Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House kids are on a pre-Camelot quest in the 31st installment -- and the third Merlin Missions book -- in the smash-hit series.
After Jack and Annie find a seashell challenging them to locate a "shining sword" or "Camelot's king shall meet his doom," the Magic Tree House spins them off to a jagged coastline, where their harrowing journey begins. Almost immediately, a mysterious Water Knight astride a horse-fish appears and takes them to the Cave of the Spider Queen, where the duo fight tidal waves and come face to face with the arachnid herself. After escaping and meeting two seals -- who turn out to be the magician Teddy and a selkie, a human on land who becomes a seal in the water -- they dive back under the sea and eventually confront their worst battle yet: an enormous, slithering sea serpent who guards the sword. Thankfully, Jack and Annie use brain power to get past the creature and take their prize, returning it to mighty Merlin and securing Camelot.
Chock-full of suspenseful adventure as never before, Osborne's 31st tale will keep fans happily hissing for what's to come. Now that the Merlin Missions books are done, kids will be anxious to learn what magical adventures await, and, as always, they'll appreciate the author's note that adds a helpful historical perspective on the book. Jack and Annie's serpent-y summer gives a whole new dimension to beach reading. Matt Warner