Okay, so I have a confession to make. I've been a children's librarian for nearly four years, now, and I just, today, read my first Magic Tree House book. I don't have any excuses; I just never got around to it. And these things are so popular, it's not like I ever needed to sell them; I just needed to be able to find them.
But, okay. Jack and Annie, a brother and sister, discover a tree house. It's the highest-up tree house either of them has ever seen before, and when they climb the ladder to get up to it, they find it filled with books. Jack opens a book about dinosaurs, looks at a picture of a Pteranodon, and makes a casual wish to be there. And then--yes, you guessed it--they suddenly are there, in the Cretacious period, watching as a Pteranodon sweeps past the window of the tree house.
So, I wasn't terribly impressed by this book. Yes, it is for young children--a step up from Henry and Mudge, for kids not quite ready to tackle the Boxcar Children. But I've read some books for kids this age that are amazing, regardless of the vocabulary and length limitations. This is an adventure, but I didn't feel that Jack & Annie were truly in danger; a confrontation with a T-Rex shouldn't be boring!
I do appreciate the idea of the series as a whole--the sprinkling of facts that Jack reads from the books he carries around, the exploration of different time periods, different historical events, to entice children to seek out nonfiction books on those topics. And of course, I know that rarely are the first books in a series for children the best of the books. And by series, I mean these series that are conceptualized and series and eventually number in the dozens, not, say, those books which start as stand-alones and then grow into trilogies. So, I gave Jack & Annie a second try, and yep, it gets a bit better. Still not phenomenal, but. I guess I see the appeal.