Friday, August 26, 2011

Alpine Avalanche Adventure: Dogs in the Dead of Night (Magic Tree House #46) by Mary Pope Osborne

"His name is not Wild Dog, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always."
---Rudyard Kipling in The Just So Stories
Packing up for their usual school day, Jack and Annie are summoned by a desperate message from their magical friends Teddy and Kathleen. It is time for them to search out the second magical thing needed to restore Merlin's beloved penguin Penny to him, and this time their trip back in time takes them to the Swiss Alps in the early 1800s in search of the rare yellow glacial buttercup.

But finding a fragile flower seems an impossible assignment when their enchanted tree house sets them down in a howling Alpine snowstorm. Jack and Annie find themselves buried in a sudden avalanche until a team of huge shaggy dogs digs them out and a group of torch-bearing monks guides them to a monastery high in the Alps. Recovering with the help of the monks and the company of a rowdy young St. Bernard pup named Barry, Jack and Annie learn from the Abbot, Friar Laurent, that the flower they seek does indeed bloom briefly in the nearby Alpine meadows, but only when the snow has melted in the spring. To while away the time, Annie offers to help train the seemingly clueless Barry, who proceeds to escape the monastery into a blizzard and is soon in need of rescue himself.

Jack and Annie use the magic potion Teddy and Kathleen provided to turn themselves into a pair of rescue dogs and experience the thrill of running strongly through the storm and saving the lost themselves. When the potion's power fades and Barry is safely back where he belongs, Friar Laurent introduces them to the visiting Consul Napoleon Bonaparte and in the monastery's vaulted library shows all of them his life's work, a botanical catalog with many rare specimens--including the Ranuncululs glacialis, the "yellow flower" of their quest. Barry seems to have been matured by the experience into a promising rescue dog himself and with the feeling of having accomplished more than their original mission, Jack and Anne return to their Magic Tree House and home, just in time to head off to school.

Mary Pope Osborne's best-selling Magic Tree House series has a marketing magic of its own, as in this latest entry, Magic Tree House #46: Dogs in the Dead of Night (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)) (Random House, 2012), debuting this month, which has already taken its place among the top sellers. A touch of wizardry and a taste of European history, as presented in the appended "Author's Note" on the Napoleonic Wars and the history of St. Bernard's famous dogs, one of whom is always given the distinction of being named "Barry," make this adventure for early chapter readers educational as well as engaging fun.

As always, Osborne provides a companion study guide, now known as a Fact Tracker, titled Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #24: Dog Heroes: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #46: Dogs in the Dead of Night (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)). Children are guided in research on the original Barry and his successors as well as many other famous and not-so-famous heroic dogs of history.

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