The Author of the Mega-Bestselling Series in Her Own Words
by Alexie Basil
“Being a children’s book author is unbelievably gratifying. It involves all my favorite things: literature, old stories, the writing process, research, current events, human drama, history, animals, other cultures, digging up memories of childhood, and relating closely to wonderful kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and book editors.” —Mary Pope Osborne
Mary Pope Osborne is the author of the kid-favorite Magic Tree House chapter book series. We were curious to learn more about the bestselling author, so, like Jack and Annie, we whisked ourselves back in time and revisited some of Mary’s past interviews. Here are some of our favorite excerpts that we thought might interest you and your class.
Is Mary Pope Osborne more of a Jack or an Annie?
Jack and Annie may share a love for reading and adventure, but they’re also two very different people. Jack tends to be more of a scientist while Annie is more of an adventurer.
So which character is Mary most like? Turns out, she sees herself in both Jackie and Annie!
“I’m a little like Jack because I really love books and learning new things. I’m a little like Annie because I’m impulsive and I really love animals. I regret to say, though, that I’m not as smart as Jack, or as brave as Annie.”
Where does Mary Pope Osborne get ideas for her stories?
Mary has written more than 100 books—that’s a lot of ideas! Is there a secret to it? Here’s what Mary has to say:
“I get ideas from my own personal experiences, from my imagination, and from my research and from old stories. Here’s a fun suggestion: Choose a familiar fairy tale. Be a minor character in the tale and tell us the story from your point of view.”
Mary’s readers give her quite a bit of help too!
“Well, I’ve been doing this for 26 years, and so far I haven’t run out of ideas. Truly, it all starts with the kids. For many years I went all over the country, visiting schools, and I always urged students to share their suggestions for book ideas, and had them vote on their favorites. I’d say that the first 28 Magic Tree House books were inspired by kids.”
—From Publishers Weekly
It’s not a surprise Magic Tree House has become such an enduring classic with kid readers. As this review from Booklist states, the stories empower kids to explore and celebrate the power of learning through reading:
“Veteran storyteller Osborne builds the power of reading into the story: it’s the books in the tree house that give the kids the magic to travel and see far, far away.”
What plans did Mary Pope Osborne have for the Magic Tree House series?
In 1991, when Mary wrote Dinosaurs Before Dark, she only planned for there to be four books in the Magic Tree House series! Four books became eight, and then 12, and then Mary realized how much potential the series really had.
So what made Mary change her mind? Readers!
“The four books came out and suddenly something happened to me that had never happened before—I started getting letters from teachers and from kids and parents. I’d never gotten letters like these before. Where I thought these were my simplest work and not my most artistic work—these letters were phenomenal in terms of how a kid learned to read in the books or how a kid wanted more of the books. The child would send me their own Magic Tree House story. All these interesting things start coming in.”
—From Reading Rockets
Which books and authors inspired Mary Pope Osborne when she was young?
“I had several favorite books growing up—Uncle Wiggly books, the Little House on the Prairie books, Nancy Drew mysteries, and a big book of Bible stories. All of these and others kindled my love of reading and helped me develop a self. Books still do that for me today. I’m actually addicted to books. I probably have at least 2,000 of them. At least 10 or 20 are stacked on a nightstand at any time. Even when I travel, I take a small number to keep by the hotel bed.”
—From Comics Beat
And finally, why does Mary Pope Osborne love reading?
At Scholastic, we work hard every day to help teachers instill a love of reading in their students so that they will become lifelong readers. As a lifelong reader herself, Mary knows that finding books that bring readers joy is key.
“If you love to read, you’ll eagerly seek out books and get lost in them. And if you do this, you’ll never be bored or lonely. You can fill every empty hour with adventures, new information, and food for thought. A love for reading will ignite curiosity and connect you to the world. It will give you friends, heroes, villains. It will populate your mind with dramas that sometimes end up feeling more like your life than your real life. I can’t imagine a life without reading. I’d shrivel up and die.”
—From The Well-Read Child
Mary Pope Osborne is the author of the New York Times number-one bestselling Magic Tree House series as well as co-author of the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker series, along with her husband, Will, and her sister, Natalie Pope Boyce.
Writing children’s books was a perfect career for Mary because she could travel all over the world, but be back home in time for dinner. She has written almost a hundred books, including biographies, mysteries, picture books, novels, and retellings of fairy tales and world mythology.
With Jack and Annie of the Magic Tree House series, Mary has traveled through time, from the prehistoric land of dinosaurs to the imaginary world of Camelot. But one of the greatest adventures of Mary’s writing life is the creative journey she takes with her readers, meeting them in person in schools and bookstores and reading the wonderful stories and letters they send. This, Mary says, is true magic.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs