Daily Archives: March 21, 2009

The 39 Clues (slick and gimmicky but hard to resist)


The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones is exactly the kind of book that I would not have been allowed to buy as a kid (which may explain why I wanted to check it out as an adult). It would have been deemed empty of literary merit and if that alone wasn’t enough to keep the book from going home with me, the card-collecting element would have sealed the deal. Intrigued by the multi-author arrangement of the series, as well as the online aspect of the narrative, I picked up book #1 and read it lightning fast.

Scholastic has created quite the concept here, a 10-book series loaded with multi-media connections, authored by some of the brightest and best writers for kids out there. The line-up:

Book 1: Rick Riordan
Book 2: Gordon Korman
Book 3: Peter Lerangis
Book 4: Jude Watson (aka Judy Blundell)
Book 5: Patrick Carman
Book 6: Jude Watson
Book 7: Peter Lerangis
Book 8: Gordon Korman
Book 9: Linda Sue Park
Book 10: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Undoubtedly, a super-impressive bunch of storytellers. In the end, I think that’s what I’m most interested in. I want to see if these authors manage to apply their own winning twist or tone to the stories that they are responsible for telling while maintaining some kind of cohesiveness within the series of related books. I’m not sure if that will happen. Book #3: The Sword Thief, has just been released, so I’ve got some catching up to do.

Amy and Dan Cahill are orphans (of course), who discover after the death of their beloved Aunt Grace, that their family is one of the most powerful in human history. Many of the world’s most celebrated figures (Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin, Mozart, Picasso) were Cahills, belonging to different branches of the family: Lucian, Janus, Ekaterina, and Tomas. At the reading of their Aunt’s will, Amy and Dan learn that Grace has created a complex challenge for her relatives that may reveal the source of the Cahill family’s true power, and make those able to crack the challenge the most powerful Cahills ever known. 39 clues are hidden around the world to lead the searchers to the final secret of the Cahill family. Amy and Dan must choose to accept the challenge or walk away with a million dollars each. Their relatives are offered the same deal. Some accept, including the siblings, and this begins a whirlwind adventure as Amy and Dan race to get ahead in this mysterious quest.

Within each book is a set of 6 clue cards that kids can collect and trade. The cards are meant to help readers get a deeper sense of the mystery and potentially to understand the secret purpose of this challenge alongside Amy and Dan. Kids can go onto The 39 Clues site, create an account, and enter their cards on the site. This gives readers access to “missions” that will help them to enter the world of the story in a deeper way, and work on the central mystery with more insider information. It also reveals which of the 4 branches of the family you belong to. You can read classified information on your branch’s page, but only after you’ve registered as a user. And guess what? You can buy more cards! (Gasp!) And no two packages are alike! (Imagine) There’s going to be a movie directed by Stephen Spielberg (who just happens to be a Janus, BTW). And you can win prizes if you solve puzzles! Slick indeed. Continue reading