Friday, May 15, 2009

39 Clues: Maze of Bones - Rick Riorden




The 39 Clues series has been one of the hottest selling tickets at the last two Scholastic Book Fairs at my kids' school. At this past fair, we purchased all three books that have been released so far. In total, there will be ten, all written by different authors. These books are an example of the mixed media tactic recently used by publishers to connect with the generation of kids that would rather play video games or surf the Internet than read a book. (Another example would be Skeleton Creek - see my review here.) The 39 Clues books can be purchased with a set of clue cards, and you can also purchase additional cards separately. You may then log on to the official website and use these cards to solve a mystery with the clues provided, and may be rewarded if you solve it. More on the cards later...

The main characters are Dan (11) and Amy (14), orphaned siblings who live with a rather ill-tempered aunt, and occasionally visit their beloved (and wealthy) grandmother Grace. When Grace dies, she leaves a very curious legacy in her wake. You see, she is the matriarch of the large and once-powerful Cahill family. Just about anyone in history of importance has been a member of the Cahill family, but somewhere along the way, the family lost their power. (The definition of this "power" is yet to be explained...money? a nuclear weapon? a cure to world hunger?) Grace's last will and testament proposes this: For those chosen members of the Cahill family, you may take one million dollars and walk away. Or, you may attempt to chase a series of 39 clues, that if solved, will earn them back all the lost power of the Cahill family. Dan and Amy, with the help of their iPod-toting au pair, launch themselves headlong into a race around the world to solve the clues. But so do a number of their ill-intentioned cousins.

Each of the 39 Clues books features a prominent historical figure...this one features Benjamin Franklin, who also happens to have been a member of the Cahill family. Amy and Dan follow clues from Philadelphia to Paris, into libraries, graveyards, museums and catacombs, picking up the more commonly known facts about Franklin, as well as other facts that may NOT have been his crowning glories, like his written works on farts (the kids love this stuff). Their adventure, however, is rife with mysterious figures and nefarious family members attempting to blow them up, bury them alive and poison them.

Personally? I could take or leave this book, but since we have started the series, I guess we are in it for the long haul. I believe kids will find this book more entertaining than adults...mine are not that discerning. They only require action to be entertained. The writing is very simplistic, the characters stereotypical, and the conflicts predictable. Every single time Dan and Amy find a clue, they are thwarted by an opposing family member. Every single time. Toward the end of this story, even my daughter was shaking her head at the umpteenth time it happened. On the positive side, your kids will learn about Benjamin Franklin (including fart literature), the book is fast-paced, and the content is clean and appropriate for ages for 7 or 8, depending on reading level, to middle school.

With regards to the cards, they were a bust for my kids. They poked around on the Internet with the cards and the clues, but could never get engaged in the challenge. I will admit I did not try it myself. I spend enough time on here, eh? So, let's ask Emma what she thought:

Emma's take: I love mystery and action books, so I really enjoyed this one. There weren't very many boring parts, and I like the idea of hunting for clues. The little brother, Dan, made me laugh. He made pretty funny comments about things, and Amy would get annoyed, just like a real brother and sister. But there is something I did not like. It is the fact that every time Dan and Amy found a clue, their relatives just popped up out of nowhere and stole information. I really got tired of that. About halfway through the book, you started expecting that to happen. I think most kids would like this book - it is not too scary, it has alot of action and is easy to understand.


Sandy's rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Emma and Ryan's rating: 4 out of 5 stars

12 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I hate it when relatives pop up out of nowhere and steal things lol!!!


Sounds an OK kids book. Interesting that so many publishers are doing this sort of mixed media thing. I have to admit that I would never have known about it with out you.

Anna said...

Thanks for the review! The Girl has been talking about this book, but I had no idea what it was about. Maybe we'll give it a try, but I'm pretty sure she'll enjoy it more than I will.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - I'm really impressed with the creativity of some of these authors and publishers. Whatever it takes to get a kid excited about reading is a good thing!

Anna - I think most kids are going to like this series. If you happen to be reading with her, you just have to turn your brain down a notch, that's all!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Don't you just wish we could pick their reading tastes for them? *sigh* oh well, I suppose we need to just be grateful when they like books...any books (well, okay, maybe not Tropic of Cancer, but you know what I mean).

Iliana said...

I love the kids book reviews when you also feature a bit from your children's perspective! This is great and helpful. I have a friend who's always asking me for books to recommend for her children and well, I don't have kids and read only a bit of YA and even that it's YA geared more for older kids, so I'm always a bit lost with the tween crowd! :)

Beth F said...

Thanks to both of you for this review. I've been so curious about these books. My niece (14 years old) is not that into them, so I thought they might be a bit young for me too. Keep on reading and I'll keep on following your reviews.

Carrie K. said...

My kids have been devouring this series, but unlike some kids' books, I haven't had any desire to pick them up myself. Noah does spout random Benjamin Franklin facts, though, which I find cool. :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Michele - there is nothing like the kids begging for me to read to them! I love it!

Iliana - this is a new genre for me. When other bloggers would review YA books, I didn't pay attention. Now I wish I would have!

Beth - yes, it is my hope that the books will become a little less predictable. Since they are all different authors, there is hope!

Carrie - that is good to know that the kids will probably continue to be entertained! We are starting Savvy, then will come back to the series.

sally apokedak said...

oh my goodness, this review had me laughing.

I'm so glad you reviewed this book. I'd been wondering if it was any good. I have a predisposed dislike of books that are made to be games, I think. So I've not wanted to try these books.

Melody said...

This sounds interesting! I'm glad Emma enjoyed it.

Matt said...

The book sounds very cute, and am glad that your kids are really into reading.I think it doesn't matter what they read as long as they books are suitable. I believe just pushing those age-old classics would not pique their interests in reading! :)

hi said...

Ive read book 1 and now on book 2. on the cards thing online if it says unsolved ill heip you with some ansers. number 41 ace of spies the anser is james cahill is not a lucian. a another anser is number 1 surveillance camera is really easy. its tag i think just try it bye. p.s this is the best book series i every read it took me 3 days th finish the first book witch is 220 pages bye!