Book Review: Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osbourne

Author: Mary Pope Osbourne
TitleMummies in the Morning
Publication Info: New York : Random House, c1993.

Another Magic Tree House classic.  Annie and Jack travel to Ancient Egypt and help a ghost-queen by solving the riddle of hieroglyphics and finding their way through the false passages of a pyramid.  This book also demonstrates their different talents very well, Annie the adventurer, and Jack the researcher.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Pirates Past Noon by Mary Pope Osbourne

Author: Mary Pope Osbourne
TitlePirates Past Noon
Publication Info: New York : Random House, c1994.

Swashbuckling adventure awaits Annie and Jack as the magic tree house takes them to an island, and they have to help pirates find a treasure.  I love pirates, but this is a weak story in the series, albeit still entertaining.  It also introduces Morgan in a section at the end that feels a bit tacked on.  Apparently this was supposed to be the last book in the series, but I’m glad that they didn’t stop there!

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Buffalo Before Breakfast by Mary Pope Osborne

AuthorMary Pope Osborne
TitleBuffalo Before Breakfast
Publication Info: New York : Random House, c1999.

This is a very sweet story in the Magic Tree House series.  Annie & Jack go to the Great Plains of the 1800s and meet a Lakota boy named Black Hawk and his wise and gentle grandmother.  It’s a nice glimpse into the life of the Lakota following the buffalo across the plains in the time before white settlers arrived.  Which also makes it bittersweet since a culture and way of life were lost.  Maybe the best Magic Tree House story I’ve read yet.

Rating:  ***1/2

Book Review: Afternoon on the Amazon by Mary Pope Osborne

AuthorMary Pope Osborne
TitleAfternoon on the Amazon
Publication Info: New York : Random House, 1995.

Another Magic Tree House adventure, this time Jack & Annie find themselves in the danger and beauty of the Amazonian rain forest.  Lots of good animal and nature details.  And a friendly monkey.  Another worthy addition to the series.

Rating:  ***

Book Review: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne

AuthorMary Pope Osborne
TitleDinosaurs Before Dark
Publication Info: New York : Random House, c1992.

My children ravenously work their way through the Magic Tree House series.  This is actually the first book in the series.  And what a great start!  Any story that involves riding on the back of the pteranadon is my kind of adventure.  I like that these stories work both in settings of human history as well as in natural settings.

Rating:  ***1/2

Book Review: Sunset of the Sabertooth by Mary Pope Osborne

AuthorMary Pope Osborne
TitleSunset of the Sabertooth
Publication Info: New York : Scholastic, 1996.

Another “Jack & Annie” read aloud to my daughter.  This time our heroes travel to Ice Age Europe and encounter Cro-Magnon  people, a wooly mammoth, and a sabretooth tiger, all while wearing their bathing suits!  Brrr…

This is another fun, well-written, and historically informative story for children and the grownups who read to them.

Rating:  ***

Book Review: The Case of the Best Pet Ever by James Preller

Author: James Preller
Title: The Case of the Best Pet Ever 
Publication Info: New York : Scholastic, c2003

I read this book out loud with my son. This is a Jigsaw Jones mystery and seems very similar to the Encyclopedia Brown books I read as a child – boy detective, girl sidekick, bully arch rival. I have to admit that this book seemed better written and this volume of the series is very funny as well as a clever mystery. 

Rating: ***

Book Review: Civil War on Sunday by Mary Pope Osborne

AuthorMary Pope Osborne
TitleCivil War on Sunday 
Publication Info: New York : Random House, 2000.

In read this book aloud to my daughter who loves Magic Tree House books or “Annie and Jack books” as she calls them. In this story, Jack and Annie travel to the Civil War where they go to a field hospital and encounter Clara Barton, black soldiers, and a familiar looking drummer boy. I was impressed that this book explored the horrors of war and slavery at a level that kids can understand. 

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Title:  The Westing Game

Author:  Ellen Raskin

Publishing information: New York : Puffin Books, 2004, c1978.


Another book I read out loud with my son. This mystery for children involved 16 people who are influenced into living in the same apartment building and then are made heirs to the wealthy paper magnate Sam Westing. They are paired up, given clues, and forced to work together to win the game and a prize of $2 million.

The characters in this story don’t behave realistically but I I like the characterization if that makes any sense. At first I thought the characters were rather mean and the subject matter heavy. I wobdered if it was really appropriate for an 8-year-old, but my son was hooked. While I’m not sure I understand why the Westing game was played, the mystery was intriguing. And the ending was much more positive and happy than I’d believed possible. Oh, and my favorite character won the game.
Recommend books:

Rating: ***

Book Review: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Author: Kenneth Grahame
TitleThe Wind in the Willows
Publication Info: London: Methuen Publishing, 1908

I read portions of this book as a child (because I loved Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney World) and read the whole thing a decade or so ago, and now I read it again aloud to my son.  I was awestruck by the beautiful language, the way that Grahame strung together words to make sentences that flow like the river.  And those words, big and amazing words.  There are things I forgot, like Rat and Mole encountering the Greek god Pan (a strange crossover) and there were things that made me feel warm and cozy like Rat and Mole rowing down the river or returning to Mole’s house and receiving carolers.  And much like the last time I read it, I feel the earlier parts of the book where Rat and Mole have pleasant adventures are much better than the latter parts of the book where Toad takes over the story. I especially do not like the violent conclusion where they arm themselves to reclaim Toad Hall from the stoats and weasels.  But all’s well that ends well.
Favorite Passages:

Try and grasp the fact that on this occasion we’re not arguing with you; we’re just telling you.

Recommended books: The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Rating: ****