Friday, April 23, 2010

Get a Clue!

There are no shortage of adventure series for young readers and preteens. The series are trying new things as well, using new media and video to compliment the story lines. One such series has been very popular, "The 39 Clues." They are fast-paced mystery-adventures that wisk readers to exotic locations around the world. "The 39 Clues" include an online game, collectible cards, and a sweepstakes. Another series, set for release in May, using a 360-degree media approach is "Trackers," but I'll review that one at a later date.

"The 39 Clues: The Emperor's Code"
By Gordon Korman
For ages 8 - 12
This fun adventure-mystery is very fast-paced and filled with interesting facts about China, emperors, Kung Fu, and Mount Everest. Intrigue abounds and it will have you guessing and striving to solve "The 39 Clues." Rated 4 (danger, adventure, education)

We have now been following young Amy and Dan Cahill, and their au pair Nellie Gomez, around the world for seven books. "The Emperor's Code" is the eighth book in the series. In the first installment we learn that Amy and Dan were orphaned as youngsters and forced to live with their not-so-friendly aunt. Then their beloved grandmother dies. The funeral brings together an interesting assortment of Cahill relatives and an interesting proposition. Dan and Amy can each take a two million dollar inheritance or tear up the check and search for 39 clues that could make them the most powerful people in the world. They choose the hunt and thus the adventure and danger begin.

Dan and Amy have been to France, Austria, Russia, Egypt, Australia, South Africa and now they are in China. Their last adventure was more cold and ruthless than previous books. It also brought the first real casualty to the story line. However it did answer one question — Dan and Amy are Madrigals. The end is coming, but can Dan and Amy keep their sanity and family intact through the last couple books.

As we begin book eight Amy and Dan are struggling with the revelation of their Madrigal lineage, their parents' possible dicey past, and trusting anyone. They are in China trying to discover a clue of which the last emperor, Puyi, had knowledge. Things get interesting when Amy and Dan get into a nasty argument and Dan runs off. Then the Kabras show up and kidnap Dan. After escaping he ends up traveling with another cousin, Jonah Wizard; all the time hoping to find Amy and wanting to quit the hunt.

In the meantime, Amy and Nellie are searching everywhere for Dan. They even recruit an uncle, Allistair Oh, to get information. They finally discover Dan is with the Wizards and decide they must stay on the hunt in order to find them. The dizzying adventure culminates at the top of the world (Mt. Everest) with the Holts, Kabras, and Dan and Amy fighting for a single vial of liquid.

This installment of the hunt has less ruthlessness and mortal peril, although danger still exists. The action is fast and furious and the historical facts are very interesting and blended well with the fictional plotlines. From the Great Wall to the Shaolin Temple there is something for every reader in "The Emperor's Code." I was particularly intrigued by the experimental French helicopter and ascent to Everest's summit. Answers are coming quickly now, but so are the questions. What is Nellie's story and how do the Madrigals fit into the Cahill family? With two books left in the series it will be interesting to see how everything is wrapped up — or if doors will be left open for another series.

My family has read each book in "The 39 Clues" series. Some are better than the others, but all have been fun and interesting. I know my son is looking forward to the last two books — and so am I. The ninth book, and next to last installment, in the series "Storm Warning" is set for release May 25.

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