Magic Tree House Survival Guide

There is so much to love about the Magic Tree House series! Mary Pope Osborne has been churning them out since 1992, taking her characters and my own children (and probably yours, too) on adventures all over the world and throughout history. Through research and clues, their own smarts and courage, they solve mysteries anywhere and everywhere.

In 2000, Mary Pope Osborne began writing nonfiction companion guides with her husband, Will Osborne, and sister Natalie Pope Boyce. Together, they wrote books chock full of information about animals, authors and events so that kids could “track the facts” in the fiction books Osborne had already written. Then there’s the Merlin series, started a few years later. These are longer and more challenging for kids whose reading level is higher. There’s even a Broadway play based on one of the books!

There really is something for everyone. My kids have thoroughly enjoyed the series.

But when I saw this Survival Guide…I thought it was something altogether unique and cool and separate, and I was excited to grab it, read it, and tell you all about it. The cover alone is pretty fantastic; there’s a compass embedded into it, Jack is jumping from a shark and Annie is dangling by a rope over an alligator. Yikes!

Jack and Annie explain in the introduction that they’ve gone on some incredible adventures and, along the way, they’ve picked up a whole lot of useful survival skills. “Chances are,” they point out, “you’ll never need them, but in case you do, here they are.”

In the five different chapters, your child will read about:

• Wilderness skills (e.g., how to tell time without a watch, how to find water, what to do if you get lost)

• Animal attacks (e.g., how to survive a lion attack, a gator encounter, a stampede)

• Extreme weather (e.g., surviving extreme cold, preparing for power outage, staying safe in a thunderstorm)

• Disasters (e.g., surviving a tsunami, avalanche, fire)

• Incredible survivals, or things that are highly unlikely but still fun to read about (e.g., surviving T-Rex encounter, a shipwreck, zero gravity)

Each survival tip starts with a reference to one of Jack and Annie’s many adventures, and they explain a little bit about where they were at the time and why they had to learn how to, for example, survive a lion attack. For my oldest daughter who has read every single book, it was a reminder of a story she read years ago. For my son who hasn’t gotten through all of the Magic Tree House books yet, it was a helpful synopsis and an invitation to read more.

The book is geared to 7-10 year olds, and the text includes a lot of parental connection—Osborne reminds kids to check with their parents or heed parental guidance frequently throughout the book. I think that’s wise and, as a parent, I sure appreciate the reminder. While Jack and Annie are right—kids will likely never need more than “how to prepare for a power outage”—how fun it is to travel beyond kids’ mostly easy existence to situations that require serious courage and grit. How fun for kids to have a little more knowledge about what it takes to be in one of these situations.

I really hope my trio doesn’t ever have to sustain themselves on a diet of spiders. But if they do, I have Mary Pope Osborne to thank for their preparation!

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

URL: www.randomhouse.com

Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million!

MSRP: approximately $11

Ages: 9-11 years

Readability: 5

Illustrations (Photographs): 5

Kept My Children’s Interest: 5

Appealed to Advertised Age: 5

I Would Purchase for My Child: Yes

I Would Purchase as a Gift: Yes

Overall Rating: 5

All ratings on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high).

Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom and wife living in Great Falls, VA. In addition to being a reader to her three small children, Kate is a writer, distance runner, Crossfitter and blogger of raising kids with books at www.katesbookery.blogspot.com.

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