Magic Tree House: Castle of Mystery
This is the second of Mary Pope Osborne’s historical adventure stories for 5-7 year olds. As before, it is a read alone book with black and white drawings and easy-to-read typeface, where Jack and Annie time travel with the aid of a magic tree house.
This time, Annie makes a wish to see a real live knight in armour on a horse. Instantly, they are whisked back to a castle. They cross the apparently unguarded drawbridge, go past a ‘hawk house’ and peep into the great hall where a feast is going on, complete with roast peacock. Then they find the armoury, where Jack gets stuck inside a helmet, and are discovered. They are thrown into a dungeon, escape, and find a secret stairway which leads from the storeroom up onto the ramparts. But even here they aren’t safe. They discover a hole to a chute leading straight to the moat. Both children fall down landing with a splash. They swim to the outer bank, pursued possibly by a crocodile, where a friendly knight on horseback saves them and takes them back to the Magic Tree House.
Sadly, the castle owes more to Disneyland than any real mediaeval castle. Many of the ‘facts’ Jack notes in his notebook are questionable. I checked with mediaeval historian, Dr Henry Summerson: there are no records of crocodiles in moats (apart from anything else, they’d die of cold); a ‘hawk house’ was called a mews; and he couldn’t identify the ‘opening in the stone floor’ of the ramparts which led to a chute. (It couldn’t be the garderobe which would be in a small room with an identifiable lavatory seat.) And a fall from the ramparts could well be fatal.
The writing’s lively enough but I can’t really recommend it – certainly not from an historical point of view.
Magic Tree House: Knight at Dawn