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Mary Pope Osborne (born May 20, 1949) is an American author of children's books. She is best known for the award-winning and bestselling Magic Tree House series, which has been translated into 35 languages[1] and has sold more than 134 million copies worldwide.[2] She is an advocate and supporter of children's literacy, and the award-winning author of more than 100 books for children and young adults, including novels, retellings of mythology and folklore, picture books, biographies, and mysteries. Osborne is also the coauthor of the companion Magic Tree House Fact Trackers series with her husband, Will Osborne, and her sister, Natalie Pope Boyce.

Mary Pope Osborne
Mary Pope Osborne credit Elena Seibert 2012.jpg
BornMary Pope
(1949-05-20) May 20, 1949 (age 70)
Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA
GenreChildren's picture books, fantasy, myths and fairy tales retold, American biography and fictional diary
Notable worksMagic Tree House series
SpouseWill Osborne



Mary Pope Osborne has written over 60 children's stories, with a variety of genres and for a range of children to young adult audiences.[3] Her books have been named to a number of the Best Books of the Year Lists, including, School Library Journal, Parents’ Magazine, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, and Bank Street College.[3] She has received honors from such organizations as the National Council of Teachers of English, The Children's Book Council, and the International Reading Association.[3] She received the 1992 Diamond State Reading Association Award,[3] 2005 Ludington Memorial Award from the Educational Paperback Association[4] and the 2010 Heidelberger Leander Award.[5] She has also received awards from the Carolina Alumni Association,[6] the Virginia Library Association[3] and in spring 2013 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[7]

Ms. Osborne served two separate terms as president of the Authors Guild and also chaired its Children's Book Committee.[3] She has since traveled extensively in the states and throughout the world, visiting schools and speaking on issues related to reading and books. In 2011, she attended the International Tokyo Film Festival for the premier of the Magic Tree House anime file and visited schools in the tsunami-hit area of Japan.[8] The film grossed 5.7 million dollars; Osborne donated all her proceeds into her educational works.[9]

She was profiled on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams for her continued efforts to get books into the hands of underserved children on a Magic Tree House themed tour bus.[9] She spoke of the pressure she feels as an author that children look up to, "for a child to value someone who writes books is so extraordinary."[9]

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Magic Tree House series in 2012, Ms. Osborne created a Magic Tree House Classroom Adventures Program. Ms. Osborne's mission with Classroom Adventures is to inspire children to read and to love reading[10] while simultaneously helping kids to read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade.[9] Free of charge, the program provides a set of online educational resources for teachers and allows for Title 1 schools to apply for free Magic Tree House books.[10] Under Classroom Adventures, Ms. Osborne, in partnership with the First Book organization in Washington, DC, has donated hundreds of thousands of Magic Tree House books to underserved schools.[11]


Mary Pope Osborne grew up in a military family, alongside her sister, Natalie Pope Boyce, her twin brother, Bill, and younger brother, Michael.[3] Her father's career required the family to travel rather extensively and regularly move. Places Osborne lived as a child included Saltzburg, Austria, Oklahoma, and Virginia.[3] Osborne herself says of the experience: "Moving was never traumatic for me, but staying in one place was.”[12] After her father retired, her family settled in a small town in North Carolina. Osborne grew invested in the local community theater spending all her free time there.[3]

College years, traveling, and early careerEdit

Mary Pope Osborne initially studied drama at the University of North Carolina; in her junior year, however, she switched to a major in religion with a focus on comparative religions.[3]

After graduating from UNC in 1971,[13] Osborne spent some time traveling again.[timeframe?] For a while, she camped out in a cave on the island of Crete. Following this, Osborne joined a small group of Europeans heading to the East. Their journeys took Osborne through 11 different countries throughout Asia, including Iraq, Iran, India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Pakistan.[3] Remarking on her travels Osborne said, ""That journey irrevocably changed me. Experience was gathered that serves as a reference point every day of my life. I encountered worlds of light and worlds of darkness--and planted seeds of the imagination that led directly to my being an author of children's books."[3]

After her travels Osborne held jobs including medical assistant, travel agent, drama teacher, bartender, and as an assistant editor for a children's magazine.[3]

Writing and publicationEdit

Osborne's travels and experiences have factored largely into her own writing, while her writing has allowed her to experience some of the thrills of traveling, as she said, "Without even leaving my home, I’ve traveled around the globe, learning about the religions of the world."[12]

Osborne's writing career began "one day, out of the blue"[12] when she wrote Run, Run As Fast As You Can in 1982. The book itself is semi-autobiographical in nature, according to Osborne: "The girl was a lot like me and many of the incidents in the story were similar to happenings in my childhood."[12] The book served as the starting point for Osborne's writing career. Her early work received mixed reviews.[14][15] Her work includes young adult novels, picture books, retellings of mythology and fairy tales, biographies, mysteries, a six part series of the Odyssey, a book of American Tall Tales, and a book for young readers about the major world religions.

Osborne says that she can work on Magic Tree House up to 12 hours a day and seven days a week[16] and has used space at shared office space, The Writer's Room.[17] She has modeled her writing after Hemingway by trying to be simple and direct[16] and is "noted for writing clear, lively, well-paced prose in both her stories and her informational books."[3]


Osborne was married to Will Osborne in 1976, meeting him after seeing him appear in a play.[16] Mary has cited the key role Will plays in her writing saying, "Will has given me the support and encouragement I've needed to be a professional daydreamer-in other words, an author of children's books."[18] Will and Mary also work with Mary's sister Natalie, on the non-fiction fact trackers. Mary notes that the three of them have lots of fun doing book tours together.[19] She does not have any children, which she has explained as "I got too busy."[16]

Her lakefront home features a tree house.[9]

Magic Tree House seriesEdit

Mary Pope Osborne's most prolific work has been the Magic Tree House series. The series has sold more than 134 million books worldwide since its debut in 1992[2] and as of 2007 the series had spent a total 132 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List.[20] Owing to the successful sales of the books, Osborne for many years resisted efforts to commercialize the characters and books wanting them to live in the imaginations of children.[9]

The first of the Magic Tree House books, Dinosaurs Before Dark, was published in 1992. She was initially inspired to write the books while working in a teen homeless shelter and realizing that for the teens writing themselves into stories taking place in the Himalayas or Serengeti had a major effect on the teens.[9] Osborne says she tried writing the book seven different ways before finding a way that worked."[16] It introduces the main characters of Jack and Annie, a brother and sister duo of adventurers who are transported to different areas of time thanks to the titular magic treehouse. The first book established the format for feature books and introduced recurring characters Morgan le Fay and Merlin, as part of the Arthurian motifs. Osborne says she is more like Jack but wishes she was more like Annie.[16]

Osborne tends to place small cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, which has been highlighted as one of the major reasons for the appeal of the books within their target age group.[3] Another important factor in their success is the educational nature of the series. The books are cited for their ability to interest students in history and Osborne’s usage of vocabulary encourages young readers to learn new words[3] and for their promoting gratitude and cross-cultural understanding in its readers.[21]


Magic Tree House Children's TheatreEdit

The Magic Tree House brand has taken on other forms. A full-scale musical adaptation was created by Will Osborne and Randy Court; Magic Tree House: The Musical, premiered in September 2007.[20] Osborne hoped that it would have the same kind of kid and adult appeal as The Lion King or Mary Poppins.[20] Based on the Magic Tree House book Christmas in Camelot, the Musical has toured nationally[20][18] and had a cast album.[22]

A planetarium show; "Magic Tree House: Space Mission", also created by Will Osborne, is produced and presented exclusively at the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.[citation needed]

In 2011, Will Osborne collaborated with New Orleans composer Allen Toussaint and "Ain't Misbehavin'" co-creator Murray Horwitz to write "A Night in New Orleans", a musical adaptation of Magic Tree House #42: A Good Night for Ghosts about the life of Louis Armstrong. The show features an ensemble cast and live jazz band. It premiered in 2012 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and was shown free to every Newark 4th grade student.[23]

Magic Tree House Kids Shows are theatrical adaptations of selected titles in the Magic Tree House series designed specifically for performance by kids.[19] To date, children's shows have been created by husband and wife playwright and composer team Randy Courts and Jenny Laird[24] in collaboration with Will Osborne based on the following Magic Tree House books: Dinosaurs Before Dark, The Knight at Dawn, Pirates Past Noon, A Ghost Tale for Christmastime,[24] A Night in New Orleans, and Stage Fright on a Summer Night, a new children's show based on the life of William Shakespeare, set to premiere at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre in October 2017.[18]

Film adaptationEdit

In 2016, Lionsgate acquired the film rights with a script by Will Osborne and Jenny Laird. The movie will primarily contain plot elements from Book 29, "Christmas in Camelot."[25]

Other booksEdit

Mary Pope Osborne has written many books outside the Magic Tree House series.

  • Run, Run As Fast As You Can (Random House Children's Books, 1982)
  • The Deadly Power of Medusa (Scholastic, 1988), Will and Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Steve Sullivan
  • Jason and the Argonauts (Scholastic, 1988), Will and Mary Pope Osborne, illus. Steve Sullivan
  • Favorite Greek Myths (Scholastic, 1989), retold by Osborne, illus. Troy Howell
  • American Tall Tales (Knopf, 1991), retold by Osborne, illus. Michael McCurdy
  • Spider Kane and the Mystery under the May-apple (Knopf, 1992), illus. Victoria Chess — middle-grade chapter book, first of the Spider Kane series
  • Mermaid Tales from around the World (Scholastic, 1993), retold by Osborne, illus. Troy Howell
  • Haunted Waters (Candlewick, 1994), young-adult fantasy novel[26]
  • Favorite Norse Myths (Scholastic, 1996), retold by Osborne, illus. Troy Howell
  • Rocking Horse Christmas (Scholastic, 1997), illus. Ned Bittinger
  • Favorite Medieval Tales (Scholastic, 1998), retold by Osborne, illus. Troy Howell
  • Standing in the Light: the captive diary of Catharine Carey Logan, Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania, 1763 (Dear America series, Scholastic, 1998)
  • My Secret War: the World War II diary of Madeline Beck (Dear America, Scholastic, 2000)
  • My Brother's Keeper (My America series, Scholastic, 2000), first of three Virginia's Civil War Diary
  • Kate and the Beanstalk (Atheneum Books, 2000), picture book illus. Giselle Potter — adaptation of the traditional fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk"
  • Tales from the Odyssey (Hyperion Books, 2002 to 2005), illus. Troy Howell — six children's novels adapted from Odyssey[26]
  • Tales from the Odyssey (Hyperion, 2010), a two-volume edition
  • Moonhorse (Dragonfly Books, 2010), chapter book[26]
  • Johnny Appleseed


  1. ^ Erfanian, Sasha. "MAGIC TREE HOUSE MOVIES IN DEVELOPMENT AT LIONSGATE". IGN. Ziff Davis. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b "The Writer's Life". Shelf Awareness. Shelf Awareness. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Mary Pope Osborne." Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2006. Accessed 15 Mar. 2018.
  4. ^ "Mary Pope Osborne Ludington Award". Educational Book & Media Association. Educational Book & Media Association. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Heidelberger Leander". leseleben (in German). Association for the promotion of language and reading culture in children. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award". UNC General Alumni Association. UNC General Alumni Association.
  7. ^ "Steve Case, four others, to receive honorary degrees at Commencement". The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  8. ^ Gallagher, Chris (23 October 2011). ""Magic Tree House" film premieres in Japan". Reuters. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Vierra, Meredith (13 December 2012). "Magic of Mary: 'Magic Tree House' author rocks kids' socks off". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  10. ^ a b Raynor, Madeline (21 February 2017). "Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osborne on the books' 25th anniversary". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  11. ^ Lodge, Sally (10 October 2013). "Magic Tree House Reading Buddies Week Rolls Out". Publisher's Weekly. Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d "Random House Children's Books Presents Mary Pope Osborne" (PDF). Random House Children's Book. Random House. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Mary Pope Osborne | UNC English & Comparative Literature". Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  14. ^ Cooper, Ilene (1 Oct 1996). "Love Always, Blue". Booklist: 750.
  15. ^ Sutherland, Zena (Jan 1984). "review of Love Always, Blue". Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books: 94.
  16. ^ a b c d e f La Gorge, Tammy (13 April 2008). "Taking Young Readers on a Magical History Tour". New York Times. p. CT6.
  17. ^ "For Writers, a Place to Work in Peace: The Room in the Village offers a haven from disturbance. 'There's a sense that you matter and that writing matters.'". New York Times. 30 January 1988. p. 17.
  18. ^ a b c "Magic Treehouse Study Guide" (PDF). Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  19. ^ a b Driscoll, Molly (27 July 2012). "'Magic Tree House': Author Mary Pope Osborne looks back". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  20. ^ a b c d Rizzo, Frank (14 September 2007). "`Tree House' Magic Shows". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  21. ^ Sorensen, S. (2009). Battle or Gratitude? Attitudes Conveyed to Children by Pokémon, Bakugan, and Magic Tree House Books. Peace Research, 41(2), 5-27. Retrieved from JSTOR.
  22. ^ Jones, Kenneth (5 June 2007). "Cass Morgan, Donna Bullock Sing on Magic Tree House Studio Cast Album". Playbill. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  23. ^ Catton, Pia (15 Oct 2012). "Gateway to the Arts: Newark's Case for Crossing Over". Wall Street Journal (Eastern ed.). p. A.24.
  24. ^ a b Meyers, Joe (17 December 2013). "Warner Theatre presents Dickens musical premiere". CTPost. Hearst Media. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  25. ^ McNarry, Dave (4 February 2016). "'Magic Tree House' Movies in Development at Lionsgate". Variety. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  26. ^ a b c Mary Pope Osborne at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2014-03-28. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.

External linksEdit