Friday, December 19, 2008

Interview with Mary Pope Osborne

It's an honor and a pleasure to bring you an interview with Mary Pope Osborne, author of many many children's books including the Magic Tree House series.

Jill Tullo (JT): Your Magic Tree House series is the ultimate celebration of imagination and adventure. As a former teacher, I've unfortunately witnessed a number of situations where kids are discouraged from using their imaginations and being creative--situations where the fun and magic of learning and discovering are taken away and replaced with rote memorization assignments. Can you talk a little about why you think it's important for children to use and develop their imaginations?

Mary Pope Osborne (MPO): This subject makes my heart pound, as I think that developing an imagination might be the most important thing to develop in childhood. It leads to creative problem solving, temporary escape from difficult circumstances, and daily enrichment of life. Reading is a great source for developing imagination. And so is play: Children need to play outside-- build forts, climb trees, imagine their bikes are horses, turn a picnic table into a stage, put together a circus act, make a raft. They need to play with dolls, stuffed toys, toy army men and knights. They need to talk in funny voices and roll trains and trucks through the dirt. For thousands of years, children have invented other worlds. Now we’re letting technology do all this for them!

JT: Jack and Annie have been all over the world and visited lots of different time periods. How do you come up with so many new adventures?

MPO: Mainly I read. Whenever I find a subject I’m interested in, I gather lots of books on the topic and start to comb through them, and if I find myself taking notes, I’m a goner…a story is taking hold. I also get kids to vote on ideas I’m thinking about…it’s amazing how helpful this has been…the enthusiasm of readers has engineered the whole series.

JT: Do you ever worry that your creative well will run dry? If so, how do you combat it?

MPO: This hasn’t been a concern…yet. My main problem now is that I fractured a finger in a fall – and it wasn’t treated properly-- so I’m typing with a little bit of a handicap…But if I get caught up in what I’m writing about, I forget that problem for a while.

JT: What places or time periods haven't Jack and Annie visited that you'd like them to eventually visit?

MPO: Hmm.. the Alps, the Aztecs, the Black Forest, the Nile, the White House, the childhood cabin of Abraham Lincoln, Scotland, the Mogul Empire of India… to name a few

JT: What are some your favorite places in the world?

MPO: Katmandu, Nepal; Paris and Provence; Oxford and the Lake District of England; Austria; Ireland; southern Switzerland; all of Italy, and New England

JT: My blog's mission is to help parents and educators help instill the joy of reading in their children. Why do you think it's important
for kids to not only be able to read but to also LOVE reading?

MPO: If you love to read, you’ll eagerly seek out books and get lost in them. And if you do this, you’ll never be bored or lonely. You can fill every empty hour with adventures, new information, and food for thought. A love for reading will ignite curiosity and connect you to the world. It will give you friends, heroes, villains. It will populate your mind with dramas that sometimes end up feeling more like your life than your real life. I can’t imagine a life without reading. I’d shrivel up and die.

JT: Do you have any advice on how to help parents reach out to reluctant readers?

MPO: Choose a good book and read it with your child. Read a page, and then have the child read a page. Get caught up in the story…help the child understand that reading can reveal a world of fun adventure…
Do this again and again, until hopefully, the child kicks you out of the process and starts reading silently to himself.

JT: What do you like BEST about being a famous children's author?

MPO: Nearly everything about it is wonderful – it satisfies my love for adventure. It gives me a good reason to read, to talk to children, to travel, to learn new things.

JT:What do you like LEAST about being a famous children's author?

MPO: Worrying that unknowingly I’ve slighted a child – but not writing them back, by not recognizing someone I’ve met before, by not hearing a question, or not taking enough time with them.

JT: What can we expect to see next from you?

MPO: Right now, my husband Will and I are producing a musical of Magic Tree House. Will and composer, Randy Courts, wrote the show based on my book Christmas in Camelot. For the next six months it will be traveling around the country on a national tour. It’s a huge show – with two-story high puppets, knights and ladies of Camelot, Irish dancing and wonderful songs. We’ll be touring a lot with the show. If readers want to know if the show’s coming to their area, they can check out the website:

As for books, a tree house adventure with Mozart in Vienna is coming out in the spring: Moonlight on the Magic Flute. And in the summer, a tree house adventure with Louis Armstrong in New Orleans will come out: A Good Night for Ghosts. And now I’m taking notes for a story about Ireland and leprechauns. It never ends!

Thank you so much for your time Mary, and best of luck with the musical. I hope to make the Baltimore show, and I can't wait to read the newest Magic Tree House books in 2009!

Previous stops on Mary's blog tour:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful interview, Mary. Developing imagination is so important, not just for the pleasure it brings throughout a life, but because it is such an esssential element of problem solving. Good luck with the musical!

    Marcia Calhoun Forecki
    Better Than Magic