Civil War on Sunday — "Magic Tree House" Series
This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the 21st book in the "Magic Tree House" series.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
As Jack watches an approaching thunderstorm through his window, Annie sees a flash in the nearby woods and is convinced the magic tree house has returned. Even though they hear thunder, the kids run to the forest and find the magic tree house. Morgan Le Fay, an enchantress and owner of the tree house, has left the kids another mission: Collect four different types of writing that will help save the kingdom of Camelot. The first of these writings will come from the Civil War.
After the tree house lands at the fringes of the open field depicted on the cover of Morgan's book about the Civil War, the children's clothes magically change to those suited for the time period. As they watch Union soldiers stumble out of the tree line and into the field, battered and bruised, Annie insists on helping. Jack tries to hold her back, thinking they will only get in the way, but Annie runs ahead to help a fallen soldier to his feet. Together, Jack and Annie support the soldier and take him to a cluster of white tents — the field hospital.
It's hard for the children to see the soldiers suffering in the hospital, but while Jack wants to leave, Annie wants to help. She approaches one of the nurses and volunteers herself and Jack to pass out food and water. The nurse also asks them to lift the soldiers' spirits and gives them a list of ways to do so. Jack realizes this is the writing Morgan must have sent them to retrieve, meaning their mission is over, but Annie refuses to leave and walks through the tents dispensing encouragement.
In a tent filled with African-American soldiers, a soldier addresses Jack. Jack learns that the soldier had been a slave and was fighting for his family's freedom. Jack reads about slavery in the Civil War book, and then tells the soldier about a time when his descendants will be free.
After Clara Barton rides into the camp with a wagon filled with wounded soldiers, Annie asks if there is anything she and Jack can do to help. Clara asks if they will ride back to the battlefield with her in search of more wounded soldiers. Annie agrees quickly. Jack is reluctant, but agrees because he doesn't want to admit how afraid he is.
Clara drives the wagon into the midst of everything — cannon fire, musket smoke and rough terrain. When the smoke clears, Clara sends Jack and Annie to the river to get clean water and look for wounded soldiers.
The first soldier they see is a young boy in gray, marking him as Confederate. Jack hesitates to help an enemy, but Clara makes it clear that they must help any wounded soldier. Soon they find a group of Union soldiers. The soldiers ask the children to take their drummer boy, John, to the field hospital to treat his heat stroke. Annie comments how alike John and Jack look.
Clara asks the children to try to bring down John's fever. After John wakes from a nightmare and begs to be allowed back onto the field, Annie tries to tell him that he is safe, but he only seems more agitated. When Jack assures John that he can return soon, the boy becomes calm and says Jack looks just like one of his younger brothers.
The children meet up with Clara again, and they watch the flashes of gunfire in the distance and mourn the soldiers' fate. Clara tells the children that they should return to their own families. Jack and Annie head to the tree house and are transported back to Frog Creek Woods, near their home.
The children flinch at a sound they think is cannon fire, but then realize it's only thunder. Morgan leaves a note for them, asking them to return to the tree house on Wednesday. The kids run home as rain begins to fall and they call to their parents that they love them. Jack asks his father if any of their ancestors fought in the Civil War. He learns his great-great-great-grandfather was John, the drummer boy, and that he survived the war.
Other Belief Systems
Jack and Annie are able to travel through time and space within a tree house. Morgan le Fey, an enchantress, owns the tree house and the library inside it. Her magic allows the children to go on adventures in different time periods. When Jack tells an African-American slave about freedom, the slave asks if Jack can see the future.
The story takes place in the middle of the Civil War. Soldiers are described as bloody and ragged, and Jack and Annie spend some time surrounded by gunfire. The depiction of the wounded soldiers stumbling across the field and the cries of distress in the field hospital may be startling to young readers.
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