The kids got a few books for Christmas that they already had, so I took them to Barnes & Noble yesterday to exchange them for some new ones. I was home with them on a weekday because Penny was picking up some extra hours at work, and really I don’t need much excuse to visit a bookstore under any circumstances anyway—even if all I’m doing is swapping one kids’ book for another.
I started reading chapter books to Ethan at bedtime earlier this year, typically one chapter a night. We began with some of my favorite children’s books: James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Ethan enjoyed them, but I’m not quite sure he (or I) was ready for how graphic they get in terms of death and suffering. We moved on to Stewart Little (honestly, a little boring) and The Mouse and the Motorcycle (even more boring) before trying the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborn. They didn’t have these when I was a kid. I wish they did—they’re pretty entertaining for books aimed at pre-schoolers and elementaty school kids.
I actually had this vague impression that the Magic Treehouse and Magic Schoolbus universes were somehow connected, and having read more than my share of ponderous Magic Schoolbus stories I wasn’t too excited to dip into the Treehouse series; but it turns out they’re not at all related, which was a great relief to me. Nothing against the Schoolbus in theory—apparently they’re a great introduction to science, and Ethan does enjoy them—but to me they’re among the most boring things I’ve ever read.
Back to the Magic Treehouse books: They tell the adventures of a brother and sister named Jack and Annie who discover a (you guessed it) magic treehouse and go on all kinds of adventures in time and space. Ethan loves them because Jack is very much like him: a little bit cautious and really into science. Jack’s kid sister Annie is the risk-taker and seems to love animals—a lot like Ethan’s little sister Madeleine. So he readily identifies with the two leads, and I love the idea of getting my kids excited about dinosaurs and castles and mummies and pirates (which are the central adventures of books one through four). I also like that the series sets up a central mystery—who does the treehouse really belong to, and how does it work?—and carries that mystery from book to book, adding a new clue or discovery with each adventure. Narratively, it’s a good way to introduce Ethan to the idea that the story continues from book to book, sequentially.
So anyway, yesterday at Barnes & Noble we picked up the box set of the next four books in the series. At checkout, the clerk observed, “Someone likes the Magic Treehouse!” To which Ethan responded, “Oh, that’s me. I’m a four-year-old who just loves chapter books!”
The English major in me swells with pride.