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

The 39 Clues book 3: The Sword Thief - Review
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Publisher's Summary:

Lerangis, Peter. (2009) The 39 Clues Book 3: The Sword Thief. ISBN-10: 0545060435

“Amy and Dan Cahill have been located once again, this time in the company of the notoriously unreliable Alistair Oh. Could they have been foolish enough to make an alliance? Spies report that Amy and Dan seem to be tracking the life of one of the most powerful fighters the world has ever known. If this fearsome warrior was a Cahill, his secrets are sure to be well guarded . . . and the price to uncover them just might be lethal.”

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.

The characters in book three return to providing good examples of mutual support and caring for one another, with appropriate amount of “jabs” at each other expected for children their age. Uncle Alastair’s self-talk reveals a great concern for the children. Amy and Dan are able to admit when the other is correct, or give the other the opportunity to make important decisions. Self-discipline is exercised.

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?”

Not too many authority figures in roles as “good guys” come into the plot, but that isn’t a shortcoming. This book really focuses its character development upon Amy, Dan and Alastair. Uncle Alastair’s weaknesses due to age are portrayed respectfully, and he occasionally surprises them with a moment of physical prowess. Police authorities have a background role.

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.

The family loyalty missing in book 2 has returned in the self-talk as well as scenes, particularly between the children and Uncle Alastair. The characters are very realistic in their antics towards one another while (through self-talk) supporting one another. Family pride is present.

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?”

Positive far outweighs the negative in this entertaining issue, and the children make value-based decisions rather than using their underdog status as an excuse to do wrong. Example is Amy choosing to obey Uncle Alastair’s wishes rather than run off with Ian.

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.

This book is full of humor subtly woven throughout. From Amy wishing she could borrow Dan’s eyes (p. 15), thinking of Uncle Alastair as distasteful like boiled asparagus, a watch dog named Buffy (p. 97), several mentions of Uncle Alastair’s famous burritos each with a catchy name, leading to a hilarious discourse by Eisenhower Holt that they will no longer “be the stain on the family underwear”...the discourse is mildly and constantly entertaining.

The action scenes are well handled in that no gory descriptions are given nor violence over-emphasized. However, they do go through a harrowing attempt by the Yakuza to kill them with ninja throwing stars, a subsequent exchange of weapons and a crushed taxi (p. 75). However, no one died. Action might be intense for young gifted readers but is certainly appropriate for the recommended age level.

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.

There is use of God’s name p. 118, 127 and 150. Amy develops a crush on distant cousin Ian, typical of a young teen yet handled appropriately. No other issues addressed nor hidden meanings underlying this excellent book.

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

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