GREAT BARRINGTON -- Wednesday was a Magic Tree House morning at Muddy Brook Elementary School.
Berkshire County resident Mary Pope Osborne, creator and author of the internationally top-selling Magic Tree House children's book series visited the school with her locally based creative team to launch a new literacy partnership with Muddy Brook and the Berkshire Hills Regional School District.
"Pretty soon all of you are going to see something magical happening at Muddy Brook," said Principal Thad Dingman.
The school's halls are already decorated with Magic Tree-inspired art and bulletin board displays.
The Random House-published book series, launched in 1992, tells the story of siblings Jack and Annie, two ordinary children who stumble into a magic tree house that is filled with enchanted books.
Through the tree house, the young adventurers are able to travel through time and space and history, from the deck of the Titanic to the craters of the moon.
In addition to the fictional stories of Jack and Annie, many of the Magic Tree House books come with a companion "Fact Tracker" research guide to help readers find out more about the topics they discovered in the stories.
The 51st book in the series will be published this year. So far, the series has sold more than 100 million copies, and been translated into more than 30 languages for worldwide distribution.
Though Pope Osborne and her team of writers, researchers and musicians have traveled to hundreds of schools over the past two decades, this year they're focusing on the children who live in their neighborhoods.
So excited were the children and teachers on Wednesday that they lined the school hallways in welcome -- some dressed as book characters including ninjas and mummies -- and held up Magic Tree House posters. The also held out hands for high-fives from the author and her friends.
Monument Valley Regional Middle School sixth-grader Toby Keenan portrayed Jack and Monument Mountain Regional High School freshman Caroline Sprague appeared as Annie to open the event with a musical number.
"This is the best entrance to a school we've ever had," said the author. She was joined at the assembly by her husband and co-author Will Osborne, who also created "Magic Tree House: The Musical"; her sister and Fact Tracker author Natalie Pope Boyce; playwright Jenny Laird and composer Randy Courts.
"You at Muddy Brook belong to us because we are all your neighbors. We've decided we wanted kids in our backyards to be involved with our projects," Pope Osborne told the hundreds of elementary school students before her.
She explained how she and her team will visit the school throughout the year to share books, listen to feedback and story ideas, and pilot new musical and theater numbers based on the series. Collections of all her books have been donated to each classroom and library in the school.
"Kids are the ones who have made this series successful. Muddy Brook is now our own workshop," she said.
Wednesday's event also served as a launch for the school's celebration National March into Literacy Month. At Muddy Brook, activities will include a school-wide Read-a-thon now through March 8, and a Family Literacy Night featuring a follow-up visit from the Magic Tree House crew.
Keenan, who said he grew up reading Magic Tree House books, likes the idea of the new partnership because the series "teaches kids a lot about reading."
After the assembly, third graders Abby Mervis, Samantha Taxter and Isabella Wester gathered around Pope Osborne to pick the author's brain in person.
"School has a lot to do with reading and I think it's a good idea to bring in an author to help with it," Taxter said.
To reach Jenn Smith:
Q & A: From Muddy Brook students to author Mary Pope Osborne
Q: Where did you get the inspiration for the Magic Tree House?
A: I considered a lot of ideas, first a magic cellar, then a whistle, an artist's studio and a museum. But it was during a walk in the woods with my husband that we came across an old tree house. We thought it would be cool to have the tree house filled with books because books are like magic to us and that's what would take us through time.
Q: What's your favorite book that you've written?
A: "Stage Fright on a Summer Night" (No. 25) because I love Shakespeare and thought that was such a cool thing for Jack and Annie to go back in time to be a part of.
Q: What's your next book?
A: It comes out in two weeks. It's called "Stallion by Starlight." Jack and Annie tame the horse of Alexander the Great. [She said No. 50 will be "Hurry Up, Houdini!" and No. 51 will take Annie and Jack down the Nile River with Florence Nightingale.]