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

The 39 Clues Book 5: The Black Circle - Review
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Publisher's Summary:

Carman, Patrick. (2009) The 39 Clues Book 5: The Black Circle. ISBN-10: 0545060451

“Where are Amy and Dan Cahill? The two kids were last seen in Egypt, hunting for one of the 39 Clues that could make them the most powerful people on earth. But no one has seen the siblings since. Has the ruthless Irina Spasky finally tracked them down? Or worse . . . the Madrigals? No one knows where the Clue hunt leads next. But one thing is certain: Book 5 is gearing up to be Dan and Amy's most dangerous adventure yet.”

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.

Mixed in with normal sibling bantering (such as “you’ve achieved total dweebdom in that get up”) are regular elements of caring, remorse/apology, and loyalty. Amy apologizes to Dan when talking down to him, and both compliment one another for their quick thinking. When considering the history behind The Motherland Calls monument, both Amy & Dan can relate to their plight, showing empathy. Pride is implied when Dan discovers Amy conquers her fears. 

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?”

Police portrayed in the background adequately performing their duties (such as controlling a ruckus p. 33). There is an enjoyable scene in which Amy & Dan trick the tour guide several times (p. 90-93) but do so by being quick and cunning. No disrespectful language or attitude is portrayed, no property damaged or laws broken in doing so. Amy feels guilt for not keeping in touch with au pair Nellie.

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 bonds and loyalty with Amy & Dan are introduced early in the story, such as when they use Grace’s name as if she were still alive (p. 5). Dan becomes protective, not “going to let Ian Kabra get anywhere near his sister”. Added to this is a new dimension: more self-talk of Hamilton Holt’s desire to please his dad. For all their faults, the Holts are loyal to one another.

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?”

Good and evil are clearly contrasted throughout the story. For example, while Dan rents a motorcycle, the Holts hot-wire (steal) a van.

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.

Chapter 5 (p. A) makes quick reference again to the “angry mob of monks” of Book 2 but otherwise does not use any language placing judgement on sacred or religious characters. Both the purpose of the Motherland Calls monument and its majesty are well respected. This book has rich description of Russian history and myth, as well as physical locations experienced by Amy and Dan. Irina continues to pose a risk, and the author carefully words this as “taking them out” without need for unnecessary violent detail. Both “bad guys” Irina and Ian show concern and judgment, choosing “not to hurt them too badly”.

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 items of interest to note. The book is an exciting action-adventure colored with modern Russian myths that add to its intrigue!

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

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