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.)

Friday Feature — 39 Clues Scavenger Hunt Questions

I’m trying something new for my blog, which hopefully will become a regular occurance. I’m initially shooting for once a month, and building to every Friday by the end of the year. These Friday Features will include things other than book reviews, something a little extra. This might include author interviews (hint to any authors out there who want to get interviewed), bibliographies, book trailers (once I figure out how to work MovieMaker), and program ideas. While I’m not limiting myself to talk about these things just on Fridays, it will be something extra special to finish off the work week. So thanks for stopping by to what I hope is the first of many Friday Features. (And if you have any name suggestions to replace Friday Feature, let me know — the name is negotiable.)

I’ve been getting several questions regarding my 39 Clues scavenger hunt that I blogged about a few months ago, asking for question suggestions. Several of my clues referred to specific features that my library has, like computer labs, art on the walls, and statues. Those location specific clues I haven’t included here, so some groups might seem like they’re missing questions. Other clues referred to specific collections or books. Rather than post a humongous comment with some examples, I figured I’d make this a separate post. Clues referring to collections or books were taped to the bottom of the shelf that the book was located.

I am planning an encore presentation of this scavenger hunt, although as a scaled down version. My new scavenger hunt will be planned for the day before school gets out for the summer, so we’re expecting about twice as many people as we got the first time. I will be posting a summary of that program once plans have been finalized, but it will include stations that the kids will rotate through in small groups.

I separated the teams into eight groups, with each group getting their own set of questions based on one of the book. This method obviously requires some knowledge of the books, which having read all of them I had. You can get most of this plot information through simple searches on the Internet. Answers to my clues are included in parenthesis following the question. I sincerely hope this helps librarians in planning their future scavenger hunts and programs. If you do blog about this, please link back to either this or the original post. I’m flattered that so many are finding my blog useful, since I know I’m a new librarian with a *relatively* new blog and new ideas.

Book #1: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

  • Where can you find other books by this author? (Young Adult under Riordan)
  • The library owns a copy of this book in the children’s section. (Children’s Large Print Riordan)
  • Who did Dan and Amy FIRST have to learn about in The Maze of Bones? The answer might be shocking, along with his experiments. Where would children go to find out information about him/her? (Biography Franklin)
  • There’s Four Centuries of Innovation in Boston. Bring it with you and turn it in when you’ve finished your clues. (Kids have to find the book titled What’s the big idea? : four centuries of innovation in Boston by Krensky, Stephen with call number 330.977 K)
  • Amy always took travel guides for the different places they were going. Where would she find one in the adult section about Boston? (Adult Nonfiction 917.446)


Book #2: One False Note by Gordon Korman

  • What kind of cat is Saladin? Where would kids go to find information about cats? (J 636.8)
  • What musician did Amy and Dan have to find out about, and where would you go to find information about this person? (Biography Mozart)
  • Where would you find a guidebook to help Dan and Amy navigate on their fast speed motorboat chase around Venice, Italy? (Adult Nonfiction 914.531)
  • Amy and Dan get to play with samurai swords towards the end of the book. Where would you find Adventures Stories from Japan by Eric Kimmel?
  • Tungsten plays a role in this book. Where would Amy and Dan look for information about this item and others like it? (encyclopedic book titled Potassium to Zirconium call number 546 E)
  • If you wanted to write a note of a different kind, this book might help any Word Snoop code and decode secret messages. Bring it back with you to the auditorium. (Kids have to find the book titled Word Snoop by Ursula Dubosarsky — call number 420.9 D)


Book #3: The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis

  • Where would you find a giudebook about Japan, which is where Amy and Dan head in this book? (Adult Nonfiction 952)
  • There is a popular style of drawing called manga from Japan that is often used in Graphic Novels. Find the Young Adult Graphic Novel collection.
  • What goes up must come down. Find the Children’s Graphic Novel collection. (This question is worded this way because our children’s and young adult collections are on seperate floors.)
  • Where would you find movies in the Japanese language? (Adult Foreign Language DVDs)
  • Ohayou (pronounced Ohio) is a basic Japanese greeting that means “Hello”. Where would adults find books if they wanted to learn Japanese? (Adult Nonfiction 495.6)
  • Origami is another part of Japanese culture. Where would children find books with instructions on how to make origami creations? (736.982)


Book #4: Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson

  • Where does the book start? Find it on the globe in the Children’s department. (The clue was placed on Egypt on the globe.)
  • Find an adult guidebook to help you on your travels. (Adult Nonfiction 916.2 E)
  • Where would you find a children’s book about the style of writing used during Ancient Egyptian times? (book about heiroglyphics, 493)
  • If you’re telling a story to someone far away, you would use the phone. Find the library’s only pay phone. (clue was taped to the underside of the phone)
  • When they arrived at a hotel, Amy and Dan immediately realized that their room had been “bugged”. Lincoln also had some high-tech surveillance to win the Civil War, and we have a book about it. Find it and bring it to the auditorium with you when you’re done. (book titled Mr. Lincoln’s High Tech War by Thomas Allen call number 973.73 A)
  • Amy and Dan almost had their pack stolen in the airport. What prevents people from stealing the library’s books? (This clue was fastened to the theft prevention devices near the main doors).


Book #5: The Black Circle by Patrick Carman

  • When Amy and Dan arrive in Russia, they admire a statue twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty honoring the Battle of Stalingrad. Where are books for children on that battle? (The Battle of Stalingrad by Bob Carroll 940.54 C)
  • Anastasia was a Russian princess who disappeared. Where can you find the Disney video version of this story? (Family DVDs)
  • Dan and Amy ride in a remote controlled vehicle in this book, which Dan compares to a video game. Where would you find video games in the library? (Young Adult Video Games)
  • Do you remember what this vehicle was? It was called The Shark. Where would children find information on sharks? (597.3)
  • Rasputin is known for being murdered in an unusual manner, after which his body was recovered from the river. The library has books about bog bodies, about bodies recovered in a similar way. Bring it back with you to the auditorium. (We have two books on this topic, both in the Children’s nonfiction at 599.9)


Book #6: In Too Deep by Jude Watson

  • Amy and Dan fly “down under” for information about their parents. Where would you find out information about this continent that’s also a country? (Australia in children’s nonfiction call number 994)
  • Whose famous last flight by a female pilot were they tracing? Find a biography about her. (Children’s biography Earhart)
  • In their travels, Amy and Dan visit an island famous for an explosive volcano with a weird name. Where would you go to find information about volcanoes in the children’s section? (Children’s nonfiction 551.2)
  • A Newbery award winning book has a character who visits a secret civilization on the volcanic island. Bring that book with you to the auditorium. (book titled The Twenty-One Balloons by William Du Bois in the Newbery section)


Book #7: The Viper’s Nest by Peter Lerangis

  • Peter Lerangis, besides writing for the 39 Clues series, also wrote a book about an Eskimo boy named Minik. Find it and bring it with you to the Auditorium. (book titled Smiler’s Bones by Peter Lerangis)
  • Since the book is called The Viper’s Nest, where would you find books in the children’s section about vipers? (597)
  • Speculation is that Amy and Dan go to Madagascar in this book. Wasn’t there a movie by that same title? (Family DVDs)
  • Did you know that there are “extras” on each of the audiobooks for the 39 Clues? See if there’s a book on CD in the library. (Juvenille Audiobooks)
  • Since Amy and Dan are off to Southern Africa, they should probably read up on the Kings and Queens. Where would Amy find this book? (book titled Kings and Queens of Southern Africa by Sylviane Diouf call number 968.0099 D)


Book #8: The Emperor’s Code by Gordon Korman

  • It’s been rumored that Steven Spielberg is interested in directing a film made out of the first book. Where would you find information about him in the children’s area? (Biographies Spielberg)
  • The Name of This book is Secret. Where would you find it? (book titled The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch)
  • In World War II, Navajo Indians used their native language to help spread secret messages for U.S. forces on the ground. The code was never cracked by enemy troops. Where can adults find information on these Code Talkers (940.54)
  • There’s a guy who also created a code that people could use before telephones to communicate using dots and dashes. Find a book on him. (Biographies — Samuel Morse)
  • Secret passages play a big role in the 39 Clues series. Did you know that the New York Subway also started off as a Secret? Find the book and bring it back to the auditorium when you’re done. (book titled Secret Subway by Martin Sandler call number 388.428 S)

The Viper’s Nest

Title: The Viper’s Nest
Series: 39 Clues
Author: Peter Lerangis
ISBN: 9780545060479
Pages: 190 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic, c2010.

Amy heard a metallic ratchet noise. The Yugo skidded left, turning sideways in the road.
She watched in horror as its right rear fender smacked against the pickup.
“Dan!” she cried, racing toward him . . .
Her brother was trembling. Staring at the steering wheel of the stopped car.
In one piece.
Hamilton, Nellie, and Amy converged at the side of the Yugo. “I reset the mechanism,” Hamilton said. “It’s on a timer now. Three minutes. Take this. Go.”
He handed Amy a folded-up sheet of paper and sprang away, running across the street. “Move!” he shouted to his family. <"It's about to blow!" (81)

Amy and Dan have just witnessed the death of one of the opossing players on their hunt for the 39 clues. While fleeing from an errupting volcano, they realize their next clue follows the path of Winston Churchill and Zulu chief Shaka. What could these two people possibly have in common?Amy and Dan struggle to find the clue, but the Kabras are still intent on killing them, especially after their last escape. And are the Holts pairing up with Uncle Alistair to work against Dan and Amy, and prevent them from finding out what branch of the family they belong to?

This one is probably my favorite so far in the series, and I hope it’s not because I had an opportunity to talk with the author recently. Amy and Dan develop some real character in these books, and you see Hamilton Holt and Ian Kabra changing as they see what the hunt for the clues is doing to their parents and their lust for glory. Dan and Amy both have some great one liners, and I can appreciate Dan’s sense of humor more in this book. When Amy wins at a game of chess against a boy they’ve met along the way, Dan tells Nellie that “We have a few more minutes” and “He’s going to ask for a rematch.” When Nellie asks him how he knows this, Dan snipes back “It’s a guy thing!” (111) Amy especially develops some anger and and struggles to come to terms with the growing resentment towards her parent’s death and the other competitors.The clues presented in the novel do not require some superhuman knowledge of obscure facts, and both Amy and Dan read portions of their research material “aloud” so readers are privy to the same information. The suspense is riveting, with bombs, cave-ins, and volcanoes dominating the text.

The *one* complaint I have is that, as shown in the scene quoted above, Hamilton Holt hands Amy a folded up piece of paper, which is NEVER opened during the remainder of the story. COME ON! A rival team member who just saved your butts TWICE gives you a folded message that you don’t bother reading!?!? What even happens to it is a mystery, as it doesn’t get revisited and we’re not told what Amy does with it. Big loophole in the plot in my opinion.

39 Clues Scavenger Hunt

I’ve meant to post something about a scavenger hunt and author discussion that I held at my library last month. It went EXTREMELY well, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of Charisse Meloto over at Scholastic. Let me tell you how this extraordinary program came about.

In July, I approached my supervisor about doing a scavenger hunt around the library, based on the popular 39 Clues series. I was originally going to have the scavenger hunt, along with possibly a craft project or two. We scheduled it for the between semester break in December on a weekday evening, because our library tends to be slow during that time period. I contacted Charisse to ask about donated prizes from Scholastic, like backpacks or card packs. In addition to very graciously offering up signed copies of the seventh book when it hits the stores in February, she also broached the subject of having a Skype discussion with one of the authors.

<This was new to me, as our library had never done a Skype discussion before. The author, Peter Lerangis, donated his time, and since Skype to Skype calls are completely free, the program cost almost nothing. I approached my tech support staff immediately, to give them enough time to download the software, work out the logistics of the borrowed video camera (which the library doesn't own), and experiment with this new technology. Around this same time, the School Library Journal published a wonderful article about the benefits of Skype, which gave me some credibility in my proposal.

Publicity had to go out for our newsletter before the author discussion was finalized, so I displayed a large poster at the entrance to the library advertising the addition of the author discussion. Ultimately, we had just over 50 children sign up, 40 of whom showed at the event.

Before the event, I typed up eight different sets of seven clues, each pointing to either a physical place in the library (such as the service elevator), a resource (our foreign language collection), or a specific title (biographies on people mentioned in the books). The last "eighth" clue for each group simply stated to return to the auditorium. I had two staff members help me place them in their proper locations, mainly taped underneath the shelves where the books could be found.

As the kids arrived, I passed out numbers to place them into groups. Kids who came early had some control over who was in their group, while latecomers were assigned to a group. The event began on time. We had arranged through Charisse a test call with Peter Lerangis about two weeks before hand, to make sure everything worked properly. I ended up appreciating that test run, and highly recommend others doing the same, because we did have to fiddle with our microphone settings so he could hear us. He gave a run down of the series and talked for about half an hour, and then we opened the floor to questions from the audience. Be ready for kids to have conversations on practically any topic you could imagine.

After the discussion, we ended the call and the children organized themselves into their groups. I then explained the rules and gave hints about where the clues could be found (under the shelves). The children were also expected to bring all their clues with them, along with a book that the clues would specify. This was to prove to me that they hadn't skipped over any clues.

Upon returning from their scavenger hunt, the kids were given blank Bingo cards and a list of about 70 words to choose from that they could use to fill in their cards. This gave the fast teams something to do while waiting for the slower teams. The winners of the scavenger hunt were announced, and this was when they finally learned that their prize would be a signed copy of book seven. The winners of the two bingo rounds received 39 Clues backpacks as their prizes. Finally, everyone who attended received a 39 Clues card upon leaving the room.

I have a few suggestions for librarians interested in running a similar program:

  • Alert the rest of the staff of what you’re doing, so they can plan breaks and also expect more questions during the time of the hunt. I posted two large signs on the front doors to the library alerting patrons of the event as well, so clues wouldn’t disappear between the time of placement and the start of the hunt.
  • Depending on your internet connection, I would recommend breaking up the interview into 10 minute sessions, then disconnecting the call and reconnecting. My tech person on hand and I both agreed that 10 minutes into the conversation was when the screen and connection would freeze up and eventually forcing the call to be dropped. With planned breaks in the conversation, we think this might be less likely to happen and wouldn’t disrupt the program as much.
  • If you do have kids picking up books and bringing them back to you, don’t pick popular books. New or obscure non-fiction titles would probably work best. Also, it’s best to search for them before placing the clues, so if they did get checked out you can change your clue before hiding them all. That was a concern for the participants when they heard they had to bring a book back, but I could reassure them they were all on the shelf as of an hour ago. And they were all able to find their books.
  • Allocate twice as much time as you think you’ll need for the clue hunt. I thought 20 minutes would be enough time, but there were still a few teams out who would not quit until they had found all their clues.
  • Eight clues seemed like a good number, simply because it spread them out and let the kids get excited, but it wasn’t so long or short that they got bored. Each team received their first clue from me, and their final clue told them to return to the auditorium (our starting point) and check back in with me. It also worked number wise, since there were eight teams.
  • I stressed that if they running or being loud, they would be penalized. When one kid asked what that meant, I told him they’d lose points. We really didn’t have a point system, but if they didn’t bring back the book or ALL eight clues, then they were bumped down a place in terms of rankings. For instance, the second group back didn’t have all their clues, so they got bumped to third place and third place became number two.
  • We assigned teams at the door, so if kids came early enough and wanted to work together, we were able to accomodate them. As it got later, it was whatever group you were assigned. We didn’t fill the teams to capacity, and instead only handed out numbers so five kids were on a team. That way, if we had any late comers, they wouldn’t be on a team by themselves and could be added to an existing team.
  • The Bingo game was at the end of the scavenger hunt. I provided each kid with a blank Bingo card and a list of words they could use. Then they filled in their bingo card. This provided the faster groups something to do, and it also meant I didn’t have to create 50 unique Bingo cards prior to the event. There was no free space in the center.
  • Use your best judgement when and how to help the teams. One team could not find their first clue for whatever reason, and finally I just read it to them from the master list of clues I had (highly recommended and very beneficial).

All in all, I had a lot of comments from parents and kids alike expressing how much fun they had. One girl said we needed to do something like this for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Parents were impressed with the clues and amazed at the different collections we had to offer, with one dad remarking that we should sponsor an event like this for the adults. And amazingly enough, I think a majority of our participants were fifth and sixth graders, who are notoriously hard to please and cater to in our library.

EDIT: I did a second 39 Clues program a while back and talked about it here. It was a slightly different format involving educational stations for the kids to rotate around. I thought I’d provide a link because it doesn’t seem to be getting the same kind of love as this one and the post with my first set of questions. Please feel free to comment on how your own 39 Clues programs go!


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