The Magic Tree House book series was one of my favorites growing up, so I thought it might be fun to read one of those books and to analyze it through different lenses that I didn’t know about as a child. The Magic Tree House book I chose to read was the 9th book in the series; Dolphins at Daybreak. In this book Annie and her brother Jack find themselves stranded in a submarine in the ocean, past a coral reef. They learn about the coral reef, and about various animals living in the ocean before solving the riddle they were given and returning home.
The first lens I will analyze the book with is one that I use pretty often in my everyday life; the feminist lens. One thing that I really like about this book, and about the series, is that one of the main characters is a female. Not only is Annie a main character in the book, but she is a main character who goes on adventures, all the same adventures that her brother goes on. As a child I enjoyed reading books with female characters because, like most children, I liked to imagine myself in the story, and relate to the main character. For children this is easier to do when the main character is the same gender as the child. Because this book has two main characters, a boy and a girl, both boys and girls will feel comfortable reading it. The Magic Tree House books are not targeted towards, or for, boy or girls, but for children in general. There are many books in which girls are perceived as weak, or in need of saving by a boy, or their stories are about romance. There are not a lot of books where the female protagonist is a brave adventurer. In Dolphins at Daybreak Annie is the one who wants to dive into things head first, where as her brother, Jack, is the one who is more cautious and wants to do the research first. This is breaking traditional gender roles and traditional gender stereotypes, where the men are brave, ready for action, and the women are more timid, needing reassurance. Another stereotype that the book defies is that boys are the ones who are interested in video games. In chapter three Annie and Jack are in a submarine, and Annie discovers that the controls of the submarine are similar to the controls in a video game. Jack tells Annie that she should control the submarine, showing that Annie is most likely more interested in playing video games than Jack is. I think that this is intentional by the author. I believe that she wanted to part with traditional gender roles in children’s books and write books where girls could be strong, could be leaders, could be brave, and could go on adventures.
The next lens I’m going to use is one that I am just beginning to better understand and use; it is an ecological lens. I chose this lens because I am currently in a conservation and environmental science class, and I thought it would be interesting to bring two of my seemingly unrelated classes, conservation and environmental science and children’s literature together. Magic Tree House books are known for being educational as well as interesting, and this book was not an exception. I think it was intentional for the book to make us think about the environment and the ocean. It shared information about coral reefs, and about marine animals such as octopi, dolphins, sharks, and clams. I liked the information the book gave; it was accurate and written so that children can understand and remember it. I think what this book lacked, what would have made it a great book, was information about the ecology of coral reefs. This book was written in 1997, when ecology and issues with the environment were not as prominent as they are today. I think that to make this book more modern and add in information about how vital the coral reefs are, and how humans are negatively affecting the coral reefs would be a good way to introduce these problems to children, and to get them thinking about what they can to do to help save them. It’s never too early to inspire a child to try to save the world, the environment, or a coral reef, and making a connection to it in books like this one is an important step in the right direction.
This first image is one of many images like it that comes up when you search “coral reef” in google images. This is how some coral reefs look, and how most people picture coral reefs. The second image made up of three images taken of the same coral reef over the course of 8 months. It shows how the coral reef looked when it was healthy, and how quickly the coral reef died. That picture shows the damage that the book did not show. I think when having children read the book, it could be helpful to supplement what they learn from the book with more modern facts, and show children that the coral reefs are in danger, but that we can restore and save them.