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Dragon of the Red Dawn: Magic Tree House #37    by Mary Pope Osborne & Sal Murdocca order for
Dragon of the Red Dawn
by Mary Pope Osborne
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Jack and Annie awaken to the sound of pebbles hitting their windows. In the yard they see the 'two young enchanters of Camelot', Teddy and Kathleen. Knowing they were sent by Merlin, Jack and Annie rush to the Magic Tree House, remembering to bring the 'Wand of Dianthus'. The wand helps Jack and Annie to 'make their own magic', but only if they follow three rules.

In Camelot, Merlin is saddened and distraught, not eating nor sleeping. The magician's assistants have turned to Annie and Jack of Frog Creek, Pennsylvania for help. Their mission in Dragon of the Red Dawn is to 'discover one of the four secrets of happiness'. Jack and Annie travel via the Magic Tree House to a beautiful, ancient city in Japan. They use their guide book to learn about the city: 'In the 1600's, the Imperial Garden surrounded the Imperial Palace in the capital city of Japan ... a time when the country was closed to outside world.' Master Bashu, a poet and a teacher to the samurai, warns Jack and Annie to be very careful, telling them 'The shogun does not allow foreigners into our country. If you do not have passports, you could be caught as spies and punished'.

As they walk across the Great Bridge, Jack and Annie hear concerns of fires breaking out due to a lack of rain. The Master guides them to the bank of the Sumida River, and his bamboo hut. Jack and Annie help put out a fire, meet the Cloud Dragon on Mount Fuji, and come to realize 'a meaning of happiness'. (Note that the poet Bashu lived in the 1600's, and wrote a book of his travels around Japan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, in which he combined journal writing and haiku poetry.)

In her note to readers, Mary Pope Osborne expresses admiration of Japan's literature and art. Through her book, the author fulfills her dreams - to 'ride on a fishing boat, sip tea in a teahouse, and see cherry-blossom petals float down a river'. Sal Murdocca's black, sketched illustrations feature the Cloud Dragon, Sumo wrestlers, samurai, the landscape, and expressions of joy and tribulation on characters' faces. Osborne's stories are parent, educator, and kid-approved. Introducing cultures and times in history, along with ancient myths and storytelling, they are translated into many languages around the world. Her quotation from an old Japanese poem (translated by Lafcadio Hearn) is poignant - 'Now I shall dream, / Lulled by the patter of rain / And the song of the frogs.'

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