39-clues-maze-of-bonesAfter the success of The Da Vinci Code it felt like everyone was throwing their own stories of historical intrigue and adventure into the ring (say what you will, I personally enjoyed National Treasure and Sahara). The time had come for a kids’ series that packs the same historical truths with high adventure, and I think The 39 Clues does it exceedingly well. I think this kind of story is made to be read by kids who will want to read more about the historical figures and events mentioned. It’s a perfect tie-in to all kinds of research. The first book in the series, The Maze of Bones, was just published in September 2008 and we’re already up to the release of Book 6. It’s become a phenomenon complete with online clues and hints accessed through special collectors’ cards through the series’ website.

I read the first few chapters of this book to my 4th graders at the end of last year to get them excited about a new series. Now I can’t keep the books on the shelves. I hadn’t finished the first book myself until a few weeks ago, and I wasn’t disappointed. Each book in the series is written by a different popular kids’ author, and the first is written by Rick Riordan (author of the sublime Percy Jackson & The Olympians series). The same wit and middle-grade friendly dialogue and action found in those books can be found in this one.

After the death of their beloved grandmother, Dan and Amy Cahill are sent around the world on a scavenger hunt to uncover their family’s deepest secrets. Pitted against all the distant members of their far-flung clan, they learn about the real history of the Cahills and their place in history (Ben Franklin was a member). It’s quick, funny, filled with the kind of stuff pre-teens find hilarious, and packed with tidbits of real knowledge that kids won’t even notice they’re absorbing. I love a book that manages to be entertaining and educational, without being the kind of stuffy thing kids expect adults want them to read.

I’m hoping that maybe this year I will be able to get through the whole book with a grade, complete with online activities. It may be too ambitious since I only see them once a week, but it would be very cool.