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Book Review

This fantasy adventure book by Mary Pope Osborne is the 13th book in the " Magic Tree House" series and is published by Random House.

Vacation Under the Volcano 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 and Annie have become Master Librarians and have received secret library cards from Morgan le Fay, an enchantress. Before they leave for a family vacation, Annie suggests they check the woods to see if the tree house is visible again. Jack agrees. Annie wonders if a nightmare she had about fires burning and ash darkening the sky is a warning from Morgan.

Morgan is waiting for the children in the magic tree house and tasks them with retrieving a book lost from ancient Rome. She gives them the book Life in Roman Times, tells them that only the ancient story can help them in the darkest hour and gives them togas to wear.

The tree house lands in an olive grove outside Pompeii. Annie thinks something is wrong and wants to return home, but Jack insists they complete their mission. They walk into town, noting how similar daily life in ancient Rome is to life back home. As the children enter the city's forum, they see a soothsayer shouting that the end is near.

As Jack and Annie look for a library, they pass the public baths and a temple. During their search, they see gladiators and the amphitheater where they fight. When Annie sees the soothsayer again, she approaches the woman. The soothsayer tells the children that the birds are gone, the streams have dried up, the sea boils and the ground shakes. She claims all these signs mean the end is near. Jack and Annie ask about the library, and the soothsayer directs them to the home of a man named Brutus.

Brutus and his family have left the house empty, but Jack and Annie are able to find a room full of scrolls — the library. After searching, they find the scroll Morgan sent them to collect. Jack checks the book Morgan gave them to see if it contains any information about the scroll. Instead, he learns that Mount Vesuvius will erupt that day. Using a sundial, the children discover that they've run out of time. The volcano is about to erupt.

The ground begins to shake, and soon the sky has gone dark. Jack and Annie run back toward the tree house, using pillows to protect their heads from falling rocks. They need to cross a stream, but the bridge has collapsed, and they get stuck in the dry streambed full of ash and pumice.

Remembering what Morgan said, Annie grabs the scroll and asks for help. A large man dressed as a gladiator appears and carries them to the other side of the stream. Jack and Annie make it to the tree house and travel home.

Morgan is glad to see the children return safely. She thanks them for retrieving the scroll and reveals she has another mission for them in ancient China. She tells them the next book contains the story of Hercules. Annie and Jack believe the man who saved them by the stream was Hercules. They return home just in time to leave for their family's vacation.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

The magic tree house belongs to Morgan le Fay, an enchantress. Her magic allows the tree house to transport Annie and Jack through time and space to the places they find in the books in the tree house. Annie and Jack can see the tree house but others often can't.

Annie has a dream before traveling to Pompeii. The dream comes true when the volcano erupts. She also has a premonition upon their arrival that something is wrong. These things allude to the idea that she might have some soothsayer powers. The soothsayer in Pompeii believes she can foresee the future.

Jack and Annie walk past a temple dedicated to Jupiter, the city of Pompeii's main god. The children learn that the people of ancient Rome believed in many gods and goddesses. The people worshiped these deities through prayer and the offering of gifts in the temples.

Authority Roles

Jack and Annie's parents are absent for most of the book. Their father is seen briefly at the beginning and the end of the story. Jack makes the decisions for both himself and Annie. When she is hesitant to search for the book, he convinces her to complete their mission.


When the volcano erupts, Jack and Annie are forced to run for their lives. They are pelted with falling pumice stone and choked by foul air and ash. Jack and Annie learn that gladiators fight as entertainment for other people.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

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.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

5 to 8


Mary Pope Osborne






Record Label



Random House


On Video

Year Published




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