These fabulous chapter books are even better than the Magic Tree House series. (I know, if your kid loves Magic Tree House, you might not believe me. But it’s true.)
It’s no secret that I have a few problems with Magic Tree House books. However, they are classics for a reason – they keep kids’ attention! These secular and Christian chapter books like Magic Tree House will hold your kids’ attention, but without the problems of sneaking out of the house and having a loose interpretation of the word “history.”
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Christian Series of Books Like Magic Tree House
The Imagination Station by Focus on the Family
The Imagination Station series is basically if Magic Tree House series met Jesus. Seriously. Two elementary aged cousins go on adventures back in time, but with their Christian worldview. It fixes EVERYTHING I don’t like about Magic Tree House – their parents know about their adventures, there’s no supernatural element to the historical setting, there are consequences for sin, and it’s all very historically accurate. I think you should own it.
Also, you do not have to listen to Adventures in Odyssey to enjoy or understand the books. These books are spin offs of the Odyssey world, but my kids aren’t into the radio drama and have only listened to a handful of episodes, yet REALLY enjoy these books and audio books.
Heads up that there are various authors who have worked on this project. However, I find it to be consistent through all 26 books, quality wise. (Yes. 26 books. Want to keep the kids busy…) Also, the audio books are also very nice. Again, a variety of readers across the series, however, so don’t get too attached to any one reader.
Highly recommend. Recommended by the publisher for ages 6 to 12, but I started reading them aloud to my kids when my daughter was 3 1/2, and we had no problem, especially if you read only a chapter a day. So, don’t be afraid to start them earlier than 6.
The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls by M. J. Thomas
The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series has a brother and sister, and their dog, Hank, who go back in time and experience Bible stories as they are happening. So, basically if Magic Tree House went to a small Bible college in a midwestern farm town.
The only thing I think you should really mull over before you thrust these into your little reader’s hands is that there is always a physical presence of Satan. In every story there’s a dark “bad guy” who is in fact Satan. There are also spiritual “good guys,” like the angel Michael, who help the kids.
So, that’s neither good or bad, really. But it’s certainly something to be aware of. I do believe that there are real spiritual forces at work in the world. However, I do also believe that because people are so wicked in our hearts, we do plenty of bad stuff on our own. So, that spiritual warfare piece of these stories may be a little challenging for some children to understand – especially when the rest of the setting is an actual Bible story.
For that reason, I do not recommend reading aloud to very young kids, or allowing kids to read them without at least a little bit of guidance on Bible fact versus literary speculation. I would suggest ages 8 and up, personally. I know that the publisher recommends ages 6 to 9. However, in the story the kids are 9 and 10, so I think you can push the audience age up. Of course, no shade if you decide your younger kids can handle them.
There are eight books in this Christian series like Magic Tree House, with the promise of more to come.
The Cooper Kids by Frank E. Peretti
I describe The Cooper Kids as the family that would result if Indiana Jones went to seminary and met a nice girl and raised a family on the road. These books like Magic Tree House have resourceful kids going on adventures with a historical twist. However, it’s more archeology – they don’t go back in time.
This is definitely for the older end of the age range of kids who like Magic Tree House!! These books are intense. We have not read them aloud as a family yet. The publisher says ages 9 and up, I’d maybe even push that up a bit, like 10 or 11 and up. But it can go way up – grownups like this series, too.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
The OG of stories about kids going somewhere magical and saving the day. Obviously, I’m recommending these as a read aloud book, not necessarily a book you’d put into your 6 year old’s hands. (Although I do think a very precocious reader could handle them at 8. The vocabulary level is high, but the syntax is fairly simple. Not MY 8 year old, but somebody’s 8 year old.)
I recommend this series as a read aloud for 6 years old who are used to listening to chapter books and up, but the content level is such that I feel fine if my little kids are in the room and hear the story, too. There’s just a lot of characters so I know the little girls don’t fully follow the story line. (If you want to work up to a chapter book like this, here’s some short chapter books I recommend that can be read in one to four sittings.)
And by “recommend as a read aloud,” I mean, “OH MY WORD, GET THESE ON YOUR BOOK SHELF NOW.” These are so good. It has everything kids love about Magic Tree House – engaging story, kids who save the day after being whisked to a different world, and just enough danger to be entertaining but not scary. However, the siblings are also nice to each other, there are consequences of sin, and there’s the overarching theme of “good will win for eternity.”
Also, I do personally recommend the edition with the bigger, colored in, nicer illustrations. I know it’s more money, but the editions with the tiny black and white illustrations, my kids couldn’t even tell what they were. I’m splurging this year on the nicer ones as a Christmas gift…for myself…
Heads up that there is some mild British strong language (think “drat,” etc.) and that the audio books and radio dramatization are so very British that my sweet midwestern children ask what foreign language the readers are speaking.
Wholesome Secular Series of Books Like Magic Tree House
A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
I love the A to Z Mysteries series as wonderful chapter books like Magic Tree House. It’s about kids who solve mysteries, and there are 26 books in the series – one for every letter of the alphabet. I also LOVE the fact that there is no snark!! I hate kids who are mean to each other and rude to grownups, and it’s a theme in chapter books these days. Argh. I’m not going to name names, but know that I am not here for that, and won’t recommend anything like that. I think that’s why I love this series so much – so wholesome, so engaging, it’s perfection.
I think this is appropriate for all ages as a read aloud, but there is a definite sweet spot being ages 6 to 9 years old. This would also be the age I recommend you handing it to them to read independently.
Heads up that there have been a few editions of this older series for elementary age, and you can find the old edition for CHEAP on used book websites. I like the new illustrations better, but I love the cost of the used old editions. However, I do think they’ll be classics your kids want to keep, so it might be worth buying new.