Flashback Friday: “The Magic Tree House” Visits Volcanoes

Caitlin Muchow ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Wanderlust has to start somewhere, right? For many, it started with The Magic Tree House, a children’s book series created by Mary Pope Osborne. The first of the series was published by Random House in 1992. This book series didn’t just take the reader to different places, it took them to entirely different time periods. The series followed brother and sister Jack and Annie, who find a magic tree house filled with books that takes them from chilling with dinosaurs in prehistoric times during the first book to playing soccer in the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Mexico in the fifty-second book.

“Vacation Under the Volcano” Cover. Source: Random House

In the thirteenth installment—and a personal favorite—of the Magic Tree House series, Vacation Under the Volcano, Jack and Annie travel through the book, Life in Roman Times, into Pompeii. There, they are tasked with retrieving a lost book from ancient Rome. They experience life in ancient Rome, including a gladiator fight, and find the scroll for which they were sent in the library just in time to run for their lives when Mount Vesuvius erupts. Though these books are written for children, no one could help but get a thrill as Jack and Annie run through the falling rock, ash, and billowing smoke of a crumbling city. This book brought a great tragedy to life. It made something so important that happened so long ago relevant again, and something so immensely hard to grasp understandable to children just learning the truths of the world.

The Magic Tree House books brought imagination and knowledge to young readers. History is usually taught by teachers and textbooks spouting facts and dates, but The Magic Tree House put the reader inside of history. By fictionalizing history, they made it exciting at any age. It also brought imagination to readers, not only by making them imagine all these exhilarating adventures through history, but also adventures to mythical places that can’t even be found in this world.

The publishers also came out with Magic Tree House Fact Tracker series, which was co-written by Mary Pope Osborne and her husband Will Osborne. The Fast Tracker series allows the readers to explore the factual side of the history in the books. They also have a continuation of the series for their advancing readership called the Merlin Missions series that is at a higher reading level so that readers can continue following their favorite characters.

These books instill a love of adventure and a love of knowledge. Anyone couldn’t help but want to adventure with Jack and Annie to another country in another time period where they can save the day and, hopefully, be home in time for lunch. Any book that can make a reader passionate about something they might not have known or cared about otherwise is worth a read, or even a re-read.

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