Friday, January 31, 2014

Move over Indiana Jones - The 39 Clues are here

I have to hand it to, their "You might also enjoy" algorithm really hit the bulls eye when suggesting "The 39 Clues" series based on my son's reading history.

In a 21st century "Indiana Jones"-type adventure (it stays good beyond book 3 though), 14 and 11 year old Amy and Dan Cahill run away from their guardian and social services in order to join a treasure hunt across the globe, that starts when their beloved grandmother dies. They know as little about it as the reader, and have to piece together little by little what it is they are looking for and why it is so important that their own family tries to kill them for it.

The books manage to tie together an astonishing set of insights.
First, they teach and explain about actual historic places and personae and the importance of their achievements. When Amy and Dan need to find another clue in the grave of a Pharaoh, the reader is taking a lecture about the structure of these old graves, the meaning of its decorations, and the way of life in old Egypt. All with the adrenaline that comes with a good spy story, instead with a dusty museum feel. It makes you want to go and book a vacation to Egypt right this minute.

Further, the books include numerous riddles. Messages hidden in plains sight on the Declaration of Independence, anagrams that need to be solved to find the next location, math problems hidden in sheet music. In a clever way this teaches the complexity of cryptology. If the reader pays attention, the books also include riddles and clues to be collected and used on the website for additional content and games.

If that is not complicated enough yet to track, the book also lets readers practice their skills to guess a person's intention with Amy and Dan's family. Who is lying and why? Who is an ally and who is a false friend? What are the dangers of cooperation, and what are the benefits? Whom can you trust? (Go with Fox Mulder. Trust no one.)
And last, the book shows that often problems need to be solved with brains, and sometimes with muscles, charm or trust in someone else. And quite often also a good portion of luck.
Incredibly multilayered for a children's book series.

Rumor has it, that Steven Spielberg is working on a "39 Clues" movie, so get started on reading, before your kids drag you into those movies and ruin the books for you.

Oh, and don't forget to let your kids read them too, after all they were written for young readers. With 19 books published so far, this has the potential to keep them reading the entire winter.

Geek Factor: 5 out of 5
Fun Factor: 5 out of 5

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