“Magic Tree House” Author Mary Pope Osborne Talks About What’s Next for Jack and Annie: 'I Think They Can Go Anywhere' (Exclusive)

The author released the first book of the beloved series more than 30 years ago, and isn't stopping anytime soon

<p>Elena Seibert; Random House</p> Mary Pope Osborne and Magic Tree House

Elena Seibert; Random House

Mary Pope Osborne and Magic Tree House

More than 30 years after Jack and Annie were first introduced to the world in the pages of a Magic Tree House book, author Mary Pope Osborne has no plans of slowing down the siblings’ adventures.

The author, who published the first book of the beloved series — Dinosaurs Before Dark — in 1992, tells PEOPLE that while the first 20 of her now more than 100 titles were “so requested by kids,” she’s now more open to “unknown territory” that might introduce her readers to figures they’ve “never heard of, like Homer who wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey, or Madame Curie in her work with X-rays and so forth."

"The whole thing is to bring forth people who would be helpful today,” says Osborne, 75, "so that ... you can really give kids a kind of a foundation of big points in civilization.”

Osborne says that her eyes were opened to such possibilities after she had the Smith sibling duo travel back to World War II in World at War, 1944, which also happens to be the author's favorite of the series.

<p>Bob Berg/Getty</p> Mary Pope Osborne and her husband Will Osborne at a book signing in 2006

Bob Berg/Getty

Mary Pope Osborne and her husband Will Osborne at a book signing in 2006

“People said, ‘Okay, I guess Jack and Annie can even go work with the French Resistance, and it's not too impossible to imagine.’ So now I think they can go anywhere,” she says. “I just have to find a way.”

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In an upcoming book, Osborne tells PEOPLE that the duo will find themselves scuba diving — a topic she admittedly knows “nothing about.”

“I've been learning and learning and talking to experts,” she says of her process. “But I feel like there's nowhere they can't go, that I can't explore and learn more myself.”

Since that very first book, the series has sold more than 143 million copies and gained the admiration and following of countless fans — a feat Osborne calls “heavenly.”

“It's kind of a miracle,” she says of the ever-growing fanbase around the world. “Because the new readers who are 7 and 8 are just like the ones 32 years ago. There's this perennial population of wonderful human beings, and they're about 7 and 8 years old, and they never change."

“When I meet young adults in their 20s or even early 30s who read the books, and some of them come up to me if they know who I am, and they get very emotional, and what I totally begun to think is that it's not me. It's not that little thin book they read all those years ago. It's them, who they were,” she continues. “And my hope is they tap into that self and incorporate it in their self today, because it's so open and receptive to good things.

She adds, “So yeah, it's heavenly. That's a good word for it, just heavenly to meet the old readers and meet all the little new readers.”

The latest in the series, Windy Night with Wild Horses, was released on May 7, 2024, and follows Jack and Annie as their tree house takes them to Mongolia to protect horses from nearby wolves. Another one of Pope’s latest endeavors has been to give her titles new life by republishing them as graphic novels — something she was initially hesitant to do despite her publisher’s push.

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“I said, ‘Well, I don't want kids to not learn to read,’" she recalls. “My big thing is literacy. So then I did some research and I found out that [graphic novels] actually help readers, they help kids who are reluctant to read, get over that hump.”

She says after seeing the artwork imagined by Kelly and Nichole Matthews, who would ultimately illustrate the books, and finding the right person to adapt her original words, she was on board.

<p>Random House</p> The cover of Magic Tree House, The Graphic Novel: Sunset of the Sabertooth

Random House

The cover of Magic Tree House, The Graphic Novel: Sunset of the Sabertooth

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“Who can imagine anything that wonderful?,” Osborne says, showing off a “magnificent piece of art” from the first graphic novel she saw finished. “So I'm very, very happy with it now.”

The next title slated to be given the graphic novel treatment is Sunset of the Sabertooth — first released in 1996 — which will hit shelves on Sept. 3, 2024 with illustrations by the Matthewses and adapted by Osborne's best friend, Jenny Laird.

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