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For Readers Age 9 - 12
Grades 4th - 8th

The 39 Clues Book 10: Into the gauntlet- Review
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Publisher's Summary:

Haddix, Margaret Peterson (2010). The 39 Clues Book 10: Into the Gauntlet. Scholastic Inc. ISBN 978-0545060509 . Litland recommends ages 9-12.

 Throughout the hunt for the 39 Clues, Amy and Dan Cahill have uncovered history's greatest mysteries and their family's deadliest secrets. But are they ready to face the truth about the Cahills and the key to their unmatched power? After a whirlwind race that's taken them across five continents, Amy and Dan face the most the difficult challenge yet- a task no Cahill dared to imagine. When faced with a choice that could change the future of the world, can two kids succeed where 500 years worth of famous ancestors failed? (Scholastic)


Respect for self and others: This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.

This story has an ongoing theme of integrity. Each character questions their own actions (p. 33) Ian’s self-talk takes us through the psychological harm caused by parents whose ethics are relative rather than adhering to absolute moral values. The examples are sufficiently real that the reader can project into their real life and imagine having seen some of those behaviours in others too. This is a good example of how stories teach us life lessons.  Ian is hopeful, but doubtful, his parents will protect and not harm he and Natalie, for whom he is starting to experience pity

(p. 35-36) Jonah also wrestles with the evil expected of him by his mother and tries to do the right thing; feels remorse for almost leaving Dan to die in China. Hamilton wrestles with whether or not he wants to still be part of Team Holt because the team wins by cheating. He feels like a traitor to his family for choosing to do what he knows is morally right. “What does it (team Holt) mean anymore....beating up on little kids?”  He also learns more about himself, such as that he could be quick thinking when needed.  

Each in their own way is on a search to understand who they really are. “Who am I?” (p. 105).  Even Miss Pluderbottom won’t sell out her integrity to Jonah.  

As in the past, much value in this book is what it does not contain. Nellie, Amy and Dan must convince the pilot to take them into the ocean and then to land on the Island. But they do so without meanness, lying or manipulation.  It takes some of the kids longer than others to overcome their narcissistic ways, in proportion to the amount of abuse and lack of love each has suffered in life.  And adults are not discounted, with each also learning hard lessons about their own love-less behaviours.

Portrayal of Authority figures: The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”

There are very few authority figures as the story is focused on our main characters. Mr. Fiske and Mr. McIntyre are described as stereotypical old bachelors which adds color to the story.  The Shakespeare house guide is exacting in following the rules, as expected. And the parents of the various Cahill branches continue to be the authority figures in their family.  Hierarchy remains, giving us clear examples of its misuse by Isabel, Eisenhower, Cora and Alastair, as well as its proper use by McIntyre, Fiske and Nellie.  Amy and Dan continue to succeed by outsmarting others rather than lying, manipulating.

Citizenship and Patriotism: Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.

Family loyalty is strong from the first chapter. Amy and Dan are deflated, overwhelmed by so many lies and twists, and are ready to give up. But they know they must, as Amy thinks “What did all those deaths mean if (Amy and Dan) didn’t keep trying?” (p. 5).   “We have to do this for Lester. For mom and dad. For Grace. “ (p. 124) So our protagonists continue to embrace their heritage and honor their family.

 However, as the other kids travel the journey of finding oneself, family loyalty and pride are central to it as well. Through Sinead’s self-talk, we hear glimpses of her concern for her brothers’ well-being. Hamilton Holt questions what it means to be part of the Team Holt. He wants to expand the team to include Amy & Dan. Even Fiske misses his sister Grace and acknowledges her strengths. 

Thus, as each kid searches for his or her identity, it is precisely their loyalty to their family that complicates and confuses them. Each is forced to choose between family identity and the virtues such as Truth, Integrity and Love.  Ultimately they must form new family bonds with virtues as the foundation. 

Justice and Balance: A just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”


As the kids sort through their experiences in search of their identity, the distinction of good vs. evil becomes more demarked. Amy & Dan remain focused on winning the clue hunt for the purpose of preventing innocent people from being killed by one of the others.  They have to finish the hunt on behalf of all the “ordinary people” who had been hurt by Cahills.  The Holts begin to realize that “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” 

A touch of old-fashioned honor enters the story when Amy realizes that Isabel will not blindfold them before she kills them (p. 275). An act that would have been expected in times of old when chivalry was still alive. And later Amy honors her parents and all those who have died by putting herself in danger to stop another killing.

Aesthetic aspects Of life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.

Ultimately Amy and Dan find that the clue hunt is all about love and caring for others, which isn’t possible without redemption. Thus, from the onset, we feel the mixed emotions and ongoing state of confusion.  We see more selfless acts, either by the kids remembering kindnesses they received in the past or acts which occur in this story. Virtues of belief, Hope and Love prevail. 

Much of the action takes place in a mountain, on the cliff and inside.  The kids feel distress over the killing that seems to come so easily to the adult Cahill members, and so it is spoken of repeatedly.  Amy and Dan particularly feel the threat of being killed by the other kids and their parents in various situations. The depiction of explosions, falling rocks, injuries, and being shot at is told with sufficient detail that the reader can feel the intensity of the moment. However, the actual scenes of violence are fewer and do not dwell on unnecessary graphical details. 

There is a missed opportunity in the author’s writing to create the feel of the time period when the kids investigate Shakespeare and the Cahill/Madrigal past.  The translation of Olivia Cahill’s 16th century letter lacks the color and realistic reference one would expect (e.g. refers to the “next world” rather than Heaven, the latter of which would have been realistic for England in that time period). But what the book lacks in historical perspective is greatly overcome by the author’s strength in creating the emotional headiness of the current situation.

Other things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.

The book is excellent with no underlying agendas or concepts that would be inappropriate for its intended age-level audience. Parents with younger gifted readers should be aware of a mob scene as well as a shooting, plus Amy and Dan needing to worry about the others killing them.  

It is an outstanding book and highly recommended!

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion: Litland's Blog 39 Clues Book 10   

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