Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Things that make me go "Whee!": review of The Maze of Bones, Book 1 of 39 Clues

Maze of Bones, Book 1 of 39 Clues
by Rick Riordan

Middle grade fiction

Reading The Maze of Bones reminds me of watching Raiders of the Lost Ark: romping through one gleeful and heart-stopping adventure after another, knowing full well villains will appear just when the heroes figure out something important, but knowing just as well things will turn out for the good guys.

Many of you are familiar with this new venture by Scholastic, which combines a book series with interactive games and card-collecting. I don't know if the idea had anything to do with enticing reluctant boy readers, but the results sure looks like it may do just that.

The publisher is planning a series of ten books written by different authors, to be brought out every three months. The author of the first book, Rick Riordan, is the architect of the series, mapping out plotlines and characters.

The premise: Amy and Dan Cahill, of the most powerful family in history ever, embark on a world-wide treasure/clue hunt, competing with other Cahill teams, whose trustworthiness is unknown. The survival of our entire civilization will depend on the outcome of this quest (nobody can complain that the stakes aren't high enough!) Without fame or money, and not even old enough to buy plane tickets, Amy and Dan have to rely on their combined intelligence and loyalty, with occasional help from adults or storkes of luck to outwit their opponents.

These adventures take them to famous places all over the world, such as the Louvre in Paris (move over, Da Vinci Code) and the Philadelphia Museum, some of which get blown up.

I am excited about these books, even though interactive online games and card-collecting aren't my thing. As an educator, I love it that the books touch on history and geography and art and general knowledge. I love it that being knowledgable is portrayed as something very good; cool even. As a parent, I love how the sibilings care the world for each other, even though they are annoyed no end by each other.

But I know that kids are not going read to learn. They read to be part of an adventure, to solve mysteries, to laugh at funny things that happen, especially to nasty adults.

Maze of Bones provides all that. And if the other books match the writing and pace and fun of this first one, then I hope this venture will take off.



Nandini said...

You're right, Yat-Yee. My son's been waiting to check out a copy of 39 Clues for a month or two (from the school library). It's always out! I should just get it for him ...

Yat-Yee said...

It's a book that will probably be re-read. I think it's well worth it.

Fiddler said...

I was surprised--my older son (11 in 2 days!) read the first chapter and wouldn't read any more of it. I've yet to read it myself to figure out why, and I couldn't get him to explain. He loves Riordan's Percy Jackson series, so I thought this would be a winner in his eyes, too. I should just go snag the book from his room and check it out, but is there something upsetting in the first chapter?

Yat-Yee said...

The book does begin with the grandmother's death, and the challenge for the Cahill clan explained at the funeral. It's a quick read so you'll have a better sense when you read it. Does your son have a tender heart? I have a little boy like that.