A post by contributor Kim Allen-Niesen, co-founder of Bookstore People
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Many families are saving money by sharply curtailing their vacation budget, but that shouldn’t mean a summer without adventure. We spent a summer at home discovering our city through the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. Each book stars Jack and Annie, a sibling duo, who find a tree house that spins them to a new location and time with each book. Throughout the summer, we planned an excursion or activity that matched the subject of the book. When Jack and Annie traveled to the Cretaceous period, we went to a Natural History Museum. They met ninjas in ancient Japan; we ate sushi at a Japanese restaurant. The kids flew to old England to help Shakespeare stage a play; we attended an outdoor Shakespeare production. Revolutionary War on Wednesday perfectly compliments 4th of July celebrations.
As a bookseller, make the most of this series while helping financially strapped families enjoy local attractions. Take a moment to create a list of local excursions that could pair up with a book. Consider local museums and cultural festivals many of which offer kids programs in the summer. What better way to encourage “buy local” than to recommend a book and a family excursion in your hometown? The family will love you for helping plan the summer, the merchant will love you for recommending her venue, and you’re doing what booksellers thrive on—creating community.
No location for a theme, the Magic Tree House website has suggestions for every book, plus computer activities, perfect for the harried parent, just pass along the information. In any event, it isn’t necessary to plan something for every book, just enough to give families the idea that reading can be the source of fun for everyone. Here are some suggestions:
Dinosaurs Before Dark – Natural History Museum
Mummies in the Morning – Egyptian art in a museum
Night of the Ninjas – Shinto Temple, Japanese restaurant, Japanese grocery store
Afternoon on the Amazon – Conservatory or jungle type garden, zoo
Sunset of the Sabertooth – Natural History Museum with fossilized bones, zoo
Midnight on the Moon – any space exhibit
Dolphins at Daybreak – beach, aquarium, aquatic park
Ghost Town at Sundown – hoe down, square dancing, hay ride
Lions at Lunch Time – zoo
Polar Bears past Bedtime – zoo or aquatic park
Day of the Dragon King – Chinatown, Chinese restaurant or grocery store or cooking a Chinese recipe together
Tigers at Twilight – zoo
Revolutionary War on Wednesday – 4th of July celebrations
Stage Fright on a Summer Night – kid’s theatre production, Shakespeare production
Good Morning, Gorillas – zoo
High Tide in Hawaii – Gidget movie
Once kids start the series, they are addicted and read all 28 books. These are designed for beginning independent readers; just the age to enjoy reading alone and discovering the benefit of reading go beyond the book. The series is truly gender neutral, both boys and girls enjoy it. The books don’t have to be read in order, but there is a background story of Jack and Annie helping Morgan le Fay, King Arthur’s sister, create a library of books found throughout history. Some of the stories have accompanying Research Guides, so if a young customer loves a subject, direct her to the non-fiction companion.
Helping kids get hooked on the Magic Tree House series will sell books, encourage emerging readers by showing them that reading is more than the book, and gain the appreciation of the parents who you’ve helped to plan the summer.
Kim Allen-Niesen is co-founder of Bookstore People, a blog that reviews independent bookstores to encourage people to visit them and shop. In addition, books and various literary topics are discussed.