Recent Readaloud: Dinosaurs Before Dark

Dinosaurs Before DarkDinosaurs Before DarkDinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1) by Mary Pope Osborne by Mary Pope Osbourne

I can’t remember if I found this on a list of recommended read-alouds, or if it was just that the author was familiar to me, or if someone recommended it specifically.

No matter how it came to my attention, I’m glad that the series did. While this entry in the series wasn’t the best fit for us (something about outer space would have likely been more appealing), the overall format seems like it’ll be a success, and it’s another good bridge between picture books and longer chapter books. This one is a chapter book, but the chapters are all short and there is one illustration for each chapter.

Anyone who has read it, does it make a difference if you read it in order, or can you skip around to pick titles covering specific topics? This one was the first in the series which is why I started with it, and if I was just going on content the next one I’d try would be #8.

My verdict:
It’s fine, but a different topic would probably interest my kids a bit more. Dinosaurs aren’t their favorite.

The kids’ verdict:
H liked the pictures, but got bored by the story. G liked the story, but it hasn’t been one that he’s desperate to have me reread again and again.

Publisher’s Description:
Jack and Annie are ready for their next fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!

Where did the tree house come from?

Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark . . . or will they become a dinosaur’s dinner?

Book Details

Title: Dinosaurs Before DarkDinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1) by Mary Pope Osborne
Author: Mary Pope Osborne
Category: Children’s Fiction

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  1. Remind me again what ages your kids are? I’d love to start mixing in some longer read-alouds along with our picture books, but I’m not sure my 4yo has the attention span yet. I guess we could check it out from the library and try it! I know my 6yo nephew loves the Magic Treehouse books.

    • 3 and 5. I’d try the library for one of the series – doesn’t have to be this one specifically. Longer read-alouds are still a work in progress for mine. Some days they do great, and others, not so much.

      If you haven’t tried them, we’ve had good success with longer picture books as a bridge before true chapter books. Think Brian Floca’s works where there is a ton of text to go along with the illustrations.

  2. Just be warned — Magic Treehouse books are SUPER formulaic. On purpose. My SIL, who is a reading teacher, laughed after I complained about reading them aloud. They’re not really meant to be read aloud. They are for “emerging chapter book readers.” Kids at that level love that each book is nearly identical in structure, length, and plot. But they may want to make you gouge your eyes out if you have to read more than two of them!

    • Thanks for the heads up – I think I’ll hold off on getting more to read aloud and instead wait until my son is ready to tackle them on his own. I think he’s close, especially if it’s something where the topic motivates him to keep going!

  3. I agree with Erin. They are TEDIOUS to read aloud. I much prefer something with more substance. My little one is working on sight words and these will be perfect when he’s mastered more, but for reading aloud I pick books WELL above his age level. He’ll be five in a week and we’ve already read the first Harry Potter. He LOVED it. I get that it’s not for everyone to do that (my second child will likely NOT be quite as interested…), but for us reading “up” has worked well.

    • I’ve been trying to do some read-alouds with books like this as a way to show my son how close he is to reading them himself. We still do lots of reading where the books are far above his age level (no Harry Potter here though, although we’ll get there someday. Not sure when I want to start that because of the way the series grows up so much.)

      Anyway, yes I agree with you about reading up most of the time, but I had some extra reasons for trying this one where I read it to them as we continue to work on his reading confidence, as well as their ability to sit through chapter books. 🙂

  4. DarnHeather says:

    You don’t have to read the books in order but there is a sub-series to the books that should be kept intact. I’m sure you can find something online to clue you in to what the series is because I can’t remember off the top of my head. For example, in four books in the series they go on a specific mission for a specific person. I think for children it would be confusing to read them out of order or mixed with other sub-series books. My girls really enjoyed these on audio since we could listen to an entire chapter just on the way to the grocery store.

    • Oh, good to know – thanks for that info! I haven’t gotten another one from the library yet, but I know I will eventually.

  5. Sarah Ronk says:

    Aaron got this one and book 2 or Christmas from Janet. I hadn’t heard the best kinds of things about it so I was thinking of skipping this whole series and just not letting him know about it 😉 But Janet found a way to get him excited about reading the books on his own and it worked! Although I’m going to look into those sub-series sets mentioned b/c I think there are some other topics in the series he’d rather read about. He saw a Titanic one at the book store and got really excited!

    • I still haven’t gotten any more of the series for G, but I’m figuring I will soonish. I’d prefer to wait until he can read them all on his own, as I think these will be ones he’s motivated to read. That’s the plan anyway. 🙂


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