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

The 39 Clues book 1: The maze of bones - Review
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Publisher's Description:

Riordan, Rick. (2008) The 39 clues book 1: The maze of bones. ISBN-10: 0545060397.

“Minutes before she died, Grace Cahill changed her will, leaving her descendants an impossible decision: "You have a choice — one million dollars or a clue."

Grace is the last matriarch of the Cahills, the world's most powerful family. Everyone from Napoleon to Houdini is related to the Cahills, yet the source of the family power is lost. 39 clues hidden around the world stand to reveal the family's secret, but no one has been able to assemble them. Now the clues race is on, and young Amy and Dan must decide what's important: hunting clues or uncovering what really happened to their parents.”


“They’re so young, William lamented. “If only their parents--”. “But their parents didn’t.” Grace said bitterly. “And now the children must be old enough. They are our only chance.”

“If they don’t succeed...”

“Then five hundred years of work have been for nothing” Grace said. “Everything collapses. The family, the world--all of it.” (p. 2)

Age Recommendations

Scholastic originally listed this as grades 4-7, ages 9-12. finds it acceptable to gifted younger readers and fun even for older readers.

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.

Amy and Dan exemplify many of these qualities. They show compassion to competing teams and try to choose solutions that do not cause harm to others, even when those characters are threatening them. Amy and Dan have moments reserving criticism of the other and apologize when they fear they have made a mistake.

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?”

Honest people in positions of authority are presented as competent. Police rescue Amy and Dan at the St.-Pierre de Montmartre and no disrespect is shown. Amy and Dan are polite to adults even when knowing those adults engage in lying or criminal behavior.

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.

This book series is all about family pride. Dan strives to make his deceased mother proud by his behaviour: “I won’t let you down mom.” (ch. 15, p. 181) and nearly risks his life to preserve family artifacts. Both children were their grandmother’s (Grace) favorites and this is emphasized by regular reflections upon their time spent with Grace (e.g. p. 34 & 35). Amy and Dan’s loyalty to one another, their parents and grandmother is a primary theme throughout the book.

The storyline of the book focuses on Benjamin Franklin and his many inventions as well as honorable leadership; thus pride as an American is an underlying theme.

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?”

Fair competition and collaboration are also underlying themes in this story. Probably this story’s greatest strength is that Amy and Dan create their advantage over competing teams by maintaining their integrity and exhibiting classic virtues of courage, trust, and caring. This leads to them innovating creative solutions to their problems and becomes their strength.

Aesthetic Aspects of Life Experience:Look 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.

As they experience the world’s geography and historic sites in search of clues, those sites, important moments in history, and important people in history are described in interesting detail adding intrigue and beauty to the story. In doing so, they are treated with respect and awe by the author rather than as objects to be denigrated or made fun of.

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.

No questionable or controversial elements. It is fantastic in every way!

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion on our Blog!

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