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Literature / The Magic Treehouse

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This book inspired a plethora of equally outrageous adventures.

The Magic Treehouse is a successful series of children's books written by Mary Pope Osbourne that is currently running after the first installment of the series (pictured to the right) was published in 1992. There are over fifty books in the series so far, not counting the research guides that go along with them.

The books are about two kids from Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, siblings/kid heroes Jack and Annie. In the inaugural incarnation of the series, Morgan le Fay orders the kids to go on missions through time and all around the world to solve ancient riddles, save ancient stories, and become Master Librarians. This is possible through their tree house, which allows them to perform Time Travel (or travel inside books, it's not really made clear which).

That was for the first 28 of the books, and the next series was about Jack and Annie going on Merlin Missions (missions directed by Merlin the magician), traveling to places like Camelot. The books teach kids about history and the different cultures that Jack and Annie visit.


There's also a Japanese adaptation with manga illustrations. They all contain paper dolls of Jack and Annie with outfits corresponding to the stories. The first 28 volumes were published into 14 Japanese volumes, two stories to a book. After that, each book was published individually. There was also an anime movie by Ajia-Do based on the book series that was released in 2011.

As of August 2012, nonfiction companions called Magic Treehouse Fact Trackers books have been written for 27 installments of the original series.


Tropes used by the series:

  • Adapted Out: The movie covers Vesuvius — which was part of the fourth arc about collecting literature from previous times — but since it takes place during the first two arcs, then Hercules isn't there to save Jack and Annie.
  • Adaptation Amalgamation: The movie essentially combines the first two arcs of the series, with the plot being kicked off by Morgan being turned into a mouse, but adds the trip to Pompeii which would've been in the fourth arc.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Jack in the movie after seeing Mount Vesuvius erupted and nearly losing his sister from it, goes through a lot of angst and self-confidence issues.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Morgan le Fay. In most permutations of the original King Arthur legend, she was a wicked and malevolent sorceress who sought to destroy Arthur, or at best a Trickster Mentor who put his knights through the magical wringer in order to teach them a lesson. Here, she is a sweet, kind and benevolent woman who helps Jack and Annie through their adventures. However, this is more in line with her first appearance in the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth.
  • Alliterative Title:
    • Used for most book titles (Lions at Lunchtime, Tigers at Twilight, Dolphins Before Daybreak, etc).
    • Civil War on Sunday slightly subverts this, keeping the alliterative "S" sound intact but not featuring any words starting with the same letter. Ghost Town at Sundown averts this trope, featuring rhyming but no alliteration.
    • The differing titles for the UK versions of the books are much looser with using this trope.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • A mild example in Dinosaurs Before Dark and The Movie. Jack and Annie encounter a Pteranodon at the end of the Late Cretaceous alongside Tyrannosaurus rex, when Pteranodon should have been extinct at that time. It's justified, however, in that the Pteranodon is actually a shape-shifted Morgan.
    • The saber-toothed cat in Sunset of the Sabertooth is presumably a Machairodus (it lives in Europe and has a fairly long tail). The story takes place in the Pleistocene, and Machairodus died out in the late Miocene.
  • Ancient Egypt: Jack and Annie travel there in Mummies in the Morning.
  • Animorphism:
    • Teddy the dog is actually a human boy who accidentally put himself into a spell by mistake.
    • Morgan assumes the form of animals in most of the first four books - a Pteranodon in #1, a cat in #3 and a parrot in #4. She subsequently spends four books as a white mouse due to a prank pulled by Merlin, which also happens in The Movie.
    • Jack and Annie also get into this too. They were transformed into ravens along with Teddy in Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve and were turned into dogs in Dogs in the Dead of Night. Annie also transformed two rival wizards into ducks in Blizzard of the Blue Moon.
    • At the end of the The Movie, Merlin gets turned into a mouse by Morgan as payback for doing the same to her, which sends Jack and Annie on another mission to change him back.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Annie is afraid to enter an Old West ghost town. Jack attempts to reassure her by saying there's no such thing as ghosts, but as she points out, this is clearly untrue, as they met one in ancient Egypt.
  • Arc Number: 4
  • Baleful Polymorph: Many times: ranging from Morgan le Fay turned into a mouse, Teddy accidentally turned into a dog, then he, Jack and Annie accidentally turned into ravens... the list goes on and on.
  • Bears Are Bad News:
    • Briefly discussed in Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve.
    • Jack is face to face with a menacing one in Moonlight of the Magic Flute (with an illustrated picture of Jack knowing that he's in trouble).
  • Beary Friendly:
    • Polar Bears Past Bedtime features a mother polar bear and her adorable cubs.
    • The dancing bear is actually one of the nicer characters in Stage Fright On A Summer's Night.
  • Been There, Shaped History: The entirety of the series is based around this trope, with the protagonists time traveling across the world and experiencing many pivotal events in history.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: For some reason, a lot of the Historical Domain Characters know a lot more about the tree house and the kids' missions than they should and are suspiciously cooperative.
    • This is averted in Good Night For Ghosts with Louis Armstrong. He has no clue about it and is just too busy making money for his family. After using the Wand of Dianthus and Louis having no sense of what to do next, Annie tells Jack that they actually have to show him the book that teleported them to his time to set things straight.
    • Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur, and Gustave Eiffel from Night of the New Magicians seem to think that Jack and Annie are crazy. They're nice about it, though.
    • In the "Master Librarians" story arc, Jack and Annie find that the wise people they show their cards to on each journey are familiar with the organization and even with Morgan herself.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Jack towards Annie, big time. She ends up in trouble in several books, and he's always quick to rush to her rescue. In the movie, when he learns that she's been captured by pirates, he rides a dolphin all the way from the shore to the pirate ship to save her.
    • Annie also inverts it with a Little Sister Instinct towards Jack. In the books, she's quick to become a Bully Hunter when people pick on her brother, and in the movie, she outright takes a bullet for him when a pirate tries to shoot him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the movie, within the pirates book there are two moments. The dolphin saving Jack from drowning and Jack saving Annie from the pirates.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tonight on the Titanic. Foregone Conclusion, obviously, but Jack and Annie manage to save two children.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Wolfie in Moonlight on the Magic Flute (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a child). Alexander the Great in Stallion by Starlight is an older example of this.
  • Brick Joke: In books 32-36, Annie and Jack are given a book of spells from their friends. Annie is constantly trying to find a use for the spell 'Turn People into Ducks', but is constantly turned down by her brother. When they are trying to save a unicorn in Blizzard of the Blue Moon from two apprentices of a dark wizard, she immediately uses the spell, explaining that she memorized it a long time ago.
  • Bully Hunter: Annie in Twister on Tuesday when her brother is being picked on.
  • Cats Are Magic: Mummies in the Morning has a cat that leads Jack and Annie to a pyramid, and successfully leads them out of one. It's revealed in the next book that this was Morgan looking after them.
  • Cats Are Mean: Sunset of the Sabertooth has a saber-toothed cat as the main threat.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Teddy the dog is actually a boy, and he returns in later books to help Jack and Annie.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: We could almost call the trope "Annie Syndrome"— Annie immediately wants to help any human or animal the siblings come across who is in any sort of trouble.
  • Cool Crown: An emperor penguin dons one of these in Eve of the Emperor Penguin.
  • Cowboy Episode: Ghost Town at Sundown.
  • Creepy Crows: The subject on Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles:
    • There are three books with names based around the three meals of the day: Buffalo Before Breakfast, Lions at Lunchtime, and Dingoes at Dinnertime.
    • Civil War on Sunday and Revolutionary War on Wednesday.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Annie to the pandas in Perfect Time for Pandas.
  • Darker and Edgier: The first Special Edition book, Danger in the Darkest Hour, takes place during World War II where they must save Kathleen during the Blitz.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Annie runs into this at least twice (Hour Of The Olympics and Stage Fright On A Summer's Night) concerning the roles of women.
  • The Ditz: Annie has her moments, her being the younger of the two. She grows out of this as she gets older.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Jack and Annie frequently go barefoot during their adventures, most notably during Dolphins at Daybreak, High Tide in Hawaii, Summer of the Sea Serpent, Dark Day in the Deep Sea, and Soccer on Sunday.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Vacation Under The Volcano takes place in a nice peaceful town called Pompeii...
    • In Abe Lincoln at Last, Jack and Annie befriend President Lincoln's young son Willie. When they return, they find out that he died of typhoid fever a year later.
  • Dropped Glasses: In Pirates Past Noon, Jack loses his glasses while on the beach and scrambles to find them. It costs him precious time in getting away from the pirates.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first three books featured different typeface for the chapter titles and numbers.
  • Edutainment
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Dinosaurs Before Dark, the very first book.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Afternoon in the Amazon, Tigers at Twilight, and Good Morning, Gorillas had friendly monkeys and apes respectively.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: Eve of the Emperor Penguin, and the titular penguin Penny who lives in Camelot.
  • Exact Words:
    • In Blizzard of the Blue Moon, Jack and Annie need to call out the name of a unicorn known as 'Divine Flower of Rome'. Unfortunately, the poem didn't state that the two had to say his name in Latin — which is Dianthus — and thus got them into a bit of trouble later on.
    • In Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve, the rhyme Teddy uses to make himself into a raven ("Make me a raven, one, two, three!") is misinterpreted as him, Jack and Annie transformed into ravens.
  • Exty Years from Now: Midnight on the Moon takes place 40 years in the future (the book was made in 1996, so it takes place in 2036).
  • Eyepatch of Power: The titular wizard in Winter of the Ice Wizard. The book is based around Jack and Annie being sent to retrieve his eye.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • In Earthquake in the Early Morning, Jack read that many of the books that were being transferred were all going to burn... unfortunately, the librarian didn't listen to him...
    • Vacation Under the Volcano and Tonight on the Titanic have some emotional heft considering the events that they're based around (the destruction of Pompeii and the crash of the RMS Titanic).
  • Four Is Death: Each arc is made out of 4 books together, and something happens within each one of them. Most notably is arc 21-24, which has, in order: Civil War, Revolutionary War, Twisters, and the San Francisco Earthquake.
  • Free-Range Children: The trope is averted by having no time pass — or at most ten minutes — while the treehouse takes the eight and seven year old to anywhere they want.
  • Friendly, Playful Dolphin: In Dolphins At Daybreak, Jack and Annie are saved by friendly dolphins that allow Jack and Annie to ride them.
  • Genki Girl: Annie.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Annie.
  • Green Aesop: Occasionally.
  • Haunted Castle: Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve
  • Heroic Dog: The subject of the book Dogs in the Dead of Night.
  • Heroic Dolphin: After Annie saves one from being eaten by pirates it pops up to save Jack, leading him to Annie and ultimately saving the day.
  • Historical Domain Character:
  • Honorable Elephant: The woolly mammoth in Sunset of the Sabertooth, the African elephant in Lions At Lunchtime, and the Asian elephant in Tigers At Twilight.
  • Horny Vikings: Viking Ships At Sunrise. Although none of the vikings wear horned helmets, just like in real life.
  • Injun Country: Buffalo Before Breakfast
  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: Occurs several times, as evident with the other trope entries on this page.
  • Invisibility: The supposed ghosts in Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve are actually three kids and their dog trapped in their state because the Raven King stole the Diamond of Destiny they were supposed to guard.
  • Kangaroo Pouch Ride: Inverted in Dingos at Dinnertime. The Joey hops into Jack's backpack believing that it's a pouch.
  • Kangaroos Represent Australia: Dingoes At Dinnertime had Jack and Annie meeting up with a kangaroo and taking care of her joey.
  • Killer Gorilla: Disputed and then some in Good Morning, Gorillas.
  • Magic Music: The Wand of Dianthus becomes a magical music instrument in books 41-44, but Jack and Annie must make up their own lyrics for each song.
  • Magic Wand: The Wand of Dianthus, a unicorn horn.
  • Mammoths Mean Ice Age: Sunset of the Sabertooth had Jack and Annie riding on a woolly mammoth in the Ice Age.
  • The Middle Ages: Jack and Annie travel there in The Knight At Dawn.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Dinosaurs Before Dark showed a Pteranodon living inland, instead of near the ocean. Justified, as said Pteranodon was actually Morgan watching over the kids. The film version, however, has no excuse.
  • Mummy: Jack and Annie see a few in Mummies in the Morning.
  • The Musical: Information for the curious here. It involved Camelot.
  • Mysterious Protector: Two hooded figures protect Jack and Annie throughout books 33 to 36. It's Teddy and Kathleen, spying on them to make sure the siblings are doing their job.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Some crocodiles (probably Orinoco crocodiles, given the location) appear in Afternoon on the Amazon. A Late Cretaceous crocodylomorph (presumably Borealosuchus) makes a cameo appearance in The Movie.
  • Nice Mice: In the second arc, Jack and Annie discover a small brown and white mouse, whom Annie names Peanut, in the treehouse; she proves very friendly and helpful in the ensuing adventures, with book 8 revealing she was the one who was setting up the books for each of their four adventures. Justified, since Peanut is actually a transformed Morgan, and the arc is about breaking the spell that transformed her.
  • Ninjas: The subject of Night of the Ninjas although it's more of the "using nature to help you" than it involves dressing up as one.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted. It seems this way, as we are constantly told that Jack is 7 and Annie is 6. But in Winter of the Ice Wizard, Annie states that she's 9 and Jack is already 10, which means at most 3 years have passed since that time. In Soccer on Sunday, they are ten and eleven, respectively.
  • Oh, Crap!: Whenever something bad happens, poor Jack will be thinking this. One prominent scene is in Revolutionary War on Sunday where Annie (after George Washington has found out the two snuck on the ship while he's crossing the Delaware) exclaims "Merry Christmas!" while Jack is thinking how screwed they are.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Annie is the first one to climb into the treehouse that will take them anywhere and the first one to jump into adventure when they get where they're going.
  • Panda-ing to the Audience: Perfect Time For Pandas.
  • Panthera Awesome: Sunset of the Sabertooth, Lions At Lunchtime, and Tigers at Twilight all revolve around the titular big cats.
  • Piranha Problem: Naturally, some are featured in Afternoon in the Amazon. Subverted in that they don't attack the characters.
  • Pirate: Jack and Annie run into some searching for Captain Kidd's treasure in Pirates Past Noon.
  • Pirate Parrot: One, whom Annie calls Polly, is seen in Pirates Past Noon. It turns out to be Morgan le Fay keeping an eye on the kids.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: In the movie, the kids' third adventure to Pompeii has them witness the volcano erupt and the mass panic it causes, and Jack briefly loses track of Annie. After returning home, he learns from the book that most of the citizens of Pompeii died that day. The near-death experience deeply upsets Jack and leaves his confidence shaken, causing this with two different people:
    • Jack's classmate, Tracy, who very clearly has a crush on him, had previously asked him to be in the school play as Romeo (while she's playing Juliet), and he agreed. But when she gives him the completed script for the play after this adventure, he backs out of it due to his loss of confidence, causing Tracy to become upset and run off. Luckily, after his faith in himself is restored in the fourth adventure, he makes up with her offscreen and does star in the play, and it's implied that he reciprocates her crush.
    • He also gets this with Annie. After she makes the wish to travel to the pirate world to find the final medallion to save Morgan, Jack tells her that they can't save anyone since they're just kids, and refuses to take part in the adventure. Jack going back on their promise to help Morgan causes him to become a Broken Pedestal for Annie, who runs away in tears and tries to complete the adventure by herself, only to be captured by the pirates soon after finding the last medallion. It becomes a Rebuilt Pedestal once Jack comes to save her after learning she's in danger, which also breaks him out of his funk.
  • Ptero Soarer: Annie befriends a Pteranodon, whom she names Henry, in Dinosaurs Before Dark. Henry is more accurate than most examples (pycnofibres, quadrupedal, non-grasping feet, The Movie shows him vaulting to take off), aside from living in the wrong time period and habitat as well as being too large and strong enough to carry two human children.
  • Rhino Rampage: Averted with the woolly rhinoceros in Sunset of the Sabertooth, and defied with the Indian rhinoceros in Tigers at Twilight.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The poems and magic spells that are used in the book all rhyme.
  • Running Gag: In the movie Annie keeps naming random creatures. For example, there's Charlie the frog, Peanut the mouse, Henry the Pteranodon, and Jimmy the dolphin.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Jack and Annie are a sibling example.
  • Scenery Porn: The shots of the school in the Japanese anime film are impressive, especially since they are based off photographs from an actual American school.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: The boa in Afternoon in the Amazon, the python in Tigers Before Twilight, the HUMONGOUS sea serpent in Summer of the Sea Serpent, and the cobras in A Crazy Day With Cobras.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Somehow, Annie is able to communicate with animals, be it a Pteranodon or a raven.
  • Shorttank: Annie. She is always ready to jump into adventure.
  • Shown Their Work: As suggested by Gaijin Goomba, Night of the Ninjas is surprisingly faithful to actual ninja technique (though it does lose points for depicting the shinobi in black, as opposed to the navy blue they apparently actually wore).
  • Spiders Are Scary: To Annie, they are. And it didn't help that in Summer of the Sea Serpent they needed help from the Spider Queen...
  • Stock Dinosaurs:
    • Pteranodon, Triceratops, Anatosaurus/Edmontosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus are featured in Dinosaurs Before Dark. They return in The Movie, which also adds in Ankylosaurus and Ornithomimus. However, they avert this with Brodavis, Borealosuchus, Alamosaurus, and Alphadon.
    • Sunset of the Sabertooth features a woolly mammoth and a woolly rhinoceros, with mention of the cave bear. The saber-toothed cat is unidentified, but it appears to be a Machairodus rather than a Smilodon.
  • Story Arc: Usually each arc takes place over four books.
  • Stumbled Into the Plot: Downplayed. While Jack and Annie did find the treehouse simply by coming across it walking home from school one day, it took Annie's belief in magic for them to see it - otherwise it would have been invisible.
  • Taken for Granite:
    • Happens to the royal court in Christmas At Camelot.
    • And books 45-48 show that poor Penny's under this spell too! The arc is about breaking the spell on her before Merlin finds out.
  • Taking the Bullet: In the movie Annie jumps towards Jack when the pirate leader fires at him. Luckily, she was saved by the medallion in her pocket. Sadly for them, the medallion broke in two.
  • Tentacle Rope: The cover of Japanese book #25.
  • Time Travel: And HOW. Unfortunately, they can't change anything that will happen (Pompeii and Titanic are prominent examples), but they can alter some minor details. In Civil War On Sunday, they save a drummer boy who would become their great-great-great grandfather, and Earthquake in the Early Morning had them be taken in a photograph with a piece of wood that had words of hope on it.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: Thanksgiving On Thursday, with the original Pilgrims and Indians.
  • Theme Naming: The books are named after a time of day, a day of the week, or a holiday.
  • Threatening Shark: The hammerhead shark from Dolphins At Daybreak and the great white shark from Shadow of the Shark.
  • Translation Convention: The movie is in Japanese, but given that the series takes place in Pennsylvania, it's obvious that the characters are supposed to be speaking English.
  • Treehouse of Fun: Treehouse of MAGIC!
  • Unicorn: The subject of Blizzard of the Blue Moon.
  • Walk the Plank: In the Movie, after the pirate capture Annie they tie her hands behind her back and blindfold her to undergo the classic pirate execution. Thankfully, Jack and Peanuts show up in time to rescue her although she gets her own moment of badassery while bound on the plank by tackling the pirate leader as he tries to shoot Jack
  • Wham Line: In Good Time For Ghosts Annie reveals to Jack that they have to do something they've never done before.
    Annie: We have to show him [Louis Armstrong] the book.
  • Weird West: Ghost Town at Sundown takes place in an abandoned frontier town. The kids meet a cowboy named Slim who turns out to be the very author of the book they are using that time, as well as a piano playing ghost named Lonesome Luke.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Jack, which is disturbing considering how the books take place in a mundane world, the only unusual thing about it being the treehouse.
  • World War 2: Despite the protagonists visiting everything from Pompeii to the Titanic, this was an avoided topic... up until the first Super Edition book, Danger in the Darkest Hour.
  • Why Did It Have To Be Spiders?: Annie can go through just about anything... but has a paralyzing fear of spiders. Shown prominently in Summer of the Sea Serpent. In Afternoon on the Amazon, Jack complains about this, saying that he doesn't understand how she can be freaked out about visiting a jungle full of bugs after being fine with meeting dinosaurs, pirates, ninjas and ghosts.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Quite a few of the adult villains are more than willing to hurt or even kill the children protagonists such as the pirates from the movie.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time, where Jack and Annie meet Charles Dickens and give him the three ghosts treatment.

Alternative Title(s): Magic Tree House


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