Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie! A Perfect Time for Pandas (Magic Tree House #48) by Mary Pope Osborne

Dear Jack and Annie,

We haven't finished translating the last lines of the secret rhyme to reverse the statue spell Teddy cast on Penny. But we do know the fourth object we need to break the spell. It is

A healthy food, grainy and good
baked with love, tough as wood,
round in shape, the color of sand
given to those who have lost their land.

Once you have found the last object, please hurry to Camelot. Morgan and Merlin will return by break of day tomorrow.
--Teddy and Kathleen

Things are going critical in Camelot. If Jack and Annie are going to help Teddy break the spell on Merlin's beloved Penny the Penguin, they must find the last object needed for the release spell to succeed. And to find it, they must use the waiting Magic Tree House with its time-traveling guide and potion to journey to southwest China.

Jack and Annie are happy to find themselves in modern China, 2008 to be exact, where their jeans, tees, and backpacks fit right in with the kids around them hurrying to school in Wolong Town. The serious-minded Jack tries to steer his adventurous little sister to the town's restaurants, where he hopes someone will identify the mystery food described in the riddle, but when the impetuous Annie discovers they are near a giant panda preserve, she insists that they rent mountain bikes and make the trip up Sleeping Dragon Mountain to see the pandas first.

At the Wolong Panda Preserve, Jack and Annie tag along with a friendly older American tourist, pretending to be her grandchildren, suit up in volunteer coveralls, and meet Bing-Bing, a friendly adult panda and watch the young pandas playing in "Panda Kindergarten," and even the sober Jack is enthralled with the appealing animals. Still, Jack is worried about their search.

"How did this happen?" said Jack. "We should be working on our mission. Not stuck in a cage picking up panda poop!"

But the date is May 12, 2008, the morning of the catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan, and the Sleeping Dragon Mountains which surround Wolong begin shake and send an avalanche down on the kids not long after they leave the preserve. Although the road is blocked with boulders and downed trees, Jack uses Kathleen's short-lived magic potion which enables him to grow to the size of a two-story house, and lifting Annie to his shoulders, he reluctantly agrees that they must return to the preserve to offer help to the panda scientists Dr. Ling and Master Lee. Luck is with them there, where they recover Bing-Bing hiding and locate three missing panda cubs, and Jack is amazed when Dr. Ling begins to feed the hungry panda a special bamboo flour panda bread--hard as wood, grainy, and the color of sand. Jack realizes that in helping the pandas as Annie insisted, he has also found the one thing to complete their mission.

Annie smiled at Jack. "Remember--things always seem to work out when we just do the next right thing," she said.

"Funny how that works," said Jack.

Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House #48: A Perfect Time for Pandas (Random House, 2012) is amazingly as exciting and informative as her preceding titles in this deservedly best-selling series. Osborne doesn't miss a beat as she combines information with fantasy adventure in a fast-paced and highly readable beginning chapter books just right for its intended readers. Pair this one with her companion study guide Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #26: Pandas and Other Endangered Species: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #48: A Perfect Time for Pandas (Random House, 2012) for a perfect primary/early middle grade introduction to these fascinating animals.

Oh, yes, and with the four powerful objects Jack and Annie have garnered from this and the previous three books, Teddy is able to release Penny the Penguin from statue-hood just in time for the return of Morgan and Merlin to Camelot, and Jack and Annie are back in Frog Creek just in time to make it to school! Whew!

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