — particularly exotic, scaly, or underwater ones — but once he was hooked on the series, he was intrigued by other themes as well. A great way to enchant readers is to get them hooked on a book that lures them with a favorite topic. You’ll often find they can’t resist Jack, Annie, and their constant adventures.

To help you sift through the dozens of books (comprising the Magic Tree House stories, Merlin Mission stories, which are nearly double the length and in a smaller typeface for kids graduating to the next reading level, and Fact Tracker titles) and make it easier to choose where your reader might begin, we’ve grouped some of the books in the series into categories. If you don’t see a good starting spot here, be sure to see the full list of Magic Tree House books, as there’s one for every kid!

Has a particular Magic Tree House book gotten your young reader hooked on the series? Let us know in the comments below!