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 68)
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 author 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 130 million copies worldwide.[1]


Mary Pope Osborne has written over a hundred books for children. Her books have been named to a number of the Best Books of the Year Lists, including, School Library Journal, Parents’ Magazine, Publishers Weekly, the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Book and Bank Street College. She has received honors from such organizations as the National Council of Teachers of English, the Parents Choice Foundation, The American Bookseller Association, The Children’s Book Council, and the International Reading Association. She received the Ludington Memorial Award from the Educational Paperback Association, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Random House Sales Force, and the Heidelberger Leander Award, Germany, 2010, and the Minion Academy Global Literature Award, Japan, 2011, the 2015 Books-Ago-Go Literacy Award, and the 2015 Jupiter Award for Science Education. She has also received awards from the Boston Public Library, the Atlanta Public Library, The Carolina Alumni Association, the Virginia Library Association, and the Delaware Library Association; and in spring 2013 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Ms. Osborne is a former twice-elected president of the Authors Guild, the country’s oldest and most established organization for published authors. She has since traveled extensively in the states and throughout the world, visiting schools and speaking on issues related to reading and books. She has spoken at a UN event regarding worldwide literacy; and she has visited schools in the tsunami-hit area of Japan. In 2011, she attended the International Tokyo Film Festival for the premier of a Japanese anime based on the Magic Tree House series, which was the #1 children’s book series in Japan.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Magic Tree House series, Ms. Osborne created a Magic Tree House Classroom Adventures Program, as a gift to all the teachers who have inspired her for the last 20 years. Free of charge, the program is designed to energize a teacher’s entire curriculum and help raise reading scores. As part of the program, Ms. Osborne, in partnership with the First Book organization in Washington, DC, has donated hundreds of thousands of Magic Tree House books to underserved schools.

Ms. Osborne is also a strong supporter of children having access to theater arts. She herself benefited greatly performing onstage as a child and a young adult. “My imagination was set on fire by becoming involved with theater at a young age. The joy of “putting on a show” later extended itself into writing my own stories. To bring these two passions together has been a life-long dream.”


Mary Pope Osborne grew up in a military family, alongside her sister (Natalie Pope Boyce) and two brothers. [2]Her father's career required the family to travel rather extensively. By age 15, Osborne had lived in 13 different houses across several states.[3][4] Osborne herself says of the experience: "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." [5] After her father retired and her family stopped traveling, Osborne found in the local community theater that sense of adventure that she was missing.[5]

College Years and Traveling[edit]

Mary Pope Osborne initially studied drama at the University of North Carolina.[6] In her junior year, however, she switched to a major in religion, after she discovered "an even greater realm of adventure" in the worlds of mythology and comparative religion.[4]

After graduating from college, Osborne spent some time traveling again. For a while, she camped out in a cave on the island of Crete. Following this, Osborne joined a small group of Europeans heading to the East. Their journeys took Osborne through 11 different countries throughout Asia, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal.[4][5]

Writing and Publication[edit]

Osborne's travels and experiences have factored largely into her own writing.

Osborne's writing career began with Run, Run As Fast As You Can in 1982. Osborne began writing the book "one day, out of the blue", having had no previous writing aspirations. The book itself is semi-autobiographical in nature, according to Osborne: "The girl was a lot like me and many of the incidents in the story were similar to happenings in my childhood." [5] The book served as the starting point for Osborne's writing career, and she has since published many varied books for young readers.


Magic Tree House Series[edit]

Mary Pope Osborne is best known for her Magic Tree House series. Osborne originally planned to write only four books for the Magic Tree House series.[7] But after receiving letters from teachers and young students asking her to continue, she agreed to do four more. And then after writing these and meeting more young fans, she found herself immersed in the idea of continuing the series still further. To date, the series has gone far beyond these starting books, comprising 55 separate titles.

The first of the Magic Tree House books, Dinosaurs Before Dark, was published in 1992. It introduces the main characters of Jack and Annie, a brother and sister duo of adventurers. With the help of certain magical books and their treehouse, the two are transported to places and times different from their own.

The first book firmly established the mold for future adventures. It also introduced the recurrent Arthurian characters and settings of the series, which prominently included Morgan le Fay and Merlin. Morgan and Merlin serve as mentor figures for the kids, giving Jack and Annie advice as well as sending them off on new adventures.

Osborne's writing style is credited for the popularity of the series. Osborne tends to place small cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, which has been highlighted as one of the major reasons for the appeal of the books within their target age group. Another important factor in their success is the educational nature of the series. The books are cited for their historical and geographical accuracy, and Osborne’s usage of vocabulary encourages young readers to learn new words.

In 2000, the first of the Magic Tree House Research Guides (otherwise known as “Fact Trackers”) was released. Furthering the educational purpose of the main series, these pieces serve as companions to the main line of books. Each Research Guide specifically details the information and research behind the history described in its companion Magic Tree House book. They serve as tools to help kids to want to learn more about what might otherwise be seen as a stale subject.

The Research Guides are produced by Osborne primarily in collaboration with her husband, Will Osborne, and her sister, Natalie Pope Boyce.[3] As with the other books, these companion titles feature illustrations done by Sal Murdocca.

To date, 34 Research Guides have been published, in addition to and alongside the Magic Tree House books.

In addition, the Magic Tree House brand has taken on other forms. A full-scale musical adaptation was created by Will Osborne; Magic Tree House: The Musical, premiered in September 2007.[13] 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.[16] 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[17] as well as companion programs aimed at educators using the books to illustrate history and writing skills.[18] However, Magic Tree House merchandise is rarely offered, and even then usually only 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.[19]

The Magic Tree House series has received a lot of attention in years past and has received a number of accolades. The popularity of the series eclipsed that of Harry Potter as #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list in 2006.[10] The series has received honors from such organizations as the National Council of Teachers of English[11] and the American Booksellers Association[12]. In addition, Osborne received the Ludington Memorial Award from the Educational Paperback Association and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Random House Sales Force.[13]

Magic Tree House chapter books 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.[20]

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[8]
  • 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[8]
  • Tales from the Odyssey (Hyperion, 2010), a two-volume edition
  • Moonhorse (Dragonfly Books, 2010), chapter book[8]


  1. ^ "Author of Beloved Magic Tree House Series, Mary Pope Osborne, Donates 5,000 Children's Books to RIF". Reading Is Fundamental. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  2. ^ "Biography :: Mary Pope Osborne". Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  3. ^ a b "About the Series". Magic Tree House. Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  4. ^ a b c "Biography :: Mary Pope Osborne". Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  5. ^ a b c d "About Mary Pope Osborne". Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  6. ^ "Biography :: Mary Pope Osborne". Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  7. ^ "Transcript from an interview with Mary Pope Osborne". Reading Rockets. Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  8. ^ a b c 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]