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by Mary Pope Osborne

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-81373-X
Publisher: Random House

Anyone who hasn’t yet heard of the Magic Tree House has evidently spent the last several years on another planet (at Midnight on the Moon, perhaps?). Judging from this latest series entry (the first in trade hardcover), the popularity of these transitional chapter books is richly deserved. Jack and Annie, the brother-and-sister pair from Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, here take their 25th magical journey in Morgan le Fay’s magic tree house. This time, however, instead of traveling to actual places and times in history, they find themselves at Christmas in Camelot—a Camelot sadly transformed from a place of celebration and laughter to one from which joy has been robbed and magic banished. Their quest is to travel to the Otherworld to bring back the Water of Memory and Imagination in order to restore Camelot to its former glory. While the launching of the quest is rather labored—Mordred’s involvement in Camelot’s plight is explained quickly and not altogether satisfactorily—once Jack and Annie get going, the story moves along at a good clip, full of magical talismans, rhyming clues, Otherworldly foes, and a happy ending. If the kids accomplish their tasks rather easily—well, this is a book for younger readers, and it makes a terrific introduction to the more complex fantasies to come. Osborne (Kate and the Beanstalk, 2000, etc.) never dumbs down the language for her young readers, instead introducing a rich vocabulary while seamlessly providing contextual clues for decoding: “Miraculously, the silver cup still brimmed with water from the cauldron. Not a drop had spilled out.” Black-and-white spot illustrations are scattered throughout, although frequently a page turn is required before the reader sees the scene being described—a minor design quibble. An almost entirely pleasing offering; if Osborne and her publisher can produce another 25 of this quality, chapter-book readers will truly have been well served. (author’s note) (Fiction. 6-9)