December 10, 2012
This is the kick off of a new series that I'm not even going to try to summarize in full. It's just too ridiculous. Let's just say two kids go on a cross country road trip with their parents but are being pursued by people that want to do them cartoonish harm and they need to solve some puzzles to maybe figure some of this out as they go.
It doesn't really make a lick of sense and there are scenes that are so far-fetched you just sit back and think, whatever. But the kids are eating it up and can't wait for the rest of the books in the series. Gutman knows how to snag them in that way as well. There's a fun trailer linked to his website that makes the kids all het up to read it, then he ends them on a cliffhanger so they just have to read the next one.
The best part, from a librarian's point of view, is that he's constantly urging the reader to go look stuff up on line. Sometimes he even tells them where to look or what search terms to type in and writes, "Go ahead...I'll wait..." There are the occasional box in the margins giving specific directions to type in two different places into Google Maps so readers can follow the kid's journey across the country.
We did this for my 4th/5th grade book club and when we met I showed them the websites for some of the crazy places the family had visited and that they were all real. The yo-yo museum, the Spam museum, the House on the Rock (one student had been there) and many more. We had a ball.
So, it's fun, but doesn't make much sense. It gave me a good opportunity to talk up better series in the same vein. Swindle, 39 Clues, The Mysterious Benedict Society, the Brixton Brothers. That kind of thing. That's always a plus.