Monday, December 15, 2008

The 39 Clues: One False Note

My review of Book 1 here
Holly's review of Book 1 here

I really wish I had read The 39 Clues series as a child, because they don't have the same timeless charm of Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. I can see the wheels turning, and I remember reading a review of the first book that compared the series to a boy band, a particularly apt comparison. This is a high-concept, multimedia, take-the-world-by-storm marketing force. But it's a fun one. My main gripe with book 2 is that it's short--160 pages, compared with 224 pages in Book 1. Sure the pace is brisk, but there really was less "there" in book 2, and is it any cheaper? Of course not! There are 10 books projected in the series, each written by a different author. Each book comes with 6 cards, and there are card packs to buy separately. You enter the codes for your cards into your online account at, which gives you more puzzles to solve. Although the premise is ridiculous, really James Bond villain-ish in scope, it's a fun ride once you suspend disbelief, and the multimedia aspect is intriguing to me. I'd love to know how many reluctant readers are devouring the books to be a part of the online game/trading card part of the action. Scholastic gets bonus points for pushing the envelope.

In Book 1, we learned a lot about Benjamin Franklin as the kids traveled (scheming relatives hot on their heels) to various world locations. Book 2 focuses on Mozart, the clue-to-the-Clue being a scrap of music, and takes the Cahill children to Vienna and Venice. This introduces a history/art/geography component that elevates these to a more educational level--almost as if Scholastic thought, "Hey, while we've got them reading, let's throw in some other stuff, too." The history is presented in an accessible way, with even Dan "This is so Boring" Cahill getting interested in Mozart's biography. Dan and Amy are fun siblings, and their au pair provides some strategy and grounding for them. The overarching premise that all the important people in the world are Cahills, more than stretches credibility, but the action never stops. I'll certainly read Book 3 when it comes out in March, and if you'll excuse me, I have to enter my Book 2 cards into the website...

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