Top critical review
These Books have the 'Potential" to be Great...
May 1, 2016
These books are okay. They are easy for my first and second graders to read, who are just transitioning into chapter books. The characters are easy to keep track of, and there are both a boy and a girl, so it is gender neutral. I also like that the stories teach us something, and can be used with the corresponding nonfiction "fact tracker" series to learn about all sorts of interesting creatures and/or historical events.
That being said, I do have a few qualms. First of all, I strongly agree with the reviewers that criticized the author/editor for letting these books be published with so many grammatical errors! Children learn by example, and reading incomplete sentences, misspelled words, proper nouns that are not capitalized, and loosely structured paragraphs makes it hard to teach proper mechanics. These books could have been phenomenal if not for the poor grammar!.....I myself debated on whether or not to use these for a while, and then decided that that I could use the errors as a jumping off point to teach some basic rules of grammar. Each day I put a couple of selections out of the book on the board, and asked the kids to fix it. We worked on ways to improve the writing, but honestly, it was a lot of extra work! I would have rather had the grammar be correct in the beginning, and then I would have been able to use the book as an example of good sentence structure.
Also, I may be old fashioned (even though I'm young), but I do not like some of the ways that the characters respond to each other, such as by saying, "Oh, don't be stupid" and things like that. I know kids talk to each other this way, but I want to build an atmosphere of mutual respect, and some things just kind of hit me as bad examples, even if I am being a bit too picky.
Honestly, I would say that I my kiddos and I enjoyed the companion Fact Tracker books a lot more than the actual Magic Tree House ones. The grammar isn't perfect, but it is a lot better, and the paragraphs are more clearly defined, so I didn't feel the need to 'correct' it for them. Since the books are nonfiction, they also fit nicely into science and history lessons, and you don't need to read the Magic Tree House books first!
In addition, I would recommend the Boxcar Children series--although these may seem a little daunting for some beginning readers to read all on their own. The chapters are a little longer and there are more words on a page, but the adventures are just an interesting, the grammar is correct, and the characters are good role models. I only wish that there were 'fact tracker' books to go along with THAT set!
In conclusion, like many other reviewers have said, these are "great books, but poorly written." I have heard that the books farther on in the series are better, and I hope that this is true...but I don't know if we will continue on to find out.