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

The 39 Clues book 2: One False Note - Review
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Publisher's Summary:

Korman, Gordon. (2008). The 39 clues book 2: One False Note ISBN-10: 0545060427

“THIS JUST IN! Amy and Dan Cahill were spotted on a train, hot on the trail of one of 39 Clues hidden around the world. BUT WAIT! Police report a break-in at an elite hotel, and the suspects ALSO sound suspiciously like Amy and Dan. UPDATE! Amy and Dan have been seen in a car . . . no, in a speedboat chase . .. and HOLD EVERYTHING! They're being chased by an angry mob?!? When there's a Clue on the line, anything can happen.”
 

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.

In contrast to other books in the series, almost no positive examples exist in this entire book. Amy and Dan say more mean things about their competition than in Book 1. There is an absence of notable situations in which the characters had to make a hard but wise choice (in book 1, Dan had to give up his back-pack with the only picture of his parents inside).

No friendships are explored. They exhibit mild concern over having gotten their au pair into trouble with the police, but it isn’t convincing. Almost no examples of caring or compassion occur until the end of the book (p. 168 & 171).

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?”

Positive authority figures are absent. Kids depend upon themselves without the aid of adults, except those who are enemies in the competition. Those enemies are portrayed as sinister and willing to kill the children. Occasional policeman is portrayed as singularly focused. Monks are portrayed as deranged, verbally abusive and physically threatening. The unsuspecting store clerk acts as a bumbling fool when Nellie steals from him. Disrespect abounds in this book.

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.

Occasionally we are told they were Grace’s favorite grandchildren. However, missing is the self-talk that was prominent in Book 1 and which led us to intimately knowing the characters’ love for Grace and their parents. Only very light occasions of self-talk or reflection take place in Book 2. Thus, there is little loyalty, pride or caring to their own family or other groups.

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?”

Evil outweighs good as the children decide to lower their standards of behaviour and engage in practices similar to those of their competitors (stealing, lying). Pages 29-32 children deliberate whether or not to steal, and decide to steal using their disadvantages as underdog in the competition to justify the illegal actions. The characters have lost their belief in doing good which was so profound in Book 1. On p. 98-99, au pair Nellie chooses to cause a diversion by stealing and damaging property. Emphasis is continually negative.

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.

Unfortunately, there is lost opportunity to explore the beauty of settings or use positive humor. Page 131, Dan “made a rude gesture” towards a yacht that had been following them. The reader can guess what that gesture is intended to be (why didn’t he just shake a fist?). There is an increased usage of name calling (idiot) that is so frequent, we know in advance the next thing the kids will say is negative and mean. Dan is constantly negative and cynical throughout the book. Humor is negative as well. Additionally, rather than marvel in the historic and architectural beauty and wonder of the ancient church, the author slanders it. Almost no positive elements.

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.

Cousin Natalie insults Dan and Amy by saying they look like homeless people This is not only generally insensitive, but experts estimate 1 out of every 50 children in the US is homeless. The book is also mildly insulting of Christians and sacred places of worship. Feminism is an underlying theme which is used as an excuse for illegal behavior (p. 98-99).

There are no controversial practices to draw attention to in this book. However, its tone is negative, its main characters whom we want to be heroes are turning mean, and their virtuous behaviour lost. Almost no examples of good character are provided.

We recommend families decide whether or not to include this book in their reading. It is possible to skip book 2 and read the remainder of the series without missing any important information.

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion on the Litland.com blog!

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