The 39 Clues by Rick Riordan (author of The Percy Jackson series) is the first of ten books in a series that is geared toward middle-grade readers. The goal seems to be to lure readers (most possibly reluctant readers) in with not only the books but combining the series with collector's cards, a website, and online game. Each book in the series will be written by a different author. The second book already comes out in December and 39 Clues just came out this past week.
Grace Cahill, grandmother to Amy and Dan Cahill, passes away. People from far and wide attend the service, and several receive invitations to the reading of her will. They soon find out they must choose between accepting one million dollars each or joining in a quest for the Cahill family treasure which will lead to becoming the most powerful person in the world. The quest consists of finding 39 clues to figuring out the secret of the Cahill family. Many generations have been searching for years to uncover clues and it seems many historical figures were part of the extended family.
As with many children in adventure books, Amy and Dan's parents died when they were younger. They spent weekends with Grace Cahill and the rest of their time in an apartment with au pair. Because they spent so many hours with Grace, many other members of the Cahill clan think the siblings know more than anyone else and the clues. They target them and try to knock them out of the race.
The first installment of the series covers Clues 1 and 2. Ben Franklin is a large part of the first clue and we learn many interesting facts about him as we follow Amy and Dan on their first adventure to Paris. They fight off other members of their family to discover Clue #2 and make their way toward Vienna by the end of the book.
The collector's cards that accompany the book lead to online clues. The Collector's Pack of 16 cards that you can also buy contains cards for Books 1-3. You can tell from them that Thomas Jefferson and the Titanic are also part of the journey.
I thought the book was fun, but a little lower reading level than I may have liked. I know their target audience is ages 6-14 (there are money prizes for participants who find clues first and uncover the Cahill family secret--you are only eligible for prizes if you are 6-14 years). I look forward to reading Book Two to see how the story progresses. I'm also curious if the tone of the books will change at all between the different authors' voices. I think its an interesting approach to marketing and bringing kids into reading by combining all the elements of the books, cards, and website. It also speaks about the future of children's books and producing blockbuster reading series. It was also smart to have Rick Riordan write the first one to lure his fans of the Percy Jackson books into this series and get them hooked.
Ironically, the premise of this series makes me think of it as a children's version of Katherine Neville's The Eight. A multi-generational world-wide quest for a secret to become the most powerful person in the world. Sounds familiar. And with that, I'm off to start Neville's sequel, The Fire!