“With my writing, I can still play inside an enchanted castle or live inside an old fort. I can run from ghosts or ride dolphins any day of the week.” – Mary Pope Osborne
Almost every 5 to 10 year old knows definitively who Jack and Annie are, and as my 6-year-old grandson Teo told me, “They go everywhere and do everything, and we do too.” Jack and Annie are the brother-and-sister protagonists created by Osborne, who was born on this day in 1949 and is best known for her award-winning, bestselling Magic Tree House series, translated into some 30 languages in 130 million copies worldwide.
The daughter of a career military man, Osborne lived in 13 houses around the globe before age 15 when her dad retired. "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." That led her to try Community Theater to rekindle that sense of adventure that she was missing.
“I continued to visit imaginary places … whether I acted in a play or worked backstage, the world of Tennessee Williams or Shakespeare always seemed more real to me than the dreary life of high school.” In her early 30s, “one day, out of the blue” she started writing a story that she had been thinking about. “It just came to me,” she said. The result was her first best-seller, the semi-autobiographical Run, Run As Fast As You Can, and she has never looked back. The first of her Magic Tree House books, Dinosaurs Before Dark, followed, introducing Jack and Annie who, with the help of magical books and their tree house, are transported to places and times different from their own.
Kids, of course, not only love the adventures but also are subliminally introduced to events, animals and people worldwide and from throughout history. “I discovered writing children's books was a way to keep living in my imagination like a child,” Osborne said. “ I could be somewhere different in every single book.”
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