Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"




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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

This new series has a clever marketing strategy... If you buy the books, they come with six clue cards that you use when you log into the website associated with the books. You can use your clue cards and play a game along with the books you read. Although these books are available at the library, I doubt the clue cards will still be attached unless you buy them new.

Alas, the writing isn't as clever as the marketing. It's a bit formulaic and fluffy. Fluff from a book beats fluff from TV, and I don't object to fluff per se, but it doesn't make for the most engaging books. This series may have strong appeal to younger and reluctant readers. It is selling fast at the stores and may be worth a try for that audience. I suspect that more experienced readers will find it a bit too contrived.

If you've seen National Treasure, you have the gist of this book. Dan and Amy Cahill are members of a powerful family that has influenced all of history, and their ancestors are many of the most famous of influential leaders. When the matriarch of the family, Grace, dies, family members from the 4 branches of the family are brought together and offered a million dollars...or a clue. Should they choose the clue, they have a shot at discovering the power of the family and gaining great wealth. However, only one team of family members can win.

Our young protagonists are the innocent and compassionate sort, but the family resemblance ends there. The rest of the clan are out to get them and stop them at all costs. In this book, the children end up exploring Paris and the history of Ben Franklin. (No great scholarship here, but you may be more adept at Trivial Pursuit after reading it.)

The other books in the series are written by a variety of young-adult authors. I've only read this first.

There is one reference Dan makes to his sister's "bony butt" that I could have done without. There is also constant menace and mayhem like explosions, poison, the threat of being buried alive, beat up, or caught in fire. No one actually dies, just know that these plot devices are strewn throughout the story.

Dan Cahill constantly plays pranks on adults and gets in trouble at school. It is understandable since he's an orphan with no adult who guides and cares for him, but the book treats it more like a normal part of his high-spirited, ninja-loving personality rather than the troubled behaviour it actually is...

Safety Rating: 2 Vatican Flags

4 comments:

Megan June 19, 2009 at 9:53 PM  

Thank you for all the time and effort you put into this blog, it was the first place I searched when my husband came home from work and told me about this book, which he learned about from his co-workers. It was the first time I had heard about the series. It was so nice to have this review to turn to.

Tween Lit Crit June 21, 2009 at 4:12 PM  

You're welcome, Megan. I'm truly glad someone can benefit from my reading. And thank you for the note of encouragement...

Anonymous,  June 15, 2010 at 6:19 PM  

Thanks for this review...I just came home from a bookstore and couldn't purchase this book without first having a Catholic perspective on it. I really appreciate your ratings!

Anonymous,  July 31, 2012 at 4:29 AM  

I would be very curious about your opinion of "The 39 Clues: Operation Trinity" by Clifford Riley, published in 2012. I realize the early books in the 39 Clues series were o.k., but this one has Catholic priests, themes, art, etc. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated!!

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