Friday, May 08, 2009

Brilliant! Moonlight on the Magic Flute by Mary Pope Osborne

"Now on your next mission, Merlin wants you to bring happiness to millions of people," said Kathleen."

"You must seek out a brilliant artist. Merlin wants you to put that artist on the right path" said Teddy, "to share his or her gift with the world."

When Annie spots Merlin's emissaries Kathleen and Teddy waiting for them at the edge of the Frog Creek woods, Jack and his sister know that they are about to take the Magic Tree House forth on another exciting "Merlin Mission." The two magical messengers tell Jack that the Wand of Dianthus, which they won in an earlier mission, will again serve them well.

"The Wand of Dianthus changes into a silver flute," instructs Teddy. "Just blow into the flute, and while one of you plays, the other must make up a song. Whatever you sing will come true."

Soon Jack and Annie find themselves elaborately bewigged, Jack dressed in knee breeches and Annie in an elaborate hoop-skirted ball gown, clutching an invitation from Her Imperial Majesty Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, for a gala performance and audience with the Queen herself in the Schoenbrun Palace. The date is October 13, 1762.

As they hitch a ride with a friendly coachman to the palace gate, a very small boy, attired in an elegant blue velvet suit and wearing a tiny sword, takes a liking to Jack and begs him to explore the palace grounds with him. Jack and Annie are polite to the talkative little boy, but feel they must hurry into the palace to to complete their mission.

Once inside, they join the line of guests waiting to be presented to the Empress. A helpful girl named Nannerle gives them instructions on how they must curtsy and bow to the Queen and her royal children and then back out of the chamber, always facing the imperial family. For Jack, however, things don't go well. His deep bow causes his unruly wig to fall off and in trying to retrieve it, he falls down, and his attempt to back out of the room gracefully ends with his smacking into the wall. Jack's embarrassment is increased by the giggles of the royal children, especially the annoying little boy in the blue suit who is sitting on the lap of the Empress herself. "Who is that fool?" giggles one of the princesses as Jack makes his red-faced escape.

As Jack tries to restore his dignity (and wig) and he and Annie begin to discuss how to locate the palace artists, they hear a familiar voice.

"Jack of Frog Creek!" came a high little voice. "I have been looking everywhere for you!"

"Hi," said Annie. "What's your name?"

"Wolfie!" cried the little boy with the sword.

Wolfie begs Jack and Annie to play with him in the palace gardens which beckon beyond the salon's doors, but they explain that they are on a mission to find a brilliant artist.

"Wait!" said Wolfie. I know someone who is very brilliant! ME!"

Fat chance, Jack thinks, and he and Annie try to slip away as Wolfie's big sister Nannerle shepherds him away to find their father.

"You know you have a big responsibility tonight," she says.

"No, No, No!" wails Wolfie. "I never get to PLAY!"

But as Jack and Annie begin to search the palace for resident artists, they hear a commotion and realize that Nannerle has lost her little brother. Coming to her aid, they reason that the little boy might have gone outside on his own to play, and the two venture out into the moonlit gardens to search for him. Strange animal sounds surround them, and when Jack encounters a huge bear, he realizes that mischievous Wolfie must have freed the wild animals from the Imperial Zoo. Pulling out the magic flute, Jack begins to play as Annie begins a song which mesmerizes the animals into following them through the dark woods. At last they find little Wolfie, frozen in fear before a wild leopard, but bravely brandishing his little sword. Annie continues to sing and leads the animals back into their enclosure, to Wolfie's delight. "Music is magic!" he laughs. "I love music!"

Back in the palace, Jack and Annie find their way to the Hall of Mirrors, where an important event seems to be about to take place. To their amazement they see little Wolfie approach the dais, bow to great applause from the crowd, and take his seat at the harpsichord, where he proceeds to play the song from Jack's magic flute beautifully.

Her Imperial Majesty stepped forward. "Thank you for your brilliant performance, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!" she said. "We have witnessed a great event here tonight. I know we will all remember it in the years to come when our young Wolfgang Mozart brings joy to all the world with his music!"

Mary Pope Osborne has not lost her touch in this new entry in her best-selling series, Magic Tree House #41: Moonlight on the Magic Flute (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)). Writing like a pro for her intended audience, Osborne continues to combine fantasy and historical information within kid-pleasing adventures perfect for beginning chapter readers. As her "More Facts about Mozart and His Time" addendum points out, the little Wolfgang did indeed climb into the welcoming lap of the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire and wow the crowd with his virtuoso keyboard talent, and like Jack in the final chapter, kids Googling Wolfgang Mozart will be delighted to learn that

"Mozart's last great opera was called The Magic Flute."

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