Mary Pope Osborne

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Mary Pope Osborne
Mary Pope Osborne at the White House Easter Egg Roll.jpg
The Osbornes read from American Tall Tales at the White House Easter Egg Roll, April 2007
Born Mary Pope
(1949-05-20) May 20, 1949 (age 66)
Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Period 1982–present
Genre Children's picture books, fantasy, myths and fairy tales retold, American biography and fictional diary
Notable works Magic Tree House series
Spouse Will Osborne

Mary Pope Osborne (born May 20, 1949) is an American writer of children's books. She is best known for the award-winning and bestselling Magic Tree House series, which has been translated into more than 30 languages and has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.[citation needed]


Osborne's first book in print was published 10 years before the first Magic Tree House entry.[1] That was Run, Run, As Fast As You Can in 1982,[2] a semi-autobiographical story of a young girl growing up in a military family, which was published by Random House Children's Books. She wrote several other books, mostly targeted to the youth audience.[3]

Magic Tree House series[edit]

Osborne's publisher suggested that she write a series.[3] She spent the next year on it, eventually hit upon a formula for a series of chapter books: protagonists 8-year-old Jack and his 7-year-old sister Annie. patterned on her own sibling relationships.[4] They live in the fictional, pastoral Frog Creek, Pennsylvania.[4] Desiring to make it a time-travel series, Osborne happened upon an old children's tree house that inspired the means.

In 1992, the first of the Magic Tree House stories, Dinosaurs Before Dark, was published. The book opens with the siblings finding a magic tree house filled with books near their home. Osborne casts Morgan le Fay, fairy sister of King Arthur, as the head librarian of Camelot. When Jack and Annie read one of le Fay's books, they are transported with a wish to its time and setting.[4][5] The book established the mold for future releases. Osborne followed with 27 more in the same pattern, changing little more than the setting and adventure. At #29, Osborne altered the series and renamed it the "Magic Tree House Merlin Missions". The books now featured missions assigned to them by Merlin the magician.[6] Osborne also aged the protagonists 2 years, although she has stated in interviews that she does not intend to age the characters any further.[7]

Osborne's writing style is credited for the popularity of the series. Osborne tends to small cliffhangers at the end of chapters, which have been highlighted as a major ingredient in the books' appeal with the target age group. The series is most commonly considered to be educational, both with the historical and geographical accuracy of its content and in its vocabulary.

The popularity of the series eclipsed that of Harry Potter as #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list in 2006.[8] The series has received honors from such organizations as the National Council of Teachers of English,[9] the American Booksellers Association[10] and the author received the Ludington Memorial Award from the Educational Paperback Association and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Random House Sales Force.[11]

The Magic Tree House brand has spawned several other products. A non-fiction companion series, the Magic Tree House Research Guides, was launched in 2000 to expand on the facts behind the Magic Tree House entries. Now known as Fact Trackers,[12] Osborne writes these with her husband and her sister Natalie Pope Boyce.[13] A full-scale musical adaptation was created by Will Osborne; Magic Tree House: The Musical, premiered in September 2007.[11] A planetarium show; "Magic Tree House: Space Mission", also created by Will Osborne, is produced and presented exclusively at the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.[14] In 2011, Will Osborne collaborated with legendary New Orleans composer Allen Toussaint and "Ain't Misbehavin'" co-creator Murray Horwitz to write "A Night in New Orleans", a musical adaptation of Magic Tree House #42: A Good Night for Ghosts. Audio and braille versions of the books are available[15] as well as companion programs aimed at educators using the books to illustrate history and writing skills.[16] However, Magic Tree House merchandise is rarely offered and usually for an educational purpose. For example, a small selection of T-shirts, bags, and pencils are available in support of Osborne's alma mater at the UNC Morehead Planetarium.[17]

Magic Tree House volumes 11 to 16 were all released during 1998. Otherwise about two volumes have been completed annually, through volume 51 released in January 2014, High Time for Heroes.[18]

Osborne has produced many non-fiction companions to particular Magic Tree House volumes, written primarily in collaboration with Will Osborne, and illustrated by the Tree House illustrator Sal Murdocca.

Other books (selected)[edit]

Mary Pope Osborne has written many books outside the Magic Tree House series.

  • Run, Run as fast as you can (Random House Children's Books, 1982)
  • The Deadly Power of Medusa (Scholastic, 1988), Will and Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Steve Sullivan
  • Jason and the Argonauts (Scholastic, 1988), Will and Mary Pope Osborne, illus. Steve Sullivan
  • Favorite Greek Myths (Scholastic, 1989), retold by Osborne, illus. Troy Howell
  • American Tall Tales (Knopf, 1991), retold by Osborne, illus. Michael McCurdy
  • Spider Kane and the Mystery under the May-apple (Knopf, 1992), illus. Victoria Chess — middle-grade chapter book, first of the Spider Kane series
  • Mermaid Tales from around the World (Scholastic, 1993), retold by Osborne, illus. Troy Howell
  • Haunted Waters (Candlewick, 1994), young-adult fantasy novel[18]
  • Favorite Norse Myths (Scholastic, 1996), retold by Osborne, illus. Troy Howell
  • Rocking Horse Christmas (Scholastic, 1997), illus. Ned Bittinger
  • Favorite Medieval Tales (Scholastic, 1998), retold by Osborne, illus. Troy Howell
  • Standing in the Light: the captive diary of Catharine Carey Logan, Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania, 1763 (Dear America series, Scholastic, 1998)
  • My Secret War: the World War II diary of Madeline Beck (Dear America, Scholastic, 2000)
  • My Brother's Keeper (My America series, Scholastic, 2000), first of three Virginia's Civil War Diary
  • Kate and the Beanstalk (Atheneum Books, 2000), picture book illus. Giselle Potter — adaptation of the traditional fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk"
  • Tales from the Odyssey (Hyperion Books, 2002 to 2005), illus. Troy Howell — six children's novels adapted from Odyssey[18]
Tales from the Odyssey (Hyperion, 2010), a two-volume edition


  1. ^ Barnes & - Mary Pope Osborne - Books: Meet the Writers
  2. ^ Run Run As Fast As You Can - , Osborne - Used Books
  3. ^ a b - Mary Pope Osborne
  4. ^ a b c Amazing Kids! eZine Interview: Julie Interview with Amazing Mentor! Mary Pope Osborne, children's book author and author of the Magic Tree House series
  5. ^ "Osborne, Mary Pope". Educational Book & Media Association. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2012. 
  6. ^ Picture This...Imagine That...READ!
  7. ^ Mary Pope Osborne - Authors - Random House
  8. ^ Children's Books - New York Times
  9. ^ Interviews with the 2000 CLA Breakfast Speakers: Mary Pope Osborne, Rosemary Wells, and Patricia Reilly Giff
  10. ^ ABA: Children's Fiction Series
  11. ^ a b Magic Tree House: The Musical
  12. ^ Kennedy, Elizabeth. "Spotlight on the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker Books". Retrieved 8 November 2012. 
  13. ^ Magic Tree House | Research
  14. ^ Morehead Planetarium and Science Center :: Magic Tree House Space Mission
  15. ^ Random House Audio - Browse & Search - Magic Tree House
  16. ^ Teachers@Random | Magic Tree House Classroom Club
  17. ^ "Magic Tree House Space Mission Merchandise". Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. 9 May 2006. Archived from the original on 27 August 2006. Retrieved 8 November 2012. 
  18. ^ a b c d Mary Pope Osborne at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2014-03-28. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  • Mary Pope Osborne. Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2006

External links[edit]