ISBN 0679863710 - Books in series for kids aren't new - Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, the Bobbsey Twins.. right on through to the Babysitters Club and Goosebumps - they've been out there for generations. This series, however, does seem to have a slightly younger target audience than most and that, in my opinion, is a very good thing. The younger they're hooked, the harder it is to give up the habit, and reading is a habit you want to encourage.
Jack and Annie are headed home from the library, wondering where Morgan and the Magic Tree House are and when she and it might return. Annie runs off into the forest and sees that it has returned! The only question is - where's Morgan? A note is found, along with a mouse, and the kids have the tree house whisk them away to Japan, sometime in the 14th-17th centuries, where they are meet ninjas and flee from samurai warriors and gather the first of four items they will need to rescue their friend. They return home in time for dinner, but they still haven't found Morgan!
I have a few problems with the book - for one, the kids go to Japan and meet some ninjas who speak fluent English. Or the kids unknowingly speak fluent Japanese. Either way, they're able to communicate without trouble. Jack makes small notes as he goes, like "ninjas were warriors in old Japan", but there's little effort made to delve too deeply into anything informative. Not that every book in the world needs to be educational, but it feels very much like a missed opportunity. Last is the obvious fact that book #5 comes nowhere near being complete, as Morgan is still missing. It's one thing to hope your readers will return for book #6, it's another thing altogether to split a story that way - whether it's a kids' book or a book for an older audience, every book should stand alone and allow a latecomer to the series to jump in at any point without feeling lost.
Still, I take only one star away for all of that because I think TMTH has tons of potential. This book was action packed, fast paced and full of exciting adventure and kids will enjoy that. What they enjoy, they will read! The prologue, to bring you up to speed, is a help. The back cover says RL 1.9, ages 6-9. I think the more likely audience age group is 5-7 and these chapter books would make an excellent jumping off point to learn about other cultures with Mom and/or Dad's help.
My son is 6 and getting into loving to read. When we came across this book series a few months back I never imagined that two little storybook characters would have captivated his imagination in the manner that Jack & Annie have. He can't wait to get each subsequent book in the mail. He has to read it right away, before he plays after school. Because he has to see what adventure they are on next. We love that the stories follow where the last leaves off so that it really seems like the series is a journal about these two's life, not just another book.