Introducing novels to young readers requires selecting a book that not only captures students’ imagination but also sparks their interest in reading. One such captivating novel is Dinosaurs Before Dark, the first book in the beloved Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne.

The Magic Treehouse series is one of the best-selling chapter book series of all time for a reason. The books are a wonderful entry into the chapter book genre and there is a book for nearly every topic of interest. Dinosaurs Before Dark is the first book in the series and introduces the reader to the Magic Treehouse and the adventure of the lives of Jack and Annie. It is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies.


Why teachers should consider Dinosaurs Before Dark as a gateway to the world of novels:

  • Captivating Storyline: Dinosaurs Before Dark takes young readers on an extraordinary journey as siblings Jack and Annie stumble upon a mysterious tree house filled with books that transport them to different time periods. In this installment, they are whisked away to the Mesozoic Era, where they encounter dinosaurs and experience the wonders of this prehistoric world. The thrilling and imaginative storyline instantly grabs the attention of students, encouraging them to delve deeper into the novel.
  • Engaging and Accessible Language: Mary Pope Osborne’s writing style in the Magic Tree House series is both engaging and accessible for young readers. The vocabulary is carefully chosen to suit the target age group, allowing students to comprehend the story without feeling overwhelmed. As they navigate the pages of Dinosaurs Before Dark, students will discover the joy of reading independently, building their confidence as they progress through the chapters.
  • Blends Fiction and Non-fiction: Dinosaurs Before Dark seamlessly blends elements of fiction and non-fiction, providing an excellent opportunity for interdisciplinary learning. The novel sparks students’ curiosity about dinosaurs, encouraging them to explore more about these fascinating creatures. Teachers can capitalize on this interest by incorporating science lessons that delve into paleontology, the study of dinosaurs, and the prehistoric era, enriching students’ knowledge across multiple subjects.
  • Introduction to Historical Fiction: Historical fiction allows young readers to experience different time periods, cultures, and places through the lens of compelling narratives. Dinosaurs Before Dark serves as an excellent introduction to this genre by transporting students to a time long gone. By engaging with historical fiction early on, students develop an appreciation for history and recognize the impact it has on the present. Teachers can further expand on this concept by exploring other historical periods through additional novels.
  • Promotes Imagination and Creativity: The Magic Tree House series, including Dinosaurs Before Dark, sparks the imagination of young readers. As Jack and Annie embark on their adventures, students are encouraged to envision themselves in their shoes, fostering creativity and a sense of wonder. The novel’s vivid descriptions of the prehistoric world inspire students to create their own stories, drawings, or even theatrical performances related to the Mesozoic Era.
  • Encourages Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills: Throughout the novel, Jack and Annie encounter numerous obstacles, requiring them to think critically and problem-solve their way through. Teachers can use these challenges as opportunities to engage students in discussions about decision-making, ethics, and the consequences of actions. These life lessons can empower students to face their own challenges with confidence and resilience.
  • Cultivates a Love for Series Reading: The Magic Tree House series, with over 60 books and counting, offers an exciting prospect for students to continue their reading journey beyond Dinosaurs Before Dark. By introducing this novel as the first in a series, teachers can create a sense of anticipation and eagerness to read more about Jack and Annie’s adventures. This approach cultivates a habit of series reading, encouraging students to explore other genres and authors in the future.
  • Embraces Diversity and Inclusivity: Mary Pope Osborne thoughtfully weaves themes of diversity and inclusivity throughout the Magic Tree House series. By incorporating characters from various backgrounds, the books encourage empathy and understanding among students. The diverse representation in Dinosaurs Before Dark opens up discussions about cultural differences and the importance of respecting others, promoting a sense of unity in the classroom.



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The introduction of novels sets the foundation for a lifelong journey of reading, cultivating a love for books, and nurturing critical thinking skills. Your students will be drawn into the nail-biting adventure with Jack and Annie. The novel’s perfect blend of fantasy and history, endearing characters, and exciting adventures captivate young minds, fostering critical thinking, curiosity, and empathy.  By taking students on a magical journey through time, Dinosaurs Before Dark leaves an indelible mark, setting the stage for a lifelong appreciation of literature and exploration.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Dinosaurs Before Dark for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

You can purchase this novel study at the following locations:

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