Dinosaurs BEFORE Dark? That’s Just Madness: Magic Tree House #1 Chapters 1-3

If you’re anything like Matt and me, sometimes as much as we love mocking books like Fifty Shades or Beautiful/Walking Disaster, we need a bit of a palate cleanser before starting the next truly awful series, as Matt so eloquently put it when we were discussing the BBGT calendar. [Matthew says: I’m all about being fancy.] It’s hard to imagine our lives post The Disasters. But at least we have Wedding Disaster  (I refuse to refer to it as anything else) to one day “look forward” to.

Anyway, in the past we’ve had a lot of fun writing about the Goosebumps books on Halloween, so we thought we’d tackle another beloved series from our childhoods – The Magic Tree House books!

"Cover of the book Dinosaurs Before Dark"


Where did the tree house come from? Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark… or will they become a dinosaur’s dinner?

I think my favorite part of the summary is the implication that if they somehow manage to make it home before dark that’s the only way they’ll avoid being eaten by a dinosaur. It’d be like if  I said, “Will I catch the bus home on time tonight… or will I get hit by a car?”

Chapter 1: Into The Woods


We open with a shot of Jack and Annie looking adorable and carefree. Little do they know they’ll soon be racing the clock to get home before dark (and becoming a dinosaur’s dinner obviously) thanks to magical treehouse with questionable motives. Seriously, I wouldn’t leave my kids alone with this treehouse.

Annie starts pretending that a monster is after her and Jack as they head home together. Jack is having none of this because he’s eight and a half and Annie’s seven, so he’s not dicking around anymore. [Matthew says: The actual line in the book is “Jack was eight and a half. He liked real things.” Wait until you learn what rent in New York City is, Jack. Then let’s see how much you like real things.]

For some reason, Annie races into a nearby forest, ignoring Jack’s protests. We’re only a page into the book, and they already find the treehouse – like Jack, Mary Pope Osborne isn’t fucking around.

“Come here!” called Annie.
There she was. Standing under a tall oak tree. “Look,” she said. She was pointing at a rope ladder.
The longest rope ladder Jack had ever seen.

And Jack had seen some fucking long rope ladder in his time. Jack is just your usual jaded, grizzled eight year old boy.

He expresses suspicion over who built this treehouse, and I have to say, seriously good call, Jack. This sounds like the makings of a horror movie now that I’m reading this with adult eyes. Here we are teaching kids not to take candy from strangers, but why aren’t we teaching them to avoid random treehouses hidden in a forest? [Matthew says: Jack makes an understandably big deal about how this treehouse has appeared out of nowhere, but their mom shows up later to call them down from the treehouse, which she is apparently much less concerned about.]

Annie climbs what is allegedly the largest tree in the world in about two seconds and insists Jack join her just for a minute. One minute you’re just climbing a mysterious, ominous treehouse and the next you’re running from dinosaurs. Kids never learn.

Jack is a sensible guy, so how is Annie going to get him to climb the tree? By telling him the treehouse is full of books! Well, if it’s not candy up there, I guess it’s perfectly safe.

Chapter 2: The Monster

Wow. The treehouse was filled with books. Books everywhere. Very old books with dusty covers. New books with shiny, bright covers.

This description makes E.L. James look like a master of her craft. I know this is a children’s book, but that is a piss poor description.

What kind of fascinating book do you think Jack is going to pick out of the pile?

“Here’s a book about Pennsylvania,” said Jack.

I get that the kids live in Pennsylvania, and they’re excited that the town they live in is mentioned in this book, but he may as well have said, “Here’s a book about wallpaper.” I can say that because I grew up in PA and then went to college in another part of PA, and let me tell you, I would never start a sentence with, “Here’s a book about Pennsylvania.”

Okay, luckily, the kids do spot books about dinosaurs and knights, and this intrigues them. Jack tries to resist the call of the books because they don’t know who these books belong to.

Jack opened the dinosaur book to where the bookmark was. He couldn’t help himself.

Oh my! I didn’t realize these books would be so titillating.

[Matthew says: Jack looks at the book, sees a picture of a Pteranodon, touches the picture, and says he wishes he could see one for real. This will become important later. Actually. There’s not a whole lot to keep track of, here.]

What happens next baffles me. They look out the window and see this:


But the thing is, they’re not in prehistoric times yet; they’re transported right after this happens. DA FUQ?

Chapter 3: Where Is Here?

[Matthew says: Let’s all take a moment to put ourselves in the shoes of someone in this book’s intended age group reading that chapter title, and just imagine how fucking deep it must be.]

Annie and Jack try to wrap their heads around what just happened. Jack wished to see the dinosaur in the book and now suddenly here they are. [Matthew says: It’s a good thing they didn’t pick up a copy of, like, 1984 or something.]

Annie decides to go talk to the dinosaur to try to figure out what’s happening because apparently that’s the best plan they can come up with. They’re young, so I’ll let this one slide.


That’s all that happens in this chapter. That dinosaur looks like it’s two seconds away from chowing into Annie. Tune in tomorrow to find out if he does! Hint: he doesn’t, but seriously, look at his face.



  1. Bellomy Reply

    Osborne cuts right to the chase, huh? Fuck explanations or exposition, DINOSAURS.

    In fairness, this actually is a pretty compelling start to a book.

    (By the way, does anybody think that this whole “Wedding Disaster” book thing sounds suspiciously like the concept behind the final season of “How I Met Your Mother”? For those keeping score at home, this is a VERY BAD thing.)

  2. graceless Reply

    Oh no, I actually liked these when I was a kid! I thought they were the bomb, now I’m a little scared that after going through it with you guys I’ll never think of them the same way again.

    • matthewjulius Reply

      fear not! we’re not tearing them apart like we do most of the books on our blog – that wouldn’t be fair or fun since these were written for children. it’s rather just more fun to revisit them as adults and see just how silly they actually were.

      • 22aer22 Post authorReply

        I loved them too (I also loved the shit out of Goosebumps and actually once fought with a dear friend over who got to read Night of the Living Dummy first since the library only had one copy.) Like Matt said, this is much more good natured and silly before we tear into something for real.

  3. E.H.Taylor Reply

    I’m glad you’re doing these books in a ‘look how silly these are now’ type way. These were some of my first books and so I like revisiting them.
    I’m just relieved because I know Nancy Drew had been brought up as a possibility at one point and I would have had to defend those books because I still love reading them! haha.

    • 22aer22 Post authorReply

      It’s weird but I enjoy poking fun at things I love/used to love. LIke Supernatural is and will always be one of my favorite shows ever, but when someone makes fun of it in a way that is totally accurate it makes me laugh insanely hard because it’s like, “wow they’re right, it is really fucking ridiculous” or whatever. I think it’s just a matter of how you approach it. Like I think Magic Treehouse is a fantastic series for kids, but looking at it with adult eyes is hilarious. The treehouse is so much more menacing to me now 😉

  4. Dana Reply

    These were literally the only books I read when I was a little kid. I got the hard-covered ones and everything. I’m pretty sure I thought Mary Pope Osbourne was the best writer in the world at the time. I was just like, “whatevs. Fitzgerald and Kafka got nothing on her.” There was, like, fifty books in this series. Why would you bother reading anything else?

  5. Taylor Reply

    “Jack is just your usual jaded, grizzled eight year old boy.”
    AND A HALF, Ariel. And a half. Leaving that out is like leaving out the B in Junie B. Jones.

  6. Kehdece Reply

    Ahahah I like the comment about how fortunate it is they didn’t pick up a copy of 1984.
    That’d make for a much stranger, and probably shorter novel.
    It’s fun to imagine other books they could’ve ended up in…
    Lord of the Flies would be pretty messed up.
    They’d start out playing on an island with some other kids, and then before you know it they’re all hating on Piggy, and their perspective of mankind has changed forever.
    OhGod I got cynical there…
    That might even be too “real” for Jack.


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