Magic Tree House
Junie B. Jones
★ Time travel, an Arctic ice shelf and frivolous elves converge in this second installment of The Books of Beginning.
Siblings Kate, Michael and Emma were lauded for successfully battling evil in The Emerald Atlas (2011), but soon afterward, their trusted confidant, Dr. Pym, redeposited them in a decrepit orphanage without explanation. After several months, a foreboding black cloud rolls in, catapulting the children into action. Kate escapes to 1899 Manhattan via the previous book’s titular atlas, while Michael and Emma are miraculously plucked from danger by Pym. So sets the stage for Kate’s mission to rejoin her siblings and for Michael and Emma’s journey to a secreted, lush valley in Antarctica to seek a second magic book, the Chronicle. The children aren’t strangers to magic, but their awe of magical places, allies and enemies does anything but wane here (it’s hard to be ho-hum when entranced by elves, pursued by a dragon and combatting trolls). A third-person-omniscient narration alternates between Kate and Michael, but Michael, the meekest child (and destined keeper of the Chronicle), is the primary focus as he struggles to find a fiery strength within himself. With no rest for the children, the ending is anything but a fading ember as Emma is kidnapped, separating the trio once again and setting the stage for Book 3.
Irreverent humor and swashbuckling adventure collide in a fetching fantasy. (Fantasy. 10-14) – Kirkus Reviews
★ Gr 4-7–Fifteen-year-old Kate, almost 13-year-old Michael, and 12-year-old Emma don’t know why Dr. Pym sent them back to the dreadful orphanage at the end of The Emerald Atlas (Knopf, 2011), but Kate, who learned to control the power of the Atlas to travel through time, knows they need to leave as soon as possible. In the first chapter of Chronicle, a monstrous Screecher attacks, and Kate lures it into the past at the exact moment Dr. Pym appears to retrieve Michael and Emma. While Kate deals with the Dickensian world of 1899 New York on the eve of Separation, when the magical and mundane worlds will split for good, Michael, Emma, and Pym search for information about the other two books in a variety of unlikely places. This is a roller-coaster ride of a story, which includes old friends and new, a visit to Antarctica, the rescue of an Elf Princess (who is sometimes a dragon), a touch of doomed romance, a generous leavening of humor, life, death, betrayal, and (just a warning) a nasty little cliff-hanger of an ending. It is really Michael’s story–he deals with unimaginable challenges with humor, courage, and insight. Knowledge of the first book is suggested; readers who start with this one will definitely want to backtrack. Fans of the first book won’t be disappointed, and will eagerly anticipate the next one. The Emerald Atlas was very good. This one is even better.–Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library, School Library Journal