I don’t like The Magic Treehouse series.
There. I said it. I’m assuming that there are millions – literally, millions – of parents out there who feel differently. There must be. How else could Mary Pope Osborne have published approximately 2,469,698 titles? How else could they sell so well? How else could they occupy entire shelves at book stores and have an overall 4.8 star review rating on Amazon?
I surely don’t know. Personally, I think the writing is kind of weak and the illustrations subpar. I’m also sort of annoyed by the sheer abundance of titles (ok, ok, there may be a bit of “unpublished author” envy at work in that one).
However, even as I confess my distaste, I also must own up to the fact that my kids read many of these books and really enjoyed them. They were, in fact, a great stepping stone on the path from picture books to chapter books and for that I’m thankful.
But I didn’t really encourage my kids to read them.
Somewhere along the line, though, Simon came across another series called The Imagination Station. It was about the adventures of a boy named Patrick and his cousin Beth. They traveled to distant lands, often visiting famous historical events. The books were written in cycles, with each cycle carrying a running plot through several adventures. They had clever titles like Peril in the Palace and Revenge of the Red Knight. In short, they were blatant copies of the whole Magic Treehouse idea.
But they were better.
I’ve not read them all (there are over twenty at this point), but the ones I did read left me with a much better impression than the Treehouse books. The illustrations are much better (tremendous, really) and, though still very, very simple, I found the writing to be a slight improvement as well. Best of all, they come from the folks at Focus on the Family and are connected to Adventures in Odyssey, the long-running and much beloved radio program (don’t be disappointed though: there isn’t much overlap between the radio show and the books; a few shared characters, but that’s about it).
My kids devour these books, sometimes finishing them in just a day or two, and I would certainly recommend them. I’m not going to include a typical Content Notes evaluation with this series, but from everything I’ve seen they are as free of offensive material as you would expect from the source. Some violence – jousting, sword fighting, etc. – but it’s mild.
Further, Patrick and Beth are great examples. They live their Christian faith out and talk openly about Christ and what they believe. In fact, they’re the kinds of kids I’d like Ivy and Simon to hang out with…even if it’s just on the pages of a book.