It's book fair time again, and I'm looking for "that" book, like Swindle last year, that will capture the kids' imaginations and fly off of the shelves. My first read from the fair is The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, like me, and are totally unfamiliar with concept of The 39 Clues, a brief explanation based on my limited research. There are 10 books planned for the series, all written by different children's authors. Book two comes out in December and is written by Gordon Korman, so they are using quality talent to create this series.
There are a couple of commercial tie ins that at first made me nervous, but after looking at them I've changed my mind. First there are decks of collector cards, each book at the book fair comes with six included. They puzzles, background info on characters, spy devices and other fun things. In addition, each has a code number that can be entered on a website, which brings me to the second feature of the series. Readers can log onto The 39 Clues website, set up an account and begin collecting the cards on line. It appears that some of them will cause things to happen on the site and help readers solve even more puzzles. After my initial unease with these two features, I came to the realization that meeting kids as readers in their comfort zone just might work! After all, isn't that what we as teachers strive for? Finding things that will get kids interested in reading? This series does that a so many levels. I was able to log onto the site and create an account. Loads of fun activities, some that involve reading, others that are just game type things, but all entertaining and designed to get the kids into the books. It reminded me a lot of the old Carmen Sandiego game, only updated and more sophisticated.
As for the book, I liked it. I've not read any other Rick Riordan stuff before this, so I have nothing of his to compare it to, but the plot is catchy and the action non-stop. It involves the orphaned Cahills, Amy and Dan. When their grandmother, Grace Cahill, dies, they discover that they are part of the Cahill family that can trace its ancestry to just about every great, historical figure in the history of the world. This book revolves around their famous relative, Ben Franklin. After the funeral, many of the existing Cahills are invited to the reading of the will. Each member is given the choice of taking a million dollars, or going on an elaborate scavenger hunt of 39 clues (hence the title) to discover the thing that made the Cahills the most important family in the history of the world. Of course, Amy and Dan take the challenge, and along with their reluctant au pair, the begin an around the world challenge. I was reminded of the National Treasure movies which have been very popular recently.
Because Amy and Dan are most closely related to Grace, the other dastardly villains try to follow them and eliminate them from the challenge. The threats are real, but the kids manage to escape every time with only minor injuries. For an adult reading it, the book takes some far fetched turns, and reality must be suspended at times, but for kids it will be a fun exciting read. I'm excited for some of my students to start the challenge and keep me up to date on what happens on the website when they enter their codes and solve the puzzles. Frankly I can't wait until December to read the next one. This series should be the next big hit.
Check out Franki's "simulblog" at A Year of Reading.