Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reader's Diary #906- Mary Pope Osborne: Magic Tree House #5 (Night of the Ninjas)

Debbie and I alternate which kids we read to at bedtime. Now that they're on chapter books, it's a pretty good system. However, after I read through the Harry Potter series with our daughter, my wife insisted that she be the one who introduced Harry to our son. Harry Potter is such a big deal and with it comes some great bonding. No fair that I'd get all the cool books. I understand entirely.

But I'm often scrambling as to which books to read to my son. Lately however, he's obsessed (ridiculously obsessed) with Lego Ninjago. So, when I saw Mary Pope Osborne's Night of the Ninjas on our bookshelf, I figured it would be a hit.

Night of the Ninjas is the 5th book in Osborne's wildly popular Magic Tree House series. (At one point in 2006, it even kept Harry Potter out of the number one spot on the New York Times bestselling series list.) The series itself has 28 books in the original series and another 21 in the spinoff series, Magic Tree House Merlin Missions.

I read a couple or so to my daughter before so I knew the basic premise and knew it hardly mattered that you read them in order, even though there are some multi-book story arcs (for example, finding clues that will eventually free a sorceress/librarian friend named Morgan le Fay). Besides le Fay, brother and sister Jack and Annie are the protagonists. Books in their tree house transport them to various times and places throughout history.

Clearly there's ample opportunities for learning to take place, but for better or worst, the adventure comes first. My son learned more about ninjas and samurai (he was surprised to find that ninjas are so quiet-- apparently Ninjago are not) but there needed to be some counter-learning as well. Why, for instance, could ninjas in feudal Japan speak and understand English? I'm not sure. Maybe we did need to read the whole series after all. Anyone know if and how Osborne addressed the language issue?

It was entertaining, but almost too simplistic. It was clearly aimed at an even younger audience than the Harry Potter series, but a little more character development would have been nice. It was hard to connect to Jack or Annie or to really suspend our belief that these kids were anything more than characters in a book.

However, it had ninjas and it was fast paced so my son enjoyed it. I'm sure he'll quickly forget it but that's okay.

(Remember this picture of my son when we visited Japan a couple years back?)

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