Book Review for The 39 Clues, the original series

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My fourth grader is currently enamored with the Scholastic book series The 39 Clues. She has practically devoured the entire series. She’s read eight of the 11 books in the series in less than two months. I’ve also read these books, so I thought I’d spend just a moment and write a book review for The 39 Clues, the original series.

The 39 Clues: a book review |

The series stars Dan and Amy Cahill, two orphaned children, who are started on a search for the 39 clues by their grandmother’s will. The search is competitive, breathtakingly fast paced, and full of danger and suspense. The events Dan and Amy survive are well written and very imaginative. The series takes the reader on a tour around the world, from Moscow to Mount Everest. But, I digress.

These are great books for upper elementary students. There’s a lot of action and intrigue in the series, which will keep even reluctant readers interested. Also, the books are a good read for either boys or girls. Both lead characters play important roles in solving the mystery of The 39 Clues. It takes the talents of both Dan and Amy to escape the many perilous situations they find their way into.

There are 11 books in this series.  The series is written by several different young adult authors, while continuing the story and characters from the previous book. Scholastic chose authors who have, or do, write for them and used this series as a way of introducing young readers to a variety of authors. This was a brilliant idea, because now my fourth grader recognizes the names of the authors and wants to read books by them. There is a definite shift in each book as the next author takes over the story, but that adds to the depth of the series as a whole.

Aside from exposing upper elementary readers to different writing styles, these books offer unique plot lines, daring adventures, and amazing moments to the reader. The story line and characters are well constructed and enjoyable to read, even as an adult.  An added bonus, these books contain historical facts and present them in a way that sparks the reader’s curiosity. We have had many discussions, and many Google searches about different events and locations, with our fourth grader since she began reading this series.

As much as I love this series, there are a couple of things I would change.

First, Dan and Amy are portrayed as fairly normal siblings, albeit orphans who are allowed to run around the world with only their self-absorbed au-pair (babysitter/nanny) and unlimited finances.  They also have numerous verbal disagreements and the occasional name calling. The authors are careful to always show how devoted they are to each other, but they also place a lot of sibling bickering in the story. Also, the books contain violent and intense scenes. The other characters in the book, who are Dan and Amy’s extended family, often resort to doing whatever it takes to keep them from following the clues. The violence isn’t over the top, but it is prevalent.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the review! My own fourth grader is currently obsessed with this series too (but I make him take breaks between books and read something else, so he has only read 3 so far). I am glad to hear it’s mostly educational since I didn’t have time to read it myself and had to trust my child’s judgement. The thing that bugs me though is weird names they give to groups of people “i.e. “Mozart is Janus” or something along this line and the kid keeps adding it to every conversation about said historical figure :DD. Maybe it is time for me to read it too :))


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