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Book Review

This review was created by the editorial staff at Thriving Family magazine

This fantasy adventure novel by Mary Pope Osborne is the 18th in the " Magic Tree House" series and is published by Random House.

Buffalo Before Breakfast is written for kids ages 5 to 8. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Eight–year-old Jack and his 7-year-old sister, Annie, are eagerly awaiting their grandmother's visit when a dog named Teddy arrives. Teddy is under a spell that requires Jack and Annie to find four special items to free him.

They've already found a gift from a ship lost at sea, and now they must find a gift from the prairie blue. The children follow Teddy to the magic tree house, where they find a book called The Great Plains. They realize this must be where the next item is, so they decide to track it down.

When they arrive in the grassy plains, they find themselves surrounded by open sky and wearing buckskin clothes. There's nothing in sight, so they choose a direction and start walking. Over a small rise, Annie finds a Lakota Indian camp. Since they're not sure it's safe, they hide in the tall grass until a young warrior named Black Hawk sees them. He approaches them cautiously, but once he discovers they aren't dangerous, he decides to bring them back to camp to meet his grandmother.

Black Hawk introduces the children to his grandmother, who teaches them about her people. They learn that the Lakota value bravery and believe that by wearing animal skins and claws, they will have the courage of those animals. Black Hawk shows them a wolf skin he wears when he hunts. Grandmother teaches them about the buffalo and how the Lakota rely on the animal for food, tools and even shelter.

Black Hawk wants to take Jack and Annie to see the buffalo. Before they go, Grandmother tells Black Hawk not to hunt because they have all the buffalo meat they need for the day. The three children have to ride bareback to reach the buffalo. Annie is excited and climbs right onto the horse, but Jack is scared. He remembers that the Lakota value courage, so he makes himself mount the horse.

Jack and Annie are amazed by the large number of buffalo grazing on the plains. Wanting to display his bravery and impress his new friends, Black Hawk begins to hunt, but as he's sneaking up on a buffalo, he sneezes. The noise scares the animal, and it begins to charge, causing the other buffalo to stampede. Teddy runs into the action, and Annie follows close behind. Seeing that Black Hawk needs help, Jack rides to his aid and saves the warrior.

As Jack tries to find Annie in the stampede, he fears she's been hurt. He finally spots her surrounded by calm buffalo. Gradually, the other buffalo begin to calm down, too. Annie tells the boys that a woman in white appeared and helped her calm the buffalo, but then she disappeared. Black Hawk explains that the woman was the White Buffalo Woman, a spirit.

At the camp, they tell Grandmother about their adventure. She gives Jack and Annie the Lakota names Rides-Like-Wind and Buffalo Girl to symbolize their bravery. Grandmother also gives them an eagle feather to thank them for their bravery. They realize this is the item they've been searching for, the next gift they need to free Teddy. Jack and Annie spend the night with the Lakota and return to the tree house in the morning.

Back home, Jack and Annie are excited to find their grandmother waiting to visit with them.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Jack and Annie are able to travel through time and space within a tree house. Morgan le Fey, an enchantress, owns the tree house and the library inside it. It is her magic that allows the children to travel and go on adventures.

Teddy, the dog Annie and Jack are trying to help, is under a spell. Morgan charged them with freeing him.

Annie seems to be able to sense things. She knows when she and Jack are approaching the Lakota camp. And she seems to be able to communicate with Teddy and other animals.

The Lakota believe in many different spirits. The Great Spirit is thought to be the source of all the other spirits. Those spirits include wind spirits, tree spirits and animal spirits, as well as The White Buffalo Woman, one of the Great Spirit's messengers. Black Hawk and his fellow hunters wear animal skins, claws and bones to make them strong and courageous while they hunt.

Authority Roles

Grandmother is portrayed as a wise old woman. She's patient with Jack and Annie and is willing to take time to teach them about the Lakota's religion and traditions. After Black Hawk disobeys her by hunting buffalo, she tells him that he learned a valuable lesson. She also says he is fortunate that the White Buffalo Woman was there to calm the animals after his disobedience resulted in the buffalo stampeding.





Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • What is Jack afraid of in the story?
  • What reasons does Jack have to be afraid of a horse?
  • When can it be a wise thing to be afraid of something?
  • How can you know if something is safe or not?

  • Who saves Black Hawk?

  • When is it good to be brave like Jack?
  • When have you been brave?
  • When would you like to be brave?
  • When do you think God wants people to be brave?

  • What happens when Annie runs into the stampeding buffalo?

  • How large is a buffalo?
  • In real life, what would probably happen if a little girl did this?
  • What would you do if you saw large wild animals?

  • What do the Lakota believe about spirits in animals, trees and wind?

  • Some people worship trees and animals and ask them for help, but the Bible tells us to ask God for what we need.
  • What is a need that you can ask God about today?

  • How do the Lakota use the buffalo that they hunt?

  • What kind of animals do people use today?
  • Talk about what you ate or wore today.
  • Which food or fabric came from animals?
  • Why do you think God put people in charge of animals?

Additional Comments/Notes

Smoking: During a ritual, the Lakota pass a pipe around in a circle and each person takes a turn smoking the pipe. Jack and Annie observe this but don't participate.

This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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