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Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #10: Ancient Greece and the Olympics

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A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #16: Hour of the Olympics

Written by Mary Pope OsborneAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope BoyceAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Natalie Pope Boyce
Illustrated by Sal MurdoccaAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sal Murdocca


List Price: $5.99


On Sale: February 29, 2012
Pages: 128 | ISBN: 978-0-307-97528-7
Published by : Random House Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #10: Ancient Greece and the Olympics Cover

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Track the facts with Jack and Annie!
When Jack and Annie got back from their adventure in Magic Tree House #16: Hour of the Olympics, they had lots of questions. What did the ancient Greeks wear? What did they do for fun? Where were the very first Olympics held? How are our modern Olympics similar to the ancient Olympics? Find out the answers to these questions and more as Jack and Annie track the facts. Filled with up-to-date information, photos, illustrations, and fun tidbits from Jack and Annie, the Magic Tree House Fact Trackers are the perfect way for kids to find out more about the topics they discovered in their favorite Magic Tree House adventures. And teachers can use Fact Trackers alongside their Magic Tree House fiction companions to meet common core text pairing needs.

Have more fun with Jack and Annie on the Magic Tree House website at MagicTreeHouse.com!
Mary Pope Osborne

About Mary Pope Osborne

Mary Pope Osborne - Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #10: Ancient Greece and the Olympics

Photo © Paul Coughlin

“I’m one of those very lucky people who absolutely loves what they do for a living. There is no career better suited to my eccentricities, strengths, and passions than that of a children’s book author.”—Mary Pope Osborne

Mary Pope Osborne is the author of the popular Magic Tree House series. She works with her husband Will and her sister Natalie on the nonfiction companion series, Magic Tree House Research Guides. Many of her books have been named to best-books lists.


“I grew up in the military. By the time I was 15, I had lived in Oklahoma, Austria, Florida, and four different army posts in Virginia and North Carolina. Moving was never traumatic for me, but staying in one place was. When my dad finally retired to a small town in North Carolina, I nearly went crazy with boredom. I craved the adventure and changing scenery of our military life. Miraculously, one day I found these things, literally only a block away—at the local community theater. From then on, I spent nearly every waking hour after school there.

“After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 1970s, I lived an intensely varied life. For a while I camped in a cave on the island of Crete. Then I joined up with a small band of European young people heading to ‘The East.’ We traveled through 11 Asian countries and nearly lost our lives, first in an earthquake in northern Afghanistan and then in a riot in Kabul. My trip came to an abrupt halt in Katmandu when I got blood poisoning. During the two weeks I spent in a missionary hospital there, I read all of the Tolkien trilogy. To this day, my journey to ‘The East’ is tangled up in my mind with Frodo’s adventures.

“After I returned home and recovered from my illness, I promptly headed back into the real world. I worked as a window dresser, as a medical assistant, and as a Russian travel consultant. One night I attended the opening of a musical about Jesse James. From the balcony, I fell in love with Will Osborne, the actor/musician playing Jesse. I loved his boots and his white cowboy hat; I loved how he sang and strummed the guitar. A year later, in New York City, we were married.

“Thereafter, when I wasn’t on the road with Will, I worked as a waitress, taught acting classes in a nursing home, was a bartender, and had a job as an assistant editor for a children’s magazine.

“Then one day, out of the blue, I began writing a story about an 11-year-old girl in the South. The girl was a lot like me, and many of the incidents in the story were similar to happenings in my childhood. The first draft was crudely written, but it must have communicated something to an editor, because shortly after I finished, it became a young adult novel called Run, Run Fast as You Can. Finally, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

"Now 24 years and 80 books later, I think I’m one of the most fortunate people on earth. Whenever I work on a book, I feel as if I’ve traveled to some amazing place in the world. Writing Tales from the Odyssey, I sailed with Odysseus through the ancient Greek world. Working on the Spider Kane Mysteries, I spent time in an abandoned cottage garden with a group of nutty and wonderful insects. Working on my novel Haunted Waters, I lived in a haunted castle with a sea spirit. While working on my new picture book, Pompeii: Lost and Found, I felt as if I myself were excavating an ancient Roman city. And of course, with my Magic Tree House series, I take daily journeys with Jack and Annie to different times and places, from the prehistoric world of dinosaurs to the world of Camelot. Though there are 36 books of fiction and 13 non-fiction books in the Magic Tree House series now, I don’t think I’ll ever run out of places to travel to in my imagination.

"The Magic Tree House has also whisked me to schools all over the country, and the contact I now have with millions of readers has brought overwhelming joy into my life. I love the letters I get and I love reading the countless Magic Tree House stories that children themselves have written. I feel as if my readers and I are all exploring the creative process together, using our imaginations and writing skills to take us wherever we want to go. This, I tell my small fellow authors, is true magic."


We passed an old dilapidated tree house . . .

I spent a year trying different ways to get two kids back in time. I tried an enchanted cellar with magic whistles, an enchanted museum, and an enchanted artist’s studio. I wrote seven different manuscripts using different magical devices and nothing worked. Then on a walk in the country with my husband, we passed an old dilapidated tree house. We started talking about the tree house . . . and continued talking about it. The next day I tried writing about it—to see if it might possibly be magic. And it was.

I’m aching to hang out with penguins . . .

My stories always coincide with my personal interests, which seem fairly unlimited at this point. I find that the more you learn, the more you want to learn. I want to take Jack and Annie to Antarctica. I’m aching to hang out with penguins.

They started dreaming me up . . .

At first I just dreamed Jack and Annie up. They seem so happy and complete. I don’t want to subject them to the awful peer pressure that comes with growing older. They’d probably start hanging around the mall instead of climbing into the tree house.

My brothers and I had great adventures on our bikes and in the woods and on the beach where we lived. We felt as though we’d been to far distant worlds by the time we came home—adventures we happily kept to ourselves. I want kids to live through Jack and Annie’s independent journeys as well as their own!

It’s harmonious teamwork . . .

My editor has had an incalculable impact on these books. She has worked on all [the] books to date, and has been a great inspiration and guide. The series has a wonderful illustrator, Sal Murdocca. Sal researches the illustrations himself, and he’s very flexible and open to my ideas. The series’ designer and editor also have input into the art. It’s harmonious teamwork.


I’m a creature of constant change . . .

No two days of writing for the last 20 odd years have been the same. I write at every time of the day. I carry my laptop to every part of the house—or to places outside the house. I’m a creature of constant change. I do a lot of research before I start writing, but I do a great deal more after I start writing, as I confront more and more questions about the subject matter.

I’m living an extraordinary life . . .

The best part of being a writer is being transported to other places and living other experiences. By surrounding myself with the smells, weather, animals, and people of imaginary landscapes, I feel as if I’m living an extraordinary life. The worst part of being a writer is not having enough time or energy to write all the things I want to write.

I started writing poetry in high school . . .

I was living in North Carolina and I loved the work of Thomas Wolfe. Not until my late twenties did I have any idea I could be a writer. I only knew that I loved living in my imagination, and that no matter what job I was doing, my mind and thoughts were elsewhere. I was ready to settle for being a professional daydreamer.

I’ve had too many favorite authors to list . . .

As a child, I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett and Laura Ingalls Wilder. In my teen years: Thomas Wolfe, J. D. Salinger, Hermann Hesse, and Jack Kerouac. In my twenties: Tolstoy, Nabokov, E. B. White, and Colette. Since then I’ve had too many to list. The Little Princess, The Three Ugly Sisters, and Big Farmer Big were my favorite books.

To aspiring writers:

Write, write, write. Always try to have fun and at the same time always do the hard work of rewriting.

Mary Pope Osborne is the author of many highly acclaimed books for children and young adults, including novels, picture books, biographies, mysteries, and retellings of fairy tales, myths, and tall tales. She has completed two terms as president of the Author’s Guild, the leading organization for professional writers in the United States.



“Mary Pope Osborne provides nicely paced excitement for young readers, and there’s just enough information mixed in so that children will take away some historical fact along with a sense of accomplishment at having completed a chapter book.”—Children’s Literature on the Magic Tree House series

“A rousing adventure tale filled with dancing fairies, white stags, and hideous beasts.”—School Library Journal on Christmas in Camelot


—A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
—A Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
—An NCSS–CBC Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
—An ABC Children’s Booksellers’ Choice Award


—An American Bookseller Pick of the Lists
—A Parents Magazine Best Book of the Year


—An Edgar Award Nominee for Best Juvenile Mystery


—A Parents’ Choice Story Book Honor
—A Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Book of the Year

The Ways We Worship

—An Orbis Pictus Honor Book, National Council of Teachers of English
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


Magic Tree House Research Guide: Ancient Greece and the Olympics


What was it like to live in ancient Greece? What gods and goddesses did Greeks believe in? How did the Olympics start? What was the winner’s prize? Find out the answers to these questions and many more in this Magic Tree House Research Guide. Includes fun facts from Jack and Annie, fantastic photos and illustrations, and a guide to doing further research!


Getting Started
Ask students what their favorite games are on the playground, in the gym, and at home. Do they like to play games alone? With another person? With groups or teams? Discuss the meaning of “competition.” What kinds of competition do they participate in at home, in school, or in their community? How do they feel when they win? When they lose?
Using a show of hands, ask how many students have heard of or watched the Olympics, an international competition involving many different sports. Show students pictures of different summer and winter Olympic sports. Which events are their favorites? Who are some of their favorite Olympic athletes?

Using a map or a globe, locate Greece and explain that our modern Olympics started with the ancient Greeks almost 3000 years ago as a festival to honor the Greek god, Zeus. Create a timeline showing the geographic location of the winter and summer Olympic Games for the last five years. Note where and when the next games will be held. Explain that students are about to learn a great deal more about these games and the culture of the people who started them in this guide.

Math, Language Arts
It’s Greek to Me!
The names of many of our geometric shapes have Greek origins. Polygons (poly = many; gonia = angles) are closed figures that have several lines and angles. The first part, or prefix, in the names of these shapes tells how many sides and angles that shape has. For example:
Triangle = 3
Quadrilateral = 4
Pentagon = 5
Hexagon = 6
Heptagon= 7
Octagon = 8
Draw each of these geometric shapes on the blackboard or on individual handouts. Ask students to count the sides and angles in each and see if they can label each polygon correctly.

History, Geography, Math
A Tale of Two Cities
Locate the city-states of Athens and Sparta on a map of Greece, identifying different physical features of their locations. List aspects of language, culture and customs common to both.
Point out that the form of government we have in our United States–democracy– originated in Athens. Write a definition of democracy on the blackboard. Compare the ancient Athenian democracy with our modern democracy in America. Discuss whether it is possible for a society to be democratic when all citizens do not enjoy equal rights.
Point out that totalitarianism, a form of government practiced by some countries in our modern world (e.g.North Korea), originated in Sparta. Write a definition of totalitarianism on the blackboard. Using a Venn diagram, illustrate the similarities and differences between life in Athens and life in Sparta. Under which form of government would students prefer to live? Why?

Language Arts, History, Art
MYTHing in Action
The stories of King Midas or Jason and the Golden Fleece are as popular today as they were thousands of years ago. Divide your students into small groups, assigning a popular myth from Greek folklore to each. Prepare a question sheet highlighting main ideas and significant plot events to guide reading and discussion. Encourage students to offer their opinions about what happens and why in their story.
Have each group prepare a script for a “Readers’ Theater” performance of their myth for the class. Note that even though all actors in the Greek theater were men, both boys and girls in their groups will be assigned a role in the cast or chorus for their play. Props, masks, and costumes, based on their specific story, may add to the festivities. Arrange classroom seats in a large circle or semi-circle with a center stage area to create the feeling of an open air Greek theater.

Research, Language Arts, Social Studies
The Nature of Heroism
Tales from the ancient Greeks generally connect heroism with physical strength and courage in confronting great dangers. Modern society, however, has recognized new kinds of heroes and different types of heroism. Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, actor Christopher Reeve, and astronaut Neil Armstrong have all been called heroes. What qualities do they possess? Who else in our modern world might be viewed as a hero in light of their spirit and contributions to contemporary life? Have students choose and research a person they believe to be a hero of our times and write a profile explaining what this person has done to deserve this status in his/her eyes.

Physical Education, Art
Let the Games Begin!
Allow students to experience the satisfaction of competition and good sportsmanship in their own Class Olympics. Create a flag displaying a symbol for your Olympic competition. Select events to be included. Make it fun! You might have three-legged races, sack races, Frisbee throws, egg-relays, or even a game of Greek hoops, just to name a few. Have students design medals with poster board and paint them gold, silver, and bronze to recognize winners in each event. Choose up teams, review game rules for each event, and let the games begin!


Prepared by Rosemary B. Stimola, Ph.D. She is a teacher of Children’s Literature at Hostos Community College/City University of New York and serves as educational and editorial consultant to publishers of children’s books.

Download a PDF of the Teacher's Guide
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