This past weekend, I asked Paulie, my 14-year-old, what his favorite book that we've ever read aloud together was. He answered without hesitation, "the Magic Faraway Tree books". I was both surprised and not, as I knew the kids loved this series very much, never wanting me to put the books down in the evenings; yet I was a bit surprised that a 14-year-old would be attached to books about younger children with magic lands at the top of an enchanted tree and a character that run around with a saucepan on his head. Funny enough, when I first started reading this series to the kids, Paulie and Elizabeth were 12 and 11 respectively, and I remember thinking about 3 chapters into the first book that they would start protesting the silliness of these stories. I couldn't have been further from the truth. These books can and should clearly be enjoyed by children, and adults, of all ages; anyone with an imagination for the possibilities in life and an appetite for an enchanted mystery.
The series follows Jo, Bessie, and Fanny, and sometimes a cousin or friend, as they move into the country and discover an enchanted wood nearby. The enchanted wood is centered around the Magic Faraway Tree which has a rotating variety of "lands" which appear at the top of the tree. In the tree, the children make friends with a host of characters including Moon-Face, Silky, Saucepan, Angry Pixie, and Dame Wash-a-lot which make appearances in and around their adventures in the Magic Faraway Tree. Mishaps often occur, trouble often ensues, but every few chapters the dilemma is resolved, and the world is set to right again. Regularly a lesson is learned in the process, especially in the last book, The Folk of the Faraway Tree, when a spoiled friend learns to become less self-centered. Largely, however, this imaginative series simply provides a magical escape from reality for a brief period of time.