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

The 39 clues book 4: Beyond the grave - Review
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Publisher's Description:

Watson, Jude. (2009) The 39 Clues Book 4: Beyond The Grave. ISBN-10: 0545060443

“A clue found in Book 3 sends Amy and Dan jetting off to find out just what's behind the fierce rivalry between the Tomas and Ekaterina branches of the Cahill family. Was a clue stolen from the Tomas branch? Where is it now? And most important, can Amy and Dan get their hands on it before their rivals do? It's a wild race that will take Amy and Dan deep into the bowels of the earth . . . and right into the hands of the enemy.”

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 demonstrate integrity by showing remorse for past incidents of lying, cheating and stealing, and worrying about becoming “like the rest of the Cahills” in terms of poor behavior. Even when feuding, Dan and Amy do not deceive or manipulate one another. Excellent portrayal of the range of emotions these two go through, expressing their feelings and anger, and eventually working through the problem.

On an individual note, Amy continues to demonstrate in self-talk her lack of self-esteem. However, it is never self-denigrating nor leading to depression. Rather, coupled with her outward behaviour of courage, strength and determination, the reader feels a sense of hope or optimism in spite of her realistic self-doubts.

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?”

Good presentation of authority figures again in this book. The main characters thoughtfully consider calling the police, handling it very matter-of-fact as proper and assumed. No disrespectful behaviour towards any authorities or adults occurs, in spite of having to outwit adults numerous times to escape.

Although characters are angry at Uncle Alastair for a perceived betrayal, they do not show disrespect to him.

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.

Strong loyalty to family exists both in their discomfort with considering a beloved grandmother as possibly dishonest, as well as family bonds being more important than hurt feelings. Amy and Dan’s relationship is put to the test in this book and handled extremely well.

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?”

Overall, the “good” characters (Amy, Dan, Nellie, and Uncle Alastair) continue to make good judgements. Although this book is action packed and they keep running into old enemies around every corner while also making new ones, the good far outweighs the bad as these kids time and time again outsmart the “bad guys”.

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.

What book three gave us in humor, book 4 gives us in adventure. The action is ongoing, with every slightest move described. Thus no need for gore or violence as, through excellent description, the reader feels as if they are the character in action.

Cousin Wizard, whose character in book 2 was over-fraught with slang and such negativity that his depiction was like a stereotype-gone-wild, is presented here as a more believable, yet still conniving and dishonest, self-centered tween entertainer. Well done.

Egyptian history is treated with respect. The book is rich with detail.

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.

This book is excellent both in what it portrays (relationships, loyalty, action, history, mystery) as well as what it leaves out (no hidden agendas). A very fun book!.

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

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