Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Doing Chores for Abe: Abe Lincoln At Last! (Magic Tree House #47) by Mary Pope Osborne

The third thing to break the spell
is a single feather from a hero's hand.
Use it wisely to give him hope--
the hope he needs to heal his land.

The Magic Tree House whisks Jack and Annie back in time on their third Merlin Mission, back to 1861 at a momentous time in the nation's history. On the brink of war with the southern states, Abraham Lincoln and his family have just moved into the White House. When Jack and Annie land in a tall tree, they see a crowd flocking into the President's House for a gala reception, many of the mob hoping to meet with the President and plead their own cases. Jack and Annie wonder how can they even find the President in such a clamor. Abe Lincoln is obviously the hero, but how do they find this mysterious feather, and how can it give him hope at this perilous moment in history?

But as they start down the rope ladder, they are attacked by a small whirlwind in the form of a little boy, a very bossy boy, and his gentle older brother.

"Hello!" the boy shouted when he saw Jack and Annie. "Who are you? Why are you in our tree house?"

"It's not your tree house!" said Jack.

"Yes it is!" the boy said confidently.

"Tad, hush!" said the older boy. "Don't mind my brother Tad!" he shouted.

"But it's ours!" Willie!" said Tad. "The White House is our house! And the tree house is in our yard! I'm coming up!"

But their meeting with the excitable Tad and his brother Willie turns out to be lucky for Jack and Annie, who do get a promise of a meeting with their dad Abe later when he goes for his daily ride. For insurance, though, Jack and Annie take a sip from the magic potion left for them in the tree house and make a wish to meet Lincoln and fulfil their mission.

But Jack and Annie find it hard to "trust the magic" as they suddenly find themselves in a forest, meeting a dirty, tousle-haired boy who calls himself "Sam" and promises to take them to Abe Lincoln when he finishes grinding his corn at the mill. Then, to their horror, Sam's horse kicks him in the head and they find themselves compelled to take him home on that same balky horse and try to do his chores while he rests his aching head. Chopping wood, getting water from a spring, milking Sam's cow and making cornbread for dinner turn out to be more than they can handle, but all ends well, as Sam's father returns from a long absence in Kentucky with a new wife and a wagon full of goods, including books for Sam to read. In gratitude for their help, Sam gives them his favorite quill pen and inkwell of blackberry ink.

Just as Sam begins to explain that he's been playing a prank on them, the magic ends and Jack and Annie find themselves hurled through time back to the lawn of the White House, where President Lincoln greets them warmly, saying he remembers them from the time when he was a boy and they helped him home and tried to do his chores.

"I spent the day with you once long ago," said the president. "And you vanished, right before my eyes, outside our log cabin in Indiana."

"You were Sam?" said Jack.

Lincoln smiled. "I haven't seen you since that day so long ago. And you haven't changed at all. Why have you come back?"

Jack realizes he knows how to answer, what to say to fulfil their mission, and taking the feather pen, he writes a message for the troubled new President.

Never lose hope. This land will live peacefully as one nation one day. With freedom for all. You have our word.

Mary Pope Osborne continues her best-selling beginning chapter series with her latest, Magic Tree House #47: Abe Lincoln at Last! (Random House, 2012), just in time to honor Lincoln on Presidents' Day, with a message of hope that is still good to hear today. For teachers and students doing research, there is as always a companion nonfiction title,
Magic Tree House Fact Tracker: Abraham Lincoln: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #47: Abe Lincoln at Last! (Random House, 2012).

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