I’ve watched the buzz around Scholastic’s middle-reader book series The 39 Clues for a long while now. My kids and I would see the books come out in sequence at the store or library, and agree out loud that some day we wanted to read them. Now, just as the 10th and final book is being released, we have our chance!
In conjunction with the August 31st release of the final book in the series – Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson Haddix – Scholastic sent our family the entire 39 Clues collection and asked me to help celebrate by participating as Stop #6 on The 39 Clues Blog Tour.
The 39 Clues is a skillful mix of mystery, geography, history, and adventure. Brother and sister Amy and Dan Cahill discover they are part of a vast and powerful family whose influence has been felt throughout history and the world. They set out on a race to find 39 clues that will uncover the true measure of their power, while facing dangerous obstacles and even more dangerous family members. All the while, the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
While the series is geared towards middle-readers, even my 16yo daughter is enjoying the plot twists and use of historic figures and international locales in the storyline. The online component of the series (each book comes with a set of cards that you can use to play along at the39clues.com) is of particular interest to my other children (ages 9, 12, and 13), as they enjoy the interactive nature of unraveling the mystery.
We also love that each book has its own flair, thanks to the talent of some of today’s greatest middle-reader and young adult writers. The entire book series (including publication dates) includes:
Book 1: The Maze of Bones (September 9, 2008) by Rick Riordan
Book 2: One False Note (December 2, 2008) by Gordon Korman
Book 3: The Sword Thief (March 3, 2009) by Peter Lerangis
Book 4: Beyond the Grave (June 2, 2009) by Jude Watson
Book 5: The Black Circle (August 11, 2009) by Patrick Carman
Book 6: In Too Deep (November 3, 2009) by Jude Watson
Book 7: The Viper’s Nest (February 2, 2010) by Peter Lerangis
Book 8: The Emperor’s Code (April 6, 2010) by Gordon Korman
Book 9: Storm Warning (May 25, 2010) by Linda Sue Park
Book 10: Into the Gauntlet (August 31, 2010) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Jude Watson, author of Book 6: In Too Deep reflects on what it was like to participate with the other writers in creating this series:
Together Again for the First Time
That romantic image of the solitary writer, toiling in a garret, shutting out the world? If it were true, you wouldn’t see so many people in Starbucks with soulful expressions and laptops. Writers have editors, agents, fellow writers, trusted readers. We have websites, Facebook pages, blogs, and vlogs. Based on absolutely no research other than my own pet theory, I’d guess that writers are up there with actors when it comes to Twitter accounts. Despite what you might think, writers are social creatures.
Um, except when we’re not. Except when we want the world to go away– our internet connection severed, our hotspots frozen, our smart phones dumbed-down, our tweets strangled. Just so we can get work done.
So, considering this peculiar writerly contradiction—or is it a personality disorder?- I’m happy to report that I discovered the perfect balance of solitude and collaboration when I signed up to write two books for the 39 Clues series. The editors at Scholastic cleverly set up a sandbox with one of the best adventure players in the business—Rick Riordan. Then they invited the rest of us to play. We could bring our own tools, add our own ideas, and mess things up as much as we wanted. But in the end, we had to construct something together. A narrative that spanned the world, with a cast of crazy characters, and a sister and a brother who had to navigate it all.
So we all sat down at our respective keyboards, turned off the distractions, and wrote. Usually we’d only see an outline of the book that came before ours. Sometimes a first draft. And we had only a vague idea of what the book following ours would be about. That gave us tremendous freedom, but we knew we had certain notes to hit.
Then, midway through the series, Scholastic sent four of us barnstorming through a series of school visits together. Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, Patrick Carman and me, trapped in traffic, bolting our lunches, awed by lines of young readers holding out our books. Within a few hours, collegial deference flew out the window, and jokes and teasing began. After all, we were already family. We had each other’s backs. We’d lived in each other’s books.
I’m sorry to report that we are oddly non-competitive. We tend to sit back in awe at each other’s talents. But I’d say we do like to up the action ante for the next guy. Was a little piece of me saying “top this, Peter!” while writing a scene with circling sharks and blood in the water off an Australian beach in number six, In Too Deep? If so, Peter topped me in number seven, The Viper’s Nest, with a riproaring explosive scene on Boom Street in South Africa. I was profoundly grateful that I didn’t have to follow Gordon’s nailbiting climax on Mt Everest in The Emperor’s Code, but Linda Sue Park whupped us all with an agonizing quicksand episode that still gives me nightmares in Storm Warning.
There’s something incredibly cool about seeing what another writer does with characters you know so well. You get to see the familiar get twisted in a way you never thought of. You have a front row seat at an unfolding spectacle that just keeps getting better. Margaret Peterson Haddix gets to wrap it all up for us on August 31, when Into the Gauntlet is released. I think I can speak for all the 39 Clues writers when I say I can’t wait to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Movie rights for The 39 Clues have been acquired by DreamWorks Studios with Steven Spielberg eyeing to direct. Deborah Forte, President of Scholastic Media, will produce. The script is being penned by Jeff Nathanson whose credits include “Catch Me If You Can” and “Rush Hour 2.”
*Affiliate links included in this post.
note: the original post included a giveaway.