Pros: easy to read, introduces children to facts about different places and times
Cons: lighter on facts than other books in the series, Annie's actions at times
Having a son on the autism spectrum means we are sometimes a bit behind where others are in terms of reading. He has made great strides, however, and is reading some very short chapter books. After devouring all of the Captain Underpants novels, Mommy set out to try to find something else to keep his attention and hopefully be a little more educational. We had a hit when we stumbled on the Magic Tree House series.
The series is the story of a brother and sister, Jack and Annie, who stumble upon a tree house one day in the woods near their home. There are books all over the place inside the tree house. They learn of its magical powers by accident when Jack points to a picture in one of the books and wishes he was there. There is an ongoing story to the series, which involves the person to whom the tree house belongs. I didn’t realize this when we were first buying the books and just let my son pick out the stories that interested him. Once we caught on to the ongoing story, I began to fill in with the books in between those he had already read.
Night of the Ninjas is only the fifth book in the series and already there is a short prologue before the main story begins which introduce readers to what has happened in the ongoing story up until now. It familiarizes them with the concept of the tree house and the adventures Jack and Annie have had already.
Jack and Annie are on their way home from the library one evening as its growing dark. Annie wants to check and see if the tree house is back, since they haven’t seen it in weeks. She runs off and Jack is forced to follow her. The tree house is back! The climb inside where they meet a mouse Annie names Peanut. Jack finds a note on the floor which seems to indicate that their friend, librarian Morgan le Fay, is in some kind of trouble. The only other clue they have is a book open to a page where there is a picture of ninjas.
Without hesitation, Annie wishes they could go to the place in the book. The tree house works its magic and soon they are in the land of the ninjas. Immediately they are befriended by two ninjas who help them out and bring them to the ninja master. However, the master cannot commit to help them as the family is at war with samurai warriors who are closing in even as they speak. Jack and Annie are forced to try to return to the tree house on their own, with scant advice from the ninja master on how to do that.
The story has suspense without overdoing the peril, which keeps my son interested. There are scant few details about the time period Jack and Annie have landed in, other than a few facts about the ninjas and samurais. This is pretty light on facts unlike other books I’ve read in the series. Still, the facts are emphasized for young readers to learn while they are enjoying the story, which is a huge plus. I liked how this story went beyond what I’ve normally seen of old Japan where men were warriors and women subservient. Here we are introduced to a female ninja! Boo-yah!
The personalities of the brother and sister contrast nicely. Jack is a bit cautious while Annie just plunges in. Sometimes I wonder if the books lean a bit toward celebrating Annie’s adventurous spirit a bit too much. I mean, we teach kids not to go off with strangers and yet Annie does and every time it happens it seems like it is the right thing to do. Yet Jack’s cautious nature is not exactly ridiculed, but it seems like the tone of the book is that it is looked down on.
There are illustrations with the story done in black and white. These are a nice supplement to the story without completely dominating the book. It’s enough to keep readers who are graduating from picture books interested in the tale and help spur along their imaginations as to what’s happening.
My son finds reading these to be pretty easy, which is nice. He learns new words and can usually figure them out in the context of the story. The only word he had to ask me about in this book was “samurai”. Everything else he either knew already or figured out on his own.
Night of the Ninjas stands on its own nicely as well as fitting into an ongoing story arc about Jack and Annie having to help their friend. It isn’t the best book in the series, but my son really enjoyed it and I prefer him to read this sort of book anyway. It’s well worth starting a reader on this series who’s ready for it. The general age group is 5-8 years old, but a special needs child can enjoy it any time. The way its divided up also makes it a great book for parents to read to their children at bedtime, stopping at the end of a chapter and holding over the rest of the story for another night. At 69 pages, it’s not too long that they will forget the story by the time parents finish reading it to them.
Other reviews of the Magic Tree House series:
Dinosaurs Before Dark ~ The Knight at Dawn ~ Mummies in the Morning ~ Pirates past Noon ~ Night of the Ninjas ~ Afternoon on the Amazon ~ Sunset of the Sabertooth ~ Midnight on the Moon ~ Dolphins at Daybreak ~ Ghost Town at Sundown ~ Lions at Lunchtime ~ Polar Bears Past Bedtime ~ Vacation Under The Volcano ~ Day of the Dragon King ~ Viking Ships at Sunrise ~ Hour of the Olympics ~ Tonight on the Titanic ~ Buffalo Before Breakfast ~ Tigers at Twilight ~ Dingoes at Dinnertime ~ Civil War on Sunday ~ Revolutionary War on Wednesday ~ Twister on Tuesday ~ Earthquake in the Early Morning ~ Stage Fright on a Summer Night ~ Good Morning, Gorillas ~ Thanksgiving on Thursday ~ High Tide in Hawaii
© 2009 Patti Aliventi