The Trip to Japan Jack and Annie Took That You May Not Know About

Welcome back guys, and I figured that since I brought it up before, I decided to make a post focusing on my initial children’s book series of interest before Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Magic Tree House, as well as a little something about the series that American readers might not be aware of…


In case you don’t know, Magic Tree House centers on the adventures of siblings Jack and Annie Smith (to be honest, I just found out about these last names after doing a little research; I guess they were revealed after I stopped reading), who have distinct personalities. Jack is a timid bookworm who tends to be down-to-earth and sees the world as is, while Annie is a bold daydreamer who tends to be happy-go-lucky and sees the world as she sees fit. As a result, the combination of Jack’s realism and Annie’s imagination cause the two and only those two to see a tree house in the tallest oak of the woods in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania. They then learn that the tree house was not only filled with books, but it also possesses magical powers that, whenever they point to a place in a book and wish to go there, the tree house would do just that. From then on, they use the tree house to travel to any time and place in history that they wish, seeing fun in encountering knights, mummies and pirates where anybody else would see danger. They also learn that no time passes in Frog Creek as they travel, and that the tree house is a product of the magic of Camelot, of all places. Eventually, the two are sent on various four-book long missions by a benevolent Morgan le Fay and eventually, Merlin himself, that either concern themselves or Camelot at large.


I’m sure you can see why I loved (and still love) it so much, and series author Mary Pope Osborne as well. Inspired by her world travels that go back to her childhood, the series became massively popular for inspiring a passion for reading in children through Osborne’s clever writing style of using cliffhangers and spreading out arcs across every four books. But personally, I think that what ultimately got me so hooked on the series was how it also introduces kids to topics about history, the world and eventually fantasy in a really fun way. I was and still am a huge history and geography buff, so much so that one of my children’s book series will be all about that kind of thing. Although I stopped reading the books at #38, Monday With a Mad Genius, if my life ever gets a little less busy, who knows, I might take a nostalgia trip and catch up.

Eventually accompanying the books were a series of Research Guides that have since changed their name to Fact Trackers (which I personally consider to be a downgrade and less to the point of what they are, but that’s just me). These books, collectively written between Osborne, her husband Will and her sister, Natalie Pope Boyce, are more factual in nature and correspond to many of the original fantasy versions, intended to directly teach readers about the topics that just entertained them. I ultimately bought more of these than the actual books, a mostly subconscious decision on my part, but probably because again, my desire to learn about such topics ultimately won out. Osborne also made it clear what the Guides/Trackers were: not so much actual sources for research but a way to begin research, and recommended sources to do so were always provided at the end of each Guide/Tracker. So yes, I indeed have Osborne to credit for a couple of pretty decent history reports. 😉

Anyway, based on the title of this post, what trip to Japan do you think I’m talking about, anyway? Well, let’s see…after that skirmish with pirates, I do recall one trip to Japan…

Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 8.03.56 PM

No, not that trip…


Yeah, while the Poptropica island adaptation was fantastic (and reminded me why I love Poptropica so much), not that trip…


That’s right! I’m talking about this trip! Believe me, I was shocked as well when I first found out that Jack and Annie have been professionally drawn before in a not-so-true-to-life style, let alone in this adorably illustrated fashion by illustrator Ayana Amako, who takes over Sal Murdocca’s job and illustrates the books in Japan! It turns out that Magic Tree House has become something of a phenomenon over there, even more so than in the States. In case you don’t know why I’m not saying its arguable that the books are more popular in Japan, well…


Yeah, this was actually where I first found out about the Japanese publication: because it was adapted into a locally released anime film in 2011. Which basically means that the East capitalized on a Western brand before the West themselves did, though to be fair, the reverse tends to happen may more often. Nonetheless, it was pretty cool to see after a curious why-is-this-not-a-movie-yet search that Magic Tree House indeed got a film adaptation, even if it would not be too easy to find in the US, let alone dubbed or subtitled. There are some things to consider with Magic Tree House’s formula when it comes to an adaptation though, which I didn’t even think about until after I discovered this movie. Despite the arcs that Osborne develops over the course of every four books, the plots of the books themselves nonetheless feel self-contained in a somewhat similar vein to Goosebumps. As a result, Magic Tree House, ideally, works better as a television adaptation. So to see what approach the movie took with the material would be an interesting premise to read. It looked like it worked well enough, having adapted the original four-book arc (though strangely replacing the third book with the thirteenth?), and generally speaking, it seemed to be a decent movie.

All who are up for making a list of unrealized plush toys, say aye.

But then begged the question as to when Magic Tree House would find the same recognition at home, and for quite some time, there was…well, nothing. But then in February 2016, it was reported that Lionsgate had indeed picked up the film rights to the property for an upcoming live-action film adaptation, with Osborne and Will themselves set to executive produce, and they basically made my day. Already promising an unspecified number of films in a film series, the first film is set to adapt one of the best-known books in the series, Christmas In Camelot, which is notable as the turning point between the original 28 adventures with Morgan and the newer Merlin Missions series with Merlin. Although the official premise suggests an eyebrow-raising age shift…

Jack and Annie rediscover the tree house after having outgrown it and are summoned to Camelot to be its saviors.

I don’t even care, because if it’s the Osbornes’ vision, it has to be fine. Mary herself seemed pretty excited about it, too, and was clearly conscious of her choice of studio:

Lionsgate has an impressive reputation for working closely with content creators, respecting and protecting their vision, and making them part of the creative process. I’m thrilled to have partnered with them on bringing the Magic Tree House books to life in a series of films that kids, parents and grandparents will all get to enjoy together.

And the words of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-president Erik Feig suggest a good relationship between creator and maker as well:

We’re always looking for magical worlds to expand into potential motion picture franchises, and this is an iconic property that is beloved and recognizable around the world. The Magic Tree House books have been cherished by generations of readers, including my own children. We’re thrilled to bring the genius of Mary Pope Osborne’s iconic stories to the screen for their tens of millions of fans and to introduce a whole new audience to their magic.

So yeah, I’m just so excited for all this, just as I’ve always been excited about Jack and Annie and their world. Mary Pope Osborne just knows what she’s doing, just as she’s always done, and I so admire her for that. Now, if only I wish I could go to the time of which this movie is coming out. A book on cinema, anyone? 😉


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