A follow-up to the fretting I was doing about Dylan’s homework struggles: things are better. I think the routine of it is settling into place a bit, and I think it’s been helpful that Riley finally has some daily homework as well (apparently the entire fifth grade was waiting for an IXL.com site license to get funded) so a sense of fairness seems to have returned to Dylan’s brotherly-competition universe.

The head-down battles over the math worksheets have mostly disappeared, but it’s the reading improvements I’m most excited to see. He no longer needs help with his response journal, and thanks to a newfound love for a certain set of chapter books — chapter books! Not picture books! This is a big deal! — he’s actually doing some reading on his own now, with no prompting.

Now, I honestly don’t care what books he chooses, as long as he gets some enjoyment from reading. That said, I suspect some of you may commiserate with the fact that the series that seems to have flipped some switch for him where no other did is … Magic Tree House.

There are 1,900,000 Google results for “I hate Magic Tree House.” I checked. Probably because there are a zillion of these books, so if your kid likes them there’s no end in sight, and every story goes like this:

JACK and ANNIE sneak out of their house because they have no adult supervision. The tree house starts to spin, then — say it with me, you know this phrase is permanently lodged in your brain — everything is still, absolutely still.

ANNIE: Yay let’s go!

JACK: Oh gosh I don’t know jeez wow have we considered all the various dangers?

ANNIE: I have no impulse control and am already doing the thing.

JACK: I should consult the book, so something vaguely educational can happen. Then I’ll write a sentence in my notebook in order to promote braininess as a good thing even though I am a nerd caricature down to the glasses I am forever pushing up my nerd face.

ANNIE: Wow check out this scene which is meant to be historically accurate!

JACK: I am intrigued, yet I am still a giant pussy.

ANNIE: O no some conflict is happening

JACK: Good thing I read the one part of the book that contained the relevant information to help us extract ourselves from this worrying situation. Should we also use teamwork?

ANNIE: Yay, teamwork! I love teamwork almost as much as sentence fragments!

JACK: Your enthusiasm continues to underscore what a damp towel I am. BTW according to the book the invention of the towel is commonly associated with the city of Bursa, Turkey in the 17th century.

:: fin ::

Anyway, I do not love these books but I sure love that he loves them. Also, as someone who recently paid actual U.S. dollars to watch a piece of pita bread get a rimjob from a bagel, I’m pretty sure I can’t judge anyone’s choice of entertainment.


24 Responses to “Reading rainbows”

  1. brooke on November 16th, 2016 11:44 am

    So true! My son is just learning to read chapter books and these are his book of choice! Could those two kids be anymore annoying? Only if by chance they ran into Caillou, in one of their adventures:). You nailed it!!!

    I will say it again, so Glad you are back on your blog!!!!

  2. Pete on November 16th, 2016 11:56 am

    I still have to get out and watch that movie.

  3. erica on November 16th, 2016 11:57 am

    Oh my goodness you are so spot on with the plot! Howling! My one ‘hooray’ for Magic Treehouse is that you can plow through one in a couple of days and be done with it!

  4. Jennifer on November 16th, 2016 12:38 pm

    It could be worse: don’t let them get started on Captain Underpants.

  5. Jen on November 16th, 2016 1:10 pm

    I am crying laughing! I can’t count the number of times I thought “ugh that’s not even a proper sentence” when I used to read them out loud to my oldest because he has surprisingly never minded not having pictures. FWIW, I found my oldest quickly moved on from those once he gained enough competency and interest in reading chapter books. Now he reads books that are well beyond his comprehension but I don’t even care because he is quiet for hours just reading.

  6. Emily on November 16th, 2016 2:03 pm

    I loved the Magic Tree House books! Formulaic yes but nothing compared to the insipid Magic Fairy crap my daughter liked to read. Also not sure about your kids school but they actually learned about some historical events reading them.

  7. Melanie on November 16th, 2016 2:18 pm

    Ugh I Hate IXL so much. It’s a carefully designed trap to keep kids’ confidence in math at the lowest it could possibly be

  8. Grace on November 16th, 2016 3:12 pm

    Haaaaa, yep, that’s exactly how they go! Loved your rendition–it was like Mystery Science Theater for the Magic Tree House. XD

  9. Kate on November 16th, 2016 8:39 pm

    Hah. Perfectly described. Magic Tree House books are unreadable. I was so happy when my first kid moved on, only to have her encourage my second kid to get into them. He still loves them, but thankfully he’s diversified.

  10. Brenna Jennings on November 17th, 2016 4:48 am

    I so look forward to the day when math sheet hour doesn’t look like post-election Facebook.

  11. Lee on November 17th, 2016 6:59 am


    I was SO glad when my 2nd kid was “meh” about all the 30 MTH books my first kid had amassed.

  12. Aubrey on November 17th, 2016 7:16 am

    My girls loved them when they learned to read and quickly discovered that they’re the same story over and over again, so they got over it in less than 6 months. My youngest still returns to them when she wants something “brainless,” but that is happening less and less now.

  13. Mary Clare on November 17th, 2016 9:05 am

    Rainbow magic books are similarly formulaic. My daughter hasn’t unfortunately hasn’t embraced some my childhood favorites, Still reading with her at bedtime is my favorite part of the day!

  14. Annie on November 17th, 2016 10:46 am

    Please please write a review of Sausage Party…. It will be as good as the movie!

  15. Courtney on November 17th, 2016 10:52 am

    OMG Magic Tree House books are the effing WOOOORST. There’s so many of them! The choppy sentences, inane plots, the “magic” that helps them get out of danger at the last second. And all! the! exclamation! points!

    I seriously read one where they zipped themselves into seal suits so they could magically swim underwater to find … the key to happiness? Or something? And I get that they’re supposed to teach kids about history but it’s so surface-level it’s barely worth it. They do keep my kid occupied for ages, though, so–there’s that.

  16. KeraLinnea on November 17th, 2016 11:13 am

    Since you’re the only person I know with kids in the right age range, I’m gonna take this opportunity to plug my favorite kids book:

    There’s a whole series of five books,called the Chronicles of Prydain,and they get more mature as it goes on, kind of like the Harry Potter books did. Dylan might be a little young for them yet, but they should be right up Riley’s alley, if he’s at all interested in sword and sorcery type stuff.
    I read these for the first time when I was 9 or 10, and I re-read them about once a year. I love them so much.

  17. Andrea on November 17th, 2016 6:36 pm

    Maybe the MT books will just be the spark that encourages him to broaden his horizons. I couldn’t stand the Captain Underpants series, but my reluctant reader devoured them.As long as I didn’t have to read them, and he could read silently to himself, I was all for them.

  18. Sara on November 18th, 2016 11:03 pm

    Linda, you are the shit.

    So glad you’re back to blogging btw. The only person who can make me laugh and cry in the same sitting :)

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  20. Kelly on November 19th, 2016 6:39 pm

    Thank god our MTH phase was short-lived, they just didn’t hold my son’s attention. He’s more of a “realist” and pretty much just reads the “Diary of Wimpy Kid” series over, and over, and over…

  21. Meagan on November 20th, 2016 9:44 am

    I read babysitter club books. For YEARS.

    Terrible books make readers. It’s an unfortunate truth.

  22. Jen in Germany on November 21st, 2016 1:33 am

    Loved this! I also struggle with trying to support the boys reading choices when I find them mind numbing. My 14 year old is finally a reader (thanks to a phenomenal school librarian who connected him to series after series of books that captured his interest) and it is so cool to be able to hand him just about any book and he’ll read it in amongst his own personal choices. Now, he is a typical laconic boy so I don’t get much more than a diplomatic, “It was good” but I’m happy nonetheless. The younger three are still works in progress.

    So happy to also find you back writing and on an up-swing. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles but am glad to see you’re fighting your way back, helping and inspiring all of us to learn with you how to fight for our best selves despite our self-destructiveness. Love and Hope to you, Linda!

  23. Amy on November 26th, 2016 4:54 pm

    Ah fucking hell! Finally caught up on the heavy shit you’ve been going through and this post with that last line has tears from laughter running down my face! Marry me! Lol! Thank you.

  24. Anne on November 27th, 2016 7:46 pm

    I don’t know if you’re looking, but the chapter books that saved me from the hell that was Magic Treehouse were the Hank The Cowdog series:


    My kid loved them and I didn’t hate them and I could sloooowly replace all of the MTH series on the bookshelf.

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