Mitchell Reports | December 13, 2012
>>> now listen up. this is about a series of books that have sold an astounding number of copies. more than 100 million copies worldwide. they've been translated into 32 languages. the magic tree house series is written by mary pope ozborne, and on tonight's rock center with brian williams , nbc's meredith vieira explores how she captures the imagination of children the world over, like 9-year-old erin brullard.
>> sounds like she means a lot to you.
>> uh-huh. i really like the books .
>> you heard it right. books . it wasn't a pop star or even a movie star who inspired this homeless third grader. it was an author. her name is mary pope ozborne, and her magic tree house chapter books are so wildly popular among 6 to 10-year-olds that as far as they're concerned, she is a rock star . [ chanting mary ]
>> you are a rock star .
>> their enthusiasm comes gushing out in fan letters. that one aaron wrote is just one of millions mary has received.
>> your books are the best in my life. don't stop them until you die. please. i love them so much.
>> mary 's books chronicle the adventures of jack and annie , a brother and sister who discover a magic tree house filled with books that let them time travel back to wherever the book is set. her books are right behind that other children's book series bay boy with a lightning bolt scar on the "new york times" best seller list. if you are still scratching your head wondering why you are never heard of mary pope ozborne, it's probably because in spite of her success, she has adamantly refused to commercialize jack and annie .
>> there are no costumes. there are no action figures . there's no movie franchise . why haven't you done that?
>> because the books were selling really well, i had the privilege of not having to license the characters for the sake of income, and i could really decide to do what my heart wanted to do, which was not take jack and annie out of children's imaginations.
>> and nbc's meredith vieira joins me now. that is, first of all, remarkable and charming and lovely, but the excitement of these books and the kid's reaction to them, you have really captured that, meredith.
>> it's amazing. i didn't know what to expect. we went to several schools in nigh ark. we were with her there. the reason we were there, actually, was because only 38% -- if a child cannot read well by the end of third grade, they are four times more likely not to finish high school . if they don't finish high school , they're four times more likely to end up in prison, and those are figures figures that are very important to mary pope osbourne , you why she is so focused on kidding 6 to 10, to get them reading and really reading well. they love her books she clearly do had one little kid who wrote her a letter saying i will keep reading if you keep writing. she intends to write, she says, for as long as it is humanly possible.
>> it is actually true, according to a lot of academic studies you that, the harry porter series already changed literacy among kids and really moved the needle up. and these obviously have reached a whole new audience. what is the magic of it? is it the whole -- the fantasy of getting into this different world and different venues?
>> ask the kids, they say they love jack and annie , the two characters who have remained 8 and 7 years old, she never wanted to able her characters, even though she has been writing the books for 20 years, the kids can relate to them. annie is the very brave one, somewhat defiant and jack hangs back a little, a little more wary, interesting because normally you would think the boy is the one a little more adventure white house but the girl in the case of the magic tree house books . i think they just love the stories, they are transported through time travel to all different periods of history, you know? one book they might be visiting with lincoln, the next book on the "titanic." those are stories that capture kids' imaginations. along with those books , the fiction books , mary and her husband, will and her sister have a companion book called "the fact tracker". and those are not fiction, they are fact books , that go along with the fiction books so you can learn even more about the time period .
>> i love t meredith vieira , introducing me to a whole new world. i got stuck in nancy drew .
>> that's not bad either.
>> thank you. it's great to see you and we love that you came in to do the show today. thank you.