Posts tagged ‘39 clues’

The Medusa Plot

Title: The Medusa Plot
Series: #1 Cahills vs. Vespers (sequel series to 39 Clues)
Author: Gordon Korman
ISBN: 9780545298391
Pages: 222 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic, c2011.
Reviewed from ARC furnished by publisher
Publication Date: August 30, 2011

“Early this morning,” McIntyre said grimly, “Fiske Cahill disappeared from the El Rancho Jojoba Spa in California.” [...]
“At around the same time as the last known sighting of Fiske, Reagan Holt went out on a training swim in the Caribbean and never come back. Natalie Kabra was reported missing from her boarding school. Thy traced her as far as Harrods in London, and there the trail ended. And in Tokyo, young Phoenix Wizard vanished from on of his cousin’s – shall we say livelier concerts, right under the collective nose of Jonah’s security–what is the word?”
“Possee,” Dan supplied, distracted.
Amy was profoundly shocked. “A little over an hour ago, our bus was attacked by three men in ski masks.” (29)

Two years after everyone thought the hunt for the 39 Clues had ended, the Cahills are being kidnapped. One from each branch has mysteriously disappeared, all around the same time. Amy and Dan narrowly escape capture themselves, having been informed of the possibility of a showdown with the powerful secret society known as the Vespers. They don’t know what the ultimate plan is, but Amy and Dan know that they mean business. So when the Vespers set up a ransom demand for a priceless painting, the brother and sister team fly to Florence. But just as before, nothing goes as planned. The pair realize that they might have to ban together with the rest of the family to solve these multiple mysteries if they’re ever going to recover the hostages alive.

Immediate reaction: Da Vinci Code for middle schoolers, but without the religious controvery. I throughly enjoyed the beginning of this series, and I think Gordon Korman has got it off to a great start. Although there is a brief trip to Rome’s Colosseum, the siblings primarily stay in Florence, which makes it easier to keep track of the plot as opposed to the jet setting from one end of the world to the other in the span of two days. I also liked the team work that comes into play as the Cahills ban together with a member of the Jonas, Holt, Starling and Kabra families. For one thing, it doesn’t make Amy and Dan appear like the super siblings, which was always a complaint of mine regarding the 39 Clues series. The information presented is also geared more towards the audience, covering gladiators and Medusa. Dan’s jokes, while still corny, would also appear to readers. Don’t forget to check the page numbers for a clue, along with the cover photo.

It’s interesting to see how the characters have evolved over the last two years, and I hope that evolution continues as different authors take up the reins. Both Amy and Dan have grown in their emotions and thoughts, which adds depth to both their characters. Amy is gaining confidence as being the guardian-less older sibling, and worries about Dan’s exposure to all of these trials and lack of friends as they struggle to come to terms with their life after the clue hunt. Dan at the beginning compares it to life after war, which is really mature of him, and we see some of the effects the hunt has had on him.

A fresh infusion to what I thought was a previously inconsistent series, hopefully this will inject some new life for a new group of readers.

The Black Book of Buried Secrets

Title: The Black Book of Buried Secrets
Series: 39 Clues
Author: Mallory Kass
Introduction by Rick Riordan
ISBN: 9780545285049
Pages: 187 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Inc., c2010.

Within these pages, you will find everything you need to become the ultimate Cahill operative. You will learn the secret locations of branch headquarters around the world–even for the Madrigals. The identities of each branch’s key operatives are revealed. Personnel dossiers have been opened for the first time in Cahill history, so you know exactly who works for which branch and what abilities they have.
You will learn about each branch’s top secret arsenals of weapons and gadgets. Nothing has been held back. Once you read this book, you will have the combined knowledge of all the Cahill branches.
Remember: We are risking everything to put this information in your hands. Learn it well. We are counting on you. (9)

This book is more an encyclopedia than a novel, providing a compendium of information about the founders, agents, tricks and tools, and hot spots for each of the five branches. Scattered throughout are updates about the characters of the 39 Clues series, stories about agents past and present, and multiple clues and messages in secret codes of all sorts. Exchange symbols or letters for other letters, use the International Signal Flags, morse code, and more, some of which readers will recognize from the series. It’s really not necessary to read this book to make sense of the series, and is more like a who’s who of 39 Clues than a continuation of the plot. Still, fans will get a kick out of learning more of the history of the clues hunt and it’s obviously a must buy for libraries with a group of clue hunters. Readers can flip through and focus on the people or things that interest them.

Vespers Rising

Title: Vespers Rising
Series: 39 Clues, Book 11
Authors: Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman, and Jude Watson
ISBN: 9780545290593
Pages: 238 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic, Inc. c2011.
Publication Date: April 5, 2011

“Children, I need your help. We are in great danger. As you well know, I’ve worked many years attempting to find a cure for the plague. At first, I sought a way to kill the contagion. Then it occurred to me that perhaps the answer was instead to strengthen the body. If a man could be made more resilient, healthier, stronger in mind, body, and spirit, then perhaps the Black Death could not touch him. My approach had . . . unexpected consequences.” (26-27)

Part prequel to the upcoming series and part epilogue to the 39 Clues series, Vespers Rising bridges that gap. For newcomers, it serves as a summary of sorts of what brought about the 39 clues. For die-hard fans, it provides answers to questions such as “Who started the fire at Gideon’s lab?”. The book also sparks new intrigue, as you learn that another super secret organization is after not only the 39 Clues but another artifact from the original Cahills.

I was slightly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Each author takes a generation, with Riordan’s story featuring Gideon Cahill, Peter Lerangis following Madeleine Cahill, Gordon Korman giving a readers a glimpse at the life of Grace Cahill as a child, and Jude Watson building on the existing 39 Clues saga and follows Amy and Dan Cahill. Each story has their own action and adventure, and while it’s broken into these four distinct stories, there is no further subdivision. People who are reading it aloud or reading it before bed will have to determine what a good stopping point is on their own. Or maybe that was intentional, because once you start it’s difficult to stop yourself from finding out what happens next. Don’t miss more mystery with the page numbers, starting with page 39.

The new series, apparently titled Cahills vs. Vespers, starts with a book by Gordon Korman titled The Medusa Plot with a release date of August 31, 2011. Want a sneak peek of the book? Scholastic’s got it here.

On a personal note, THANK YOU SCHOLASTIC for not making it a summer release, for those libraries whose budgets end in June. It makes it so difficult to purchase something during that time period.

Into the Gauntlet

Title: Into the Gauntlet
Series: 39 Clues (#10)
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
ISBN: 9780545060509
Pages: 327 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic, c2010.

Amy grabbed Dan’s arm, ready to flee, but the mysterious ninjas surrounded them.
But they just helped us! she told herself. Maybe they’re allies after all?
Amy wanted to believe that.
“Um, thanks for getting rid of Jonah and Isabel, uh — Hamilton?” Amy guessed.
Elizabethan ninja costumes weren’t the Holts’ style, and the ninja in breeches didn’t seem nearly big enough to be Hamilton. And the voice hadn’t sounded right. But the Holts were the only ones on the Clue hunt with two girls and a boy.
“We’re not the Holt dolts!” the ninja growled. “They’re over there!”
Amy looked and saw all the Holts swarming across the stage from the opposite side. The girls and Mary-Todd were in new-looking, shiny pink tracksuits. Hamilton and his dad were in Manchester United shirts. They were definitely the real Holts.
“Who is that?” Hamilton yelled across the stage. “Who are they working for?” (65)

Amy and Dan are in London, searching for what they hope to be the final clue. Now that they know what house they are in, they’re on a new quest to reunite the feuding families before the hunt destroys everyone. But with one last clue still on the loose, it’s just as difficult as they thought it would be. After fighting ninjas and staking out Shakespeare’s tomb, is the final clue in the Madrigal strong hold? And what do all of these clues create when combined? Find out in this conclussion of this sensational series.

I’ll admit from the start that I’m a Shakespeare geek, so when the road led to Shakespeare I was excited. And, like 11-year-old boy, Dan was less than thrilled. Although, he is somewhat placated when he finds out Shakespeare made up the word puke and he learns the insults that Shakespeare used back then.

I was a little surprised though at how the story turned out. The ending seemed to end somewhat sappily (I’m sorry, I meant happily) ever after, with a let’s-hug-and-be-friends feel to it. The turn around from killing for clues to banning together seems forced, and the injuries sustained by some of the players is completely unrealistic in terms of their miraculous recovery from gun shot wounds and being buried in cave-ins. The final tests were also anticlimactic, as there was actually a way around them without answering them (I won’t go into more detail than that). If you’re willing to suspend your belief, then you might be satisfied as the Cahill siblings triumph in the end.

Oh, and if you haven’t heard yet, the 39 Clues is coming back with a new series, Cahill’s vs. Vespers. Vesper’s Rising appears to be the first one in the series, being published in April of next year according to Amazon.

Friday Feature — 39 Clues Event Take Two

Some of you might be thinking to yourself, wait a minute, this is an old post. Well, you’re half right. I did a program similar to this one back in December, which you can read about here and here. But I did a second 39 Clues Scavenger Hunt back in June, and since the first one is being viewed so many times (it’s one of my top five posts), I figured there must be a demand for 39 Clues themed programs.

The program was set up similar to the first one in format. Author Jude Watson was gracious enough to donate her time for a Skype interview, which I again arranged through Scholastic books. Scholastic also donated several copies of her book, which we were able to give away as prizes for the scavenger hunt winners.

We started the evening with a discussion with Jude Watson, where she talked about writing for the series and how she joined the project. She also showed us some really cool art work on her wall while her husband made dinner in the background.

After the interview, I divided the kids into six groups of five. The groups rotated amongst various stations.
Station #1: Scavenger Hunt — Kids were given the first clue, and then sent into the library to find the remaining clues. While last time I provided different clues for every group, this time I gave each group the same questions to make it fair. I then timed the groups, and the group that came back the fastest was awarded the books. The questions (with answers) were as follows:

  • The last book in the series is titled Into the Gauntlet. One definition for a gauntlet is a protective glove used as a form of armor. Where would you find the book ARMS AND ARMOR? Eyewitness book Arms and Armor by Michele Byam
  • Dan has a photographic memory, which comes in handy throughout the trip. Go to where kids can browse through photos of sports, animals, people, and other things with a spin of the wrist. (We have a library feature where kids can browse through photographs of these items)
  • The numbers on the cover of the last book point to longitude and latitude coordinates. Find a book that talks about what these measurements mean. Any book will work that discusses longitude and latitude, found in the 912s at my library.
  • In the most recent book, Dan and Amy follow the path of Anne Bonny, a female pirate. Find the book which talks about other DARING PIRATE WOMEN. Book by that title by Anne Wallace Sharp
  • AVAST! There is a ship in the library that some people might mistake for a pirate ship but actually fought in the Revolutionary War. Again, a feature unique to our library, a model ship was donated to the library which we have on display in a glass container on top of a shelf.
  • Set a course for the Auditorium, to turn in all of your clues!

Station #2: Maze of Bones.
Using masking tape and yardsticks, I plotted out a maze grid about 8 foot by 5 foot. Kids in each group paired off. Each child took turns being blind-folded and then being directed through the maze by their partner. Originally they were also being timed, and the fastest team was supposed to get some donated card packs. However, we ran late and not everyone had a chance at the maze, so I cut out the whole prize aspect rather than being accused of not being fair.

Station #3: Island Hopping
I got this idea from the book In Too Deep by Jude Watson, where Amy and Dan escape volcanic islands. Using masking tape (it’s your friend, because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue on the carpet or tile), mark off two lines about ten feet apart from each other. Each kid is given a picture of an island. The goal is for the entire team to get from one tape line to the other. The first catch: they can only step on the islands, otherwise they’ll be burned by the volcanic lava. The second catch: if an island cut-out is not in contact with a kid, then it gets swept away by the lava. For instance, if John lays down his island picture and lets go with his hand before his foot is on it, then he looses the island. If Cathy is following John, and John picks up his foot before Cathy puts her foot on an island, then it gets swept away. I had a teen volunteer supervise this one, snatching up islands that the kids let go. This station was a favorite with the boys as they tried to jump the lava in leaps and bounds, literally. Give this station lots of extra room!

Station #4: Hieroglyphics
You can get blank cartouches (the Egyptian equivalent of a name tag) off the Internet and print them out. Also available online is the hieroglyphic alphabet. Have the kids make their own cartouches.

Station #5: Morse Code
I printed off information about the Morse Code, including an alphabet sheet. Kids were challenged to type out a message and see if their partner could translate it. Not the best activity for a crowded and very loud auditorium. However, my initial idea of invisible writing with lemon juice was put to bed when one of my volunteers cancelled on me at the last-minute. If you have the man power, I would suggest doing the lemon juice writing instead, and providing groups with trivia questions that they need to reveal and answer. Lemon juice is invisible until heated by holding the paper to a light bulb.

Station #6: Braille
PBS Kids has a really great website  about Braille centered around Arthur and his blind friend. While some of the activities I thought were a little young for these clue hunters, I did print out the alphabet and translations. I then borrowed some braille books and their print counterparts for the kids to look at and compare. Any Harry Potter title makes a big impression, as they have to be printed in Braille in numerous volumes. I also provided pencils and Braille grids so the children could experiment with making their own Braille.

One word of caution if you’re planning on duplicating this program is try to alternate the “active” and “inactive” stations. If you’ll notice, after they finished the first three stations, groups did a lot of sitting, which the boys had a hard time coping with. Most of the girls seemed okay with the arrangement.

Has anyone else tried programming for the 39 Clues series, and if so what have you done for your die-hard fans?

Storm Warning

Title: Storm Warning
Series: 39 Clues
Author: Linda Sue Park
ISBN: 9780545090674
Pages: 190 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic, c2010.
Release Date: May 25, 2010

While he waited, Dan checked his phone messages. He frowned as he listened. “Hamilton called,” he said to Amy after he closed the phone.
“What did he want?”
Dan shook his head. “The signal was terrible, he kept cutting in and out. But”–he looked around suspiciously–“somehow his dad already knew where we were going.”
Amy gasped. “How is that possible? We didn’t even know where we were going until, like, five minutes ago! And the only other person–” She stopped, her eyes wide.
“While she was in the bathroom!” Dan exclaimed.
Together they turned and stared at Nellie’s back as she stood at the ticket counter. (6)

Dan and Amy Cahill have had their suspicions about Nellie’s loyalty for a while, and they finally confront her on their way to the Bahamas. Retracing the life of female pirate Ann Bonny, Dan and Amy discover another long-time friend of Grandmother Grace’s who sets out to help them. But the Kabras are right behind them, and Dan and Amy set out to trap them once and for all. It has disastrous results, and ends in a death by quick sand. They’re not the only ones interested in confronting the Cahills, as the man in black is quickly gaining, and he has the most revealing information yet.

The book’s revelations quickly pile up in the closing chapters, with the man in black spilling most of the secrets. Dan and Amy learn quite a few more clues from another character, but readers don’t get to be privy to these. Maybe by the end of the series everything will be revealed? The death of a minor character seems to be glossed over a little, because it reads very dramatically and obviously affects Dan and Amy. They are somewhat triumphant over the Kabras, although with limited success, but I like the fact that they at least try to fight back this time instead of passively running away from their pursuers. There is also the added intrigue of icons based on the four branches, which Amy and Dan have to find.

I always like it when the books in this series provide enough information for the readers to figure out the clues. And the fact that Hamilton Holt and Dan are still working with each other gives me hope that maybe this family isn’t as messed up as we once thought. Natalie Kabra also gets more background information, which is refreshing since we learned so much about Ian earlier in the series, and she appears more conflicted and complicated than originally portrayed. I did sort of miss Alistair and Jonas, who did not appear at all in this book. One has to wonder what they’re doing during this stage of the hunt.

The Emperor’s Code

Title: The Emperor’s Code
Author: Gordon Korman
Series: 39 Clues (Book #8)
ISBN: 97805450090667
Pages: 190 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Inc., c2010.

He launched himself at her, fists balled, ready to fight. But at the point of attack, he found he couldn’t hit her, couldn’t even yell at her. All he could do was run away.
“Come back!” she cried anxiously.
At last he found words, the only three he could bring himself to utter to the sister he no longer knew. “I hate you!”
He bumped into a tourist focusing a camera, side-stepped, kept on going. Anything to put distance between himself and Amy. (30)

Distance isn’t the only thing that Dan puts between him and his sister Amy after an argument about their parents. After being kidnapped by the Kabras, Dan finds himself at the mercy of Jonah Wizard and his father. Dan is willing to quit the entire race, and he’s left wondering if there’s more to Jonah than meets the eye. Meanwhile, Amy and Nellie (with Saladin in tow) are left wondering if he’s ok, as they race around the Great Wall of China looking for him. What they find instead is the next clue, but will Amy follow it without Dan?

Alright, I’ll admit it, I had some initial skepticism about the series. It seemed like it was being overly hyped by the media in order to drive sales of the books and cards and encourage participation in the online game. But you know what? You can’t help getting wrapped up in the adventure and non-stop action, no matter how improbable these events are in real life. It’s the Amazing Race for adolescence! It’s my not so guilty pleasure.

Gordon Korman does an excellent job keeping the suspense at its highest. Kung-fu fighting (excuse me, wushu), stone armies, the Great Wall of China, and feng shui puzzles are just some of the things Dan and Amy encounter. Readers see more of Jonah Wizard then we have previously, and you’ll probably have some sympathy for the star who was thrust into this race by his family. He certainly doesn’t appear to have had the same choice Amy and Dan did. Nellie’s back story also gets a little more complicated, and suspicions are confirmed but not elaborated. But that’s just one of many questions that have still been left unanswered; Who can Amy and Dan really trust? What do all these clues ultimately combine to make? Who is the man in black? What is Nellie hiding?

On a completely unrelated note, I think it’s ironic that the week I get this book from the library, I also receive my copy of School Library Journal. In it, Gordon Korman writes the article “How I Corrupted America’s Youth” about how people are reacting to his use of the word “hate” in his Weird School Series. And here he is again, having a main character use the hated word. Is it a new goal of his, to include that word in every book he writes now? (I joke, please don’t send me letters.)

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