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Book Review

This fantasy adventure book by Mary Pope Osborne is the second in the " Magic Tree House" series and is published by Random House.

The Knight at Dawn 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

Jack wakes up early one morning, thinking about the previous day when he and his younger sister, Annie, took a magical trip to the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago, and met real dinosaurs. Reviewing his notebook, he realizes that they really did travel through time. Annie reminds him to include a note about the mysterious medallion they found, marked with the letter M. She suggests that they take another trip from the tree house, and she brings along a flashlight.

In the tree house, Annie finds a book about castles and turns to a page picturing a knight on a horse. Before Jack can warn her, she puts a finger on the picture and wishes that they could meet a knight in shining armor. The tree house starts to spin and lands in front of a castle. Jack wants to go home, but Annie climbs down the ladder to explore. Jack finds information about knights in the book from the tree house and begins taking notes.

Before Jack can stop her, Annie goes to the castle to explore in it. He follows her, and they hear music inside. Jack takes notes about the things he reads and observes, including the fact that feasts sometimes include peacocks for dinner, crocodiles sometimes swim in a castle's moat and a knight's helmet can weigh up to 40 pounds.

Afraid of being caught, they hide inside a room filled with armor and weapons. Jack accidentally makes a noise while trying on a helmet. Three guards arrest him and Annie. The guards threaten to hang the children the next day. Annie retrieves her flashlight from her backpack and shines a light in their faces, telling them it is a magic wand. The guards are so surprised that they let the children go. Using a map of the castle (from the book) as their guide, they make their way to the castle's wall as their flashlight dims.

They climb over the castle wall and swim across the moat where they encounter a mysterious knight on a horse. He lifts the children into the saddle and takes them back to the tree house. Annie finds their book about Pennsylvania. When she points to the picture of Frog Creek, the tree house begins to spin, taking them home.

Back in his bedroom, Jack finds a leather bookmark in his backpack marked with the letter M. He compares it to the gold medallion he found in the Cretaceous period and notes that the lettering is the same. He falls asleep wondering about the mysterious person behind the souvenirs and the magic tree house.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

The children refer to the tree house as a magic place and believe that a magic person has filled it with the books that allow them to travel through time. Annie refers to her flashlight as a magic wand.

Authority Roles

As the older sibling, Jack is the authority figure in the relationship. He is cautious and protective of his sister, who tends to make impulsive decisions. They keep the magic tree house and their adventures a secret from their parents and their teacher.

Jack and Annie seem to instinctively know that the knight wants to help them. He picks up the children and helps them onto his horse, then takes them to the tree house without a word.

The guards fulfill their duties in the castle. They detain Jack and Annie, despite their kicking and shouting. The guards question the children about why they have entered the castle. When the children refuse to explain their presence, the guards arrest them and take them to a dungeon. Annie is angry for being punished since they have not done anything wrong.


Jack reads that crocodiles live in castle moats and is afraid one will eat him if he falls into a moat. When the guards capture the children, they say that there will be a hanging the next day, if the rats don’t eat them first.

When Jack sees his sister dash off to the castle, he angrily mutters under his breath that he'd like to kill her. It is clear from the context that he doesn't mean this, but that he is simply irritated that Annie has run away without telling him where she is going.



Discussion Topics

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

  • Whose idea is it to travel to the castle — Jack’s or Annie’s?
  • Do you and your friends always agree on what to do together?
  • If you don’t agree, how do you decide what to do?

  • Why did knights wear armor long ago?

  • What happened when Jack put on the helmet?
  • Have you ever dressed up in a costume or worn a mask?
  • How did you feel when you were wearing it?

  • Jack is angry with his sister when she disappears and says that he’s going to kill her.

  • Do you think he was serious?
  • Why does he say it?
  • Have you ever said words you didn't mean?

  • At the end of the story, Annie believes the knight is there to help them, but her brother isn’t sure.

  • How can you tell whether a stranger really wants to help you?
  • Is it OK to go with strangers?
  • Why or why not?

Additional Comments/Notes

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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