The 39 Clues, Book One
Review posted October 27, 2008.
Scholastic, 2008. 220 pages.
This is not a book, it's a product -- but a good one. Scholastic has gotten some outstanding children's authors to write ten books in The 39 Clues series. The captions on the back of the book say, "Read the Books, Collect the Cards, Play the Game, Win the Prizes." All the books come with collectible cards in the front (though they've been removed from the library copies).
I haven't tried the game and haven't seen the cards, so I will only comment on this story as a book.
The book is a good one. Another fun adventure yarn for kids. I probably shouldn't have read it so soon after The Mysterious Benedict Society, Larklight, or Lionboy, but this book is right in that same vein. A good clean adventure for kids.
The Maze of Bones has some of the flavor of The Da Vinci Code, without the religious aspects, because we have a powerful family with clues planted hundreds of years ago in actual places all over the world.
Amy and Dan Cahill thought they were their grandmother's favorites. But they aren't so sure, when, at the reading of her will, a contest is announced. Amy and Dan don't seem to have any advantages.
They have a choice: They can take a million dollars or the first clue. The clue is regarding "a quest of vital importance to the Cahill family and the world at large." The winner may become the most powerful person in the world.
The Cahill family is enormous, and several teams form, choosing to take the clue. How can Amy and Dan, two orphans without resources, possibly follow the clues and take on such powerful opponents? Is there anyone they can trust to help them?
This book is well-written, and the adventure, full of narrow escapes and a trip to Paris, is compelling. If Scholastic did half as good a job with their contest, this is an impressive feat indeed.
It's interesting, though. My reaction is not, "I loved this book," but rather, "I think kids will like this book a lot." As I said, maybe I've been reading too many kids' adventure novels lately, but although I enjoyed it, it didn't really reach out and grab me. And I wish that Amy and Dan's relatives weren't all so mean.
It will be interesting to see how well a varied group of authors can do in keeping the thread and feel of the series. Gordon Korman has written Book Two, and I am confident he is up to the challenge.
I will definitely be watching how this series unfolds.