Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Alexander the Arrogant? Stallion by Starlight (Magic Tree House #49) by Mary Pope Osborne

It's summertime in Frog Creek, and the last thing Annie and Jack expect to see in their front yard is a penguin.

And that penguin looks familiar. It is Penny, the beloved pet of none other than Merlin the Magician, and instantly Jack and Annie suspect that the Magic Tree House is waiting in the woods to take them time traveling once again--guided by the wisdom of the librarian Morgan Le Fay and the magic of the wizard, Merlin.

Hurrying into the trees before someone asks why Jack is carrying a little penguin, they climb the rope ladder to discover Merlin waiting inside.

"Is something wrong in Camelot?" asked Annie.

"Let me tell you what is on my mind," said Merlin. "I have been thinking deep thoughts, pondering questions that wise men and women have pondered through the ages.  I have been wondering about the idea of greatness. What makes a person truly great?"

"Good question," said Jack.

"I cannot answer it myself, as I do not live in your world--the world of time and mortals," said Merlin.

"So, on each of your first four missions, you will meet someone who will help you learn a true secret of greatness. To begin, how would you like to meet Alexander the Great?"

Merlin provide a special vial of magical morning mist from Avalon which confers a chosen talent for one hour and a golden Ring of Truth which glows in the presence of true greatness. And before they can ask another question, Jack and Annie find themselves spinning away and settling down into a olive tree in ancient Macedonia.

Following a dusty road, they soon find themselves in a busy marketplace.  Macedonians don't seem to be a mellow lot--a group of bullies object to being spoken to by  Annie, a mere girl, and some blacksmiths are suspicious of Jack's note taking. Trying to hide out among a group of students, Annie and Jack discover that their teacher is none other than the philosopher Aristotle, who is intrigued with Annie's theory of planetary motion. Aristotle invites them to walk and talk with him on the way to the palace of King Phillip, where the two finally encounter his twelve-year-old son Alexander.  Can this be The Alexander?  Alexander the Great?

Jack and Annie are underwhelmed with Alexander, who is definitely no Alex the Awesome.  He's more like Alex the Arrogant.

"You said Hercules is a favorite hero of yours," the prince said. "Did you know he is my great, great grandfather?"
"Hercules?" asked Annie.
"Yes. And since he is a son of Zeus, I am a living Greek god myself," said Alexander. "I am the greatest living athlete in the world."
Jack rolled his eyes.

But there is one thing that the self-proclaimed world-class athlete Alexander proves unable to do--mount and ride the magnificent stallion Bucephalus. The huge war horse intimidates even the self-assured Prince of Macedonia.

Jack and Annie decide that now is the time to make use of Merlin's magical mist and turn themselves into the world's first and finest horse whisperers, tame the magnificent Bucephalus, and perhaps teach Alexander a little lesson on humility, in Mary Pope Osborne's latest, Magic Tree House #49: Stallion by Starlight (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)) (Random House, 2013). After forty-nine books, all best-sellers, Osborne's brother-and sister act is still finding intriguing times to visit and new lessons to learn about history. Veteran artist Sal Murdocca provides the pencil and charcoal drawings which give these gentle stories a nostalgic feel of times present and times past as the Magic Tree House continues to be the top of the heap in beginning chapter books.

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