Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, Book 1)

Common Sense Media says

Mild time-travel adventure.





What parents need to know

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's nothing of concern here, and much that is educational. Jack and Annie encounter friendly dinosaurs, gathering a few scientific facts about each one, and sparking imaginations. While the short sentences may have adults yawning, kids will learn to read with them.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Jack and Annie travel back in time via treehouse to the prehistoric Cretaceous period. In this mild adventure written in short, clipped sentence structure, the two siblings fly on the back of a Pteranodon, stumble upon nests filled with tiny dinosaurs and flee from a T-rex.

In the first of many Magic Tree House adventures, 8-year-old Jack and his 7-year-old sister Annie discover what they think must be the "highest treehouse in the world." They climb up and find it's filled with books. When Jack fingers a picture of a Pteranodon and says, "I wish I could see a Pteranodon for real," his wish comes true.

Jack and Annie are transported back 65 million years, where they meet a flying reptile they name Henry, a 12,00 pound flower-eating Triceratops, a duck-billed dinosaur with a voice like a tuba called an Anatosaurus, and a T-rex who could eat a human in a single bite. A mysterious gold medallion with the letter M is collected along the way, reassuring the two that their trip in the flying tree house was real.

Is it any good?


In this first adventure, Mary Osborne sets the stage for her popular series. The set-up is inventive: A book must be found and opened and a wish made for the tree house to begin spinning -- and transport Jack and Annie to another place and time.

An escape, in which Jack hops atop an ancient flying reptile and soars over a Tyrannosaurus rex, will have readers holding their breath, then cheering for the hero's return to safety. And even though Jack gets to do the flying, Annie has her part: It's her ingenuity that saves her brother.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the scientific aspects of dinosaurs. 

  • How much of this story is real, how much is made up, and how much are we just not certain about?

Book details

Author:Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrator:Sal Murdocca
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House
Publication date:January 1, 1992
Number of pages:68
Read aloud:4
Read alone:7

This review of Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, Book 1) was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byMomofDevinandOwen April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

My daughter's favorite book series!

My daughter started the Magic Treehouse book series when she was 4 (she's 5 now.) She loves the stories and we end up reading whole books in just a couple of nights. (The website is great, too - You can print out your Magic Treehouse Passport and earn "stamps" as you "travel" from place to place via the books by answering multiple choice questions about the books. ) I think this series is a great series to choose for kids just starting out with chapter books.
Kid, 11 years old December 12, 2009
its a nice story about Dinosaurs
What other families should know
Educational value
Parent of a 5 and 8 year old Written byRobtheIronguy December 19, 2010

Great Series for your kids

This series is an absolute keeper. We used this as the first "Chapter Book" for reading to our kids over multiple nights when they were 4. They also are reading it to themselves. The stories provide a great education on a broad set of topics throughout history in a very entertaining setting. Loved it.


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