I’m pumped to be returning to The Magic Tree House series. Don’t get me wrong Sweet Valley High provided a truly special experience, and I have no doubt we’ll be returning to that series, but it was shockingly dense for such a short book. So before diving into the corners of E.L. James’ imagination that are greedier than Eva’s cunt, let’s just enjoy some good old fashioned fun with Abe Lincoln!
The prologue helpfully reminds us where Annie and Jack are from, that they’re brother and sister, and most importantly that they found a tree house that they quickly realized was magical and could transport them to any place or time. It’s never explicitly stated, but these are the most blasé kids in the history of the world. “Oh you mean my tree house is magical? That’s cool as shit.”
Because we’ve skipped quite far ahead to book 47, it seems like there’s quite a bit we’ve missed.
Jack and Annie have since gone on many adventures in the magic tree house and have completed many missions for both Morgan le Fay and Merlin the magician of Camelot. On some of their journeys, Jack and Annie have received help from two young enchanters, Teddy and Kathleen, who are learning magic from Merlin and Morgan.
Okay so it looks like we haven’t missed very much –
Now Teddy is in big trouble. While Merlin and Morgan were away, Teddy accidentally put a spell on Penny, Merlin’s beloved penguin. The spell turned her into a stone statue.
WHAT THE FUCK? What was Teddy thinking? What kind of spell was he even trying to cast? Where did Merlin and Morgan go? Are they a thing? Why did Merlin entrust Teddy with his penguin? Why does Merlin have a penguin? That can’t possibly be cannon!!!
So in order to prevent Teddy from being banished from the kingdom for the shocking crime of turning a pet penguin into a statue, Jack and Annie have to locate “four special things – each from a different time and place.” These four things can be used for another spell that can undo the damage caused by Teddy. I do not have a very good impression of this person, you guys. [Matthew says: For instance, what’s HE doing to help? Also, what’s Merlin doing that they have so much goddamn time to fix this? I NEED ANSWERS FOR THE PLOT HOLES IN THIS CHILDREN’S BOOK ABOUT A MAGIC, TIME-TRAVELING TREE HOUSE.]
We get a progress report on the status of this mission:
They have already found two of these things: an emerald in the shape of a rose and a white and yellow flower.
…A white and yellow flower counts as a special thing? Like they couldn’t just go to a florist in Pennsylvania in their respective time period and find this?
So now they’re just waiting to find out what they need to search for next. Which means Teddy somehow knew they needed four special objects but had no clue what those objects were? Seems legit.
Chapter 1: The Third Thing
I guess we’re not fucking around, it’s time to find the third thing, and judging by the title of this book one would assume it’s something special like Abraham Lincoln’s beard or his hat. Going by the previous two objects, though, it’s most likely to just be a leaf that the kids had to travel through time and space to find.
Annie shows up in Jack’s room a couple hours before school starts and asks if he’s ready, and they start sneaking out of the house. According to my Kindle, 16 people have highlighted this sentence:
Jack and Annie put on their jackets and shoes and stepped outside. The early-morning sky was gray. Everything was quiet, except for the sound of a gentle spring rain.
I know this is a children’s book and that gorgeous prose isn’t going to be one of its literary merits, but this strikes me as abysmally low standards. They may as well highlight any weather related sentence this series has – “The wind howled outside as the storm raged on.” “HIGHLIGHT THAT SHIT!”
The rain clears up as the kids reach the tree house. Jack is happy to see that the first two special objects are still in the tree house. I mean, I guess the emerald might be tempting to the particular breed of robber that exclusively targets magical tree houses, but I can’t imagine anyone would be interested in stealing that fucking white and yellow flower. ISN’T IT JUST A DAISY?
For some reason this next goddamn sentence was also highlighted a noteworthy amount of times:
Jack picked up the book. Its cover showed an old black-and-white photograph of a building. It looked like the White House in Washington, D.C.
So we’re just highlighting any and all basic statements at this point? “Jack was happy to be back in the tree house.” “GOD DAMN THIS IS A MASTER PIECE. HIGHLIGHT AGAIN.” [Matthew says: Somehow our little break reading a silly children’s book has turned into an observation on the bizarre way reading has turned into a social media experience in the 21st century. Bring this up at your next cocktail party!]
Jack basically jizzes himself when he realizes that the book is about Abraham Lincoln…at last.
The kids sift through some super ambiguous clues provided by those dicks Teddy and Kathleen. I’m sorry but if you want people to help you undo your fuck up, why are you providing them with riddles? When I ask my husband to do me a favour and go to the grocery store, I do not give him a riddle in lieu of a shopping list because I am not a common bridge troll. [Matthew says: Although now I kinda think that you should, Ariel.]
The third thing to break the spell is a single feather from a hero’s head. Use it wisely to give him hop – the hope he needs to heal his land.
Not only do Jack and Annie hold the fate of a pet penguin in their hands (and that asshole Teddy, I guess), but the fate of America? Those are higher stakes than 90% of the books we read on here, I’ll give them that.
Jack and Annie try to figure out what the clue means, and Annie is like, “Our missions never make any sense until the book is almost over, so just be patient Jack.”
Teddy and Kathleen also sent “a small blue bottle” with instructions to “Take a sip. Make a wish for one thing to help you on your mission. Remember: Trust the magic.”
Okay, as a rule we should not be encouraging children to drink bottles with weird inscriptions that they found left in a tree house. [Matthew says: …so why don’t they just wish for the feather?]
They point to their book, make the wish to go there and the magic tree house whisks them away.
Chapter 2: Pirate Captain
What the? But Abe Lincoln…at last. [Matthew says: More like “Abe Lincoln, Not Yet!”, am I right?]
The chapter opens with a description of Jack and Annie’s clothes, which again is being fucking highlighted by everyone and their mother.
Anyway, Annie and Jack landed really close to the White House, and they try to formulate a plan to meet Abe Lincoln
at last. They get distracted when some kids notice their tree house. Apparently, the tree house belongs to these two kids? I’m so confused, is the magic tree house going undercover as another tree house? Holy shit, the magic tree house is part of the CIA!
The boy, Tad, who is whining about it being their tree house, actually clarifies and says that because the White House belongs to him and his brother and the tree house is near the White House, it must be theirs. [Matthew says: There’s some great dialogue where Jack opens the book and reads that, at the time, the White House was “considered to belong to all the citizens of the country”, and thus debates with Tad that “this tree house is not like the White House [and] it doesn’t belong to the citizens of the country”, like that one kid in the freshman dorm who’s TOTALLY going to law school and can totally get us all out of this jam, you guys.] His brother Willie is a little more reasonable, but he can’t stop Tad from doing something crazy!
Tad scrambled into the tree house. He grinned at Jack and Annie, his dark eyes gleaming. “I’m a pirate captain, and I’m taking over your ship!” Tad shook his small fists in Jack’s face. “Fight me!” he shouted.
That moment was really not worth naming a whole chapter after.
“I’m Annie. And this is my brother, Jack.”
Tad lowered his fists. “Oh! Hello, Annie, I’m Tad.” He put out his hand, and Annie shook it. “Pleased to meet you,” said Tad, completely dropping his role as pirate captain. “What are you and Jack doing today?”
…The fuck is wrong with this child?
Tad offers to get them to the president, and Jack agrees to go with him so they can get him away from the tree house and the Lincoln book. It’s a plan, I guess.
Chapter 3: Hide! Hide!
Tad and Willie lead Jack and Annie to the White House, and keep alluding unsubtly to the fact that they’re the president’s kids.
“Make way!” shouted Tad as he squeezed through the crowd. A few women squealed. Their hoopskirts rocked and swirled.
“Stop, Tad!” said Willie, grabbing his brother. “Calm yourself!”
No kidding! thought Jack. He liked Willie a lot, but Tad was too wild and unpredictable.
Slow your roll, Jack, you met both of them thirty seconds ago. [Matthew says: I like how Jack made similarly rash character analyses back in the first book, but for dinosaurs.]
Tad continues to be completely absurd, which makes him my favourite character in this book. At one point he just runs into a room and starts bashing on the piano keys. Who knows what he’s gonna do next!
Jack and Annie split up when Willie takes Annie to meet a woman (we don’t know who yet), and Tad takes Jack to meet the president.
Things take a turn for the even weirder:
“You are crazy,” Jack whispered. “Move! I’m leaving! Before we get caught!”
Suddenly Tad groaned and fell to the floor. “Tad?” said Jack.
He bent down to check on him. “Tad, are you—”
Tad grabbed Jack’s arm and pulled him to the floor, just as the dressing room door opened! “Hide! Hide!” Tad whispered. He scrambled under the big wooden bed. Jack frantically crawled after him.
Someone steps into the room BUM BUM BUMMMM.