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

The 39 Clues Book 7: The Viper's Nest - Review
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Publisher's Summary:

Lerangis, Peter. (2010) The 39 Clues Book 7: The Viper’s Nest. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc. ISBN 978-0-545-06047-9

“It's no longer a game. The body count is rising. Shaken by recent events, Amy and Dan flee to an exotic land and trace the footsteps of their most formidable ancestor yet: a military leader of mythic proportions. Yet just as the siblings begin to master the art of ancient warfare, they confront a dangerous enemy that can't be felled with a sword: the truth. With the stakes higher than ever, Amy and Dan uncover a devastating secret that changes everything.”

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.

Healthy sibling rivalry like “I’m the one who thought of it” continues to make Amy and Dan’s characters real to us, while their adventures continue to fulfill the reader’s dreams! Amy wrestles early on with her memories of the fire that killed their parents, and her mixed feelings towards Uncle Alastair derived from it. The resulting conversation is realistic while also demonstrating how children should deal with such mixed emotions: honestly and openly. Amy struggles with desire for retribution because her innate understanding that retribution is cold and careless creates the inner struggle. Ultimately, our favorite brother & sister team continue to make wise choices that take into consideration the consequences to others, as well as feel remorse for mistakes made.

Dan particularly shows compassion when learning about apartheid and towards South Africans whom he meets.

In the end, Amy is concerned about taking what isn’t theirs; “But the hunt was about knowledge, not possession.” (p. 167) She intentionally puts wheels into motion that create an opportunity for villains to do a good deed.

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?”

The author creates adventures which rely upon Amy and Dan’s skills and instincts, rather than manipulating or mistreating others including authority figures. Respect is shown towards each adult met along the way. The siblings show dignity through strength in dealing with adult villains.

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.

From the beginning, the book establishes Amy and Dan’s loyalty to their Grandmother as the impetus to joining the hunt. Early on, their “mind meld” communications show their closeness to one another. This family, consisting of Amy, Dan, and their deceased parents and grandmother are definitely a team. Implied in dialogue and description is family pride and love. This is contrasted well by the lack of these qualities in the families of their competitors, particularly the Kabras.

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?”

As we have come to expect in this series, the good guys always win and the bad guys lose! No matter which family member tries to capture, kidnap, arrest or otherwise divert Amy & Dan, they end confounded through a combination of the sibling’s quick thinking and sheer luck. And statements such as Dan’s “Mom and Dad would be proud of you. They valued life.” reaffirm without question the difference between good and evil. Even if wrestling with a choice to make, it is clear why decisions made by protagonists are for the good.

As we progress through this series, the reader comes to realize that good and evil are not clan-specific; one Cahill branch is not better nor worse than the other. Each holds elements of both; Amy and Dan must go beyond stereotyping by clan and understand its people to distinguish the good from the evil.

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.

Focused on dialogue, we didn’t hear too much description of the beautiful African terrain or city life. However, the author captured well some of the life on the outskirts of Durban. With that said, the book’s dialogue is once again full of African details and facts that should intrigue its readers to research on their own.

Discussion of racism in both South Africa and the US handles history respectfully while identifying the wrongs of racism.

The main characters continue to exhibit classic virtues of heroism and sincere concern for others. Action scenes are exciting without being cluttered by unnecessary gore or violence.

Overall, use of African language and inclusion of its “ways” gives the story a cultural feel without bogging it down.

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.

Use of God’s name p. 7. 42, 156, 165, 176. On p. 174, Amy says to Isabel Kabra “you can shove it”. Otherwise, the story retains its positive attitude and heroic virtues consistently throughout. As young teenagers, Ian Kabra is still exhibiting attraction to Amy and it continues to be addressed appropriately through the confused feelings it created in him. Similarly for Amy’s attraction to Kurt in the mine. Overall, this is again an excellent story from author Peter Lerangis, further cultivating the character formation of our series’ heroes. Highly recommended!

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

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