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

The 39 Clues Book 8: The Emperor's Code - Review
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Publisher's Summary:

Korman, Gordon. (2010) The 39 Clues: The Emperor’s Code. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc. ISBN: 978-0-545-06048-6. Recommended age level: 9-12. 

Publisher’s description: As the race to find the 39 Clues builds to its explosive finish, Amy and Dan must explore an ancient culture and steal a Clue guarded by thousands of the world's best-trained soldiers. It's the most dangerous Clue search yet. As their enemies crowd in, Amy and Dan find themselves separated for the first time ever. The choice lies before them – find the next Clue, or find their way back to each other.

   

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.

Caring for one another is an extremely strong current throughout this story. Dan and Amy worry about the welfare of the other. Dan particularly worries about the consequences Amy may suffer as a result of his actions and answers.  Secondarily, through self-talk of Alistair Oh and especially Nellie, we see their compassion and concern for the kids. Finally, even Jonah Wizard decides to go back and help save Dan rather than leaving him to a potential death. And Amy saves Ian’s life in spite of his past treatment of her. So no acts of revenge, greed or selfishness for Amy and Dan...although they weigh their options and remember how others mistreated them, the final decision is always good. 

As for owning up to responsibility for their own actions, Amy and Dan each take responsibility for their argument and show remorse. Yet we see natural sibling banter, such as Dan realizing his sister was “annoying, but he had to admit they made a pretty good team” and Amy referring to him as a dweeb.



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?”

Authority figures take a back seat in this story as they are unnecessary. Dan and Amy do voice their doubts and lack of trust with Uncle Alistair, but not in a mean or disrespectful way. Guards, police and tour guides are respected and obeyed all the while the kids are plotting how to get out of the situation. After Dan was missing for several days, Amy does consider turning over the search for Dan to “the professionals”.  

Broderick Wizard, Jonah’s father, is highlighted in how he is disrespected by the Janus clan for not being a Janus (married into the family). Dan, as a good guy, is respectful of him, and even in awe of his hidden talents.  This contrasted with Jonah’s disrespect for his own father creates a dissonance needed to contrast with respectful behaviour.



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.

Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty! At one point Amy says “ now it was starting to sink in. Without Dan, she had no life”.  As Dan succumbs to the materialism of Jonah Wizard, he struggles where to place his loyalties. “Angry as he was with his sister, he couldn’t do that to her...”. In their reflections upon their parents and Grace, we see this family’s strong bonds contrasted with that of the Wizards, whose mother uses her son and husband like pawns in a chess game.

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 much as the kids inflict self-torment over the discovery of becoming Madrigals, there is a constant rebound into a state of hopefulness that they too will not be evil like their cousins.  While the other Cahill clans seek the highest level of power for their branch, Amy and Dan seek to win the race in order to prevent evil-doers from gaining this power. Thus the selflessness of the good guys always overcomes the bad guys.  In fact, it is this deep desire to be and do good that creates the inner turmoil for Dan and Amy. It’s called a conscience.



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.

Book 8 definitely belongs to Dan. We see his struggle as he envies Jonah’s fame and fortune, ease of lifestyle, and charisma. Dan gets caught up in the misperception that fame brings power. The important thing is that this is a clear struggle for Dan, going against his nature and all he has previously viewed as truly important in life. Ultimately Dan pities Jonah for never being perfect enough in  his mother’s eyes.  Thus hedonistic behaviours of selfishness and materialism are shown for what they really are: false realities. 

While the book misses the opportunity to provide us with rich descriptions of the natural beauty of China and Tibet, the details are sufficient for us to feel the bumpy train rides, amazement of being at the top of the world, and immense wealth of cultural heritage.  A positive, uplifting tone is held throughout the story.



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.

Name of God used in three places.

 Excellent story and highly recommended! 

P.s. Those of you playing the online game should make note of the circled words throughout the book :>)

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion: Litland's Blog 39 Clues Book 8   


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