April 7, 2011
The 39 Clues
Book 4 was definitely the turning point for me. I loved 1, but two and three were just more of the same without much growth in story or characters. But book 4 was pretty good. Then book 5, The Black Circle, was just as good. Lots of great Russian history and mythology there. I've said before that I think these are great for 3rd-6th graders to hear about some great people in history in a fun and entertaining way (along with geography of course). But they also throw in plenty of historical myths that turn out to be true in the world of the Cahill family clue hunt. Anastasia lived and all that. Perhaps history teachers might be miffed, but the line between the fact and fiction is made pretty clear and I personally don't think it matters. If it makes some kids go on to look up the true history then it will be for the good.
Book 6, In Too Deep, get us to Australia and some great character development and is again by Ms. Jude Watson. Mr. Lerangis comes back for book 7, The Viper's Nest and does a much better job in my opinion. By this point some of the original bad guys had grown consciences, so some of they're parents or uncles have shown up to be even badder bad guys. Like on the Star Trek series' when the Klingons went a little soft around the edges, they brought in those no-good Romulens. But when we could somewhat deal with Romulens they brought in those no-good Cardassians and so on.
Mr. Korman made some missteps in Book 8, The Emporer's Code. The plot and story were just as exciting as the other outings, but the way he got Dan and Amy apart for a good chunk of the book didn't ring true to me. He did well with the development of one of the other clue-hunters, though, which leads us up to the two final installments. Ms. Linda Sue Park did book 9, Storm Warning, and does it brilliantly. There's plenty of intrigue and clue-hunting but there's much more characterization and history. Every object in the hunt isn't just another thing to check off a list and lead to the next clue, it becomes representative of the families and history it has been through. Nellie, the babysitter, becomes a full-fledged character and a second important death affects the children.
Finally, Ms. Haddix has to tie up a jillion loose threads and while she might not get every single one, she does a great job with it and it's way better and more satisfying than Lost was. It even opens the door to what has recently been announced as either an 11th book in the continuing series or the first book of a new mystery. But this book 10 is definitely the finish of the hunt for the 39 clues and the brilliant historical figure she ties it too could be none other than William Shakespeare. We get to have an action set piece at the new Globe theater, travel to his birthplace and visit his grave. His dramatic style and the way he wrote some of the best low comedy and high tragedy simultaneously becomes the background which Haddix uses to tie together these disparate characters and all of their motivations. It also pointed out (to me anyway) the funny things that had been going on in the series. Like how Dan has a photographic memory, except when he doesn't and how Amy always stutters, except when she doesn't and how, well, you get the idea.
Whew! I'm happy with the way it ended but not feeling like rushing out and getting the new one yet. And I still need to finish the Percy Jackson series! After that I'm going to stay away from series books for a little while. I have plenty of other things to read. But I felt it was important to get through this one because I added a set to our collection this year and a few boys are nearing the end. I wanted to know what they were getting into and be able to geek out with them. Now I need to find the $ to buy another set and the upcoming continuing series!
One final note: I read about half of them and listened to about half of them. Listening to them takes longer and you don't get to see all the illustrations, but David Pittu, the reader does a fabulous job and evens out the differences between the writers by giving the whole thing one continuous voicing. I wish I could afford audio books in the library but just can't so will definitely promote the use of the local public library for these!
The 39 Clues Box Set