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Angus and the Cat by Marjorie Flack
Another Life by Charles Oberndorf
Austenland by Shannon Hale
Castway Cats by Lisa Wheeler
Chicka Chicka ABC by Bill Martin Jr. and Lois Ehlert
City of Light, City of Dark by Avi
Clifford the Small Red Puppy by Norman Bridwell
Constellation Chronicles: The Lost Civilization of Aries by Vincent Lowry review copy
Day of the Dragon-King (Magic Tree House #14) by Mary Pope Osborne
The Digital Plague by Jeff Somers
Dino-Dinners by Brita Granstrom
Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1) by Mary Pope Osborne
Don't Say Ain't by Irene Smalls
Do You Want to be My Friend? by Eric Carle
Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan
Esoteric City by Bruce Sterling
Evolution's Shore (aka Chaga) by Ian McDonald
Harriet and the Garden by Nancy Carlson
I Spy Fun House by Jean Marzollo
I Wish That I Had Duck Feet by Dr. Seuss
Jin Jin the Dragon by Grace Chang
Lizzi & Fredl: A Perilous Journey of Love and Faith by William B. Stanford
Logicist by Carol Emshwiller
Madeline and the Cats of Rome by John Bemelmans Marciano
The Mammy by Brendan O'Carroll
Minifred Goes to School by Mordicai Gerstein
Miss Pickerell and the Geigor Counter by Ellen MacGregor
The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood
Nightwings by Robert Silverberg
One Yellow Lion by Matthew Van Fleet
Opera Cat by Tess Weaver
Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains by Dawn Menge
Riding High by John Francom and James Macgregor
Sassy by Gloria Mallette
The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald
Strange Reading by Grant Uden
The Sunless Countries by Karl Schroeder
Tarot Cafe Volume 1 by Sang-Sun Park
Tepper Isn't Going Out by Calvin Trillin
Tiger on a Tree by Anushka Ravishankar
Vacation Under the Volcano (Magic Tree House #13) by Mary Pope Osborne
The West End Horror by Nicholas Meyer
Where Is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox
Yoko's Paper Cranes by Rosemary Wells

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Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1): 01/04/10

Last year Sean and Ian read the first eight Magic Tree House books together. Now that Sean and I have read a bunch of the later ones together I've decided to go back and read the first eight. The book that launched the series is Dinosaurs Before Dark.

In Dinosaurs Before Dark Jack and Annie have never seen the tree house before. They don't know who owns it or how it got Frog Creek. They do, however, figure out the basics of making it take them places. They end up going so far back in time that they see dinosaurs.

As with all the other Magic Tree House books, there's the hint of a story arc. In this case, it's a medallion with an M found back with the dinosaurs. Jack puts it in his backpack and of course takes lots of notes on their trip, though why he's doing it now isn't as clear as it is in later books. Without the stated missions which come later this first book lacks the urgency of the later ones.

Jack and Annie come off as kids just out to have an adventure and fall into more of the stereotypes of children in fantasy stories from my childhood. There's always the kid who leaps before looking and is usually rewarded for doing so. Then there's the nerd who invariably wears glasses and is the coward of the group. The nerd though always gets one chance to save the day. Fortunately though Jack and Annie grow out of their original assigned roles and become far more interesting and complex characters as the series progresses.

Although the first book isn't as compelling a story as the later ones I still recommend it to children who are just starting off with chapter books. The language complexity grows as the child's reading skills improve. The books also help teach basic story arcs and plot devices as I've seen from how my son's understanding of plotting has improved from reading through the Magic Tree House books.

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