17 September 2008

Latest book series obsession: The 39 Clues

My son is an insatiable reader. When we go to the library, one of the books has always been read by the time we return home. It takes a lot of stamina to keep coming up with good book suggestions for a kid who plows through books at that rate.

The best suggestions always come from other kids (and parents) which is how we found out about the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. There have been four books so far, with the fifth and final book (The Last Olympian) out this May. I haven't seen my son this enthusiastic about a series of books since he finished Harry Potter. Until now.

A new Scholastic series called The 39 Clues has just come out. But this is so much more than a book -- there are trading cards and an online component, all of which give readers the tools to solve the mystery presented the first book, The Maze of Bones (written by the Percy Jackson author, Rick Riordan). There are real stakes: kids can win real prizes, with the Grand Prize being $10,000.

From the Amazon description:

The 39 Clues is Scholastic's groundbreaking new series, spanning 10 adrenaline-charged books, 350 trading cards, and an online game where readers play a part in the story and compete for over $100,000 in prizes. The 39 Clues books set the story, and the cards, website and game allow kids to participate in it.  

Kids visit the website - the39clues.com - and discover they are lost members of the Cahill family. They set up online accounts where they can compete against other kids and against Cahill characters to find all 39 clues. Through the website, kids can track their points and clues, manage their card collections, dig through the Cahill archives for secrets, and "travel" the world to collect Cahill artifacts, interview characters, and hunt down clues. Collecting cards helps: Each card is a piece of evidence containing information on a Cahill, a clue, or a family secret. Every kid is a winner - we'll give away prizes through the books, the website and the cards, including a grand prize of $10,000!

The kids and I were lucky enough to meet the author at the local children's bookstore. Let me tell you, that guy is a rock star to his readership! Such excitement and enthusiasm when he walked out! While there, I met a woman there who described the story as "The Da Vinci Code for kids."

A new book in the series, each written by a different author, will come out every three months, keeping the hunt in the forefront of every reader's mind. Oh yeah.

Besides being an absolutely irresistible marketing concept (and I applaud just about anything which gets kids reading, cooperating, and thinking), this series will be something the whole family can get into. I've already started reading it myself, and I'm hooked.

Your comments

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I heard about this on NPR a few weeks back. It's cool in theory until you factor in that you have to buy these packs of cards to get clues and whatnot. So it could get expensive pretty quick.

Forget my children.....I completely want to read this book. I really like the Percy jackson series, and my girls haven't even read them yet.

So, what age do you think, Asha?

I'm hooked as well. I agree that it can get expensive, but only because the cards are so good. I was very happy to have bought extra cards with my copy of the book because the puzzles were so much fun to solve. As an adult I love this series because I know how much I would have LOVED it as a kid.

Jamie: What age? Hm. I'm a terrible judge of these things. My son's in 3rd grade, so I'm thinking about 8 or 9 and up.

Amazon's book page puts the reading level at 9-12.

Jamie, this year's Scholastic Book Fair material on the series is aimed at 3rd-5th grade students. Given the collectible card tie-in I'm not surprised, since Pokemon books are still among the most requested titles at the two elementary schools where I work book fair staff as a volunteer.

My 3rd grader is really enjoying the Fablehaven series. I think they'll make a nice stepping stone to Terry Brooks's Landover series, Pratchett's Discworld series and Bob Asprin's MythAdventures, all of which we already have at home.

It could get expensive to purchase these cards, but, go to the39clues.com and go to the rules page. Your kids can write in with a SASE and get some codes. My boys, 8yrs and 10 yrs sat down and did this themselves. Each sending in 10 seperate envelopes with a SASE. Imagine the anticipation! I did not have to check the mail until these were recieved. The boys did it for me. They each recieved 10 sets of codes, which came out to 100 codes to use on the websites and gain access to cards. The whole cost? A book of stamps and some envelopes.

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