Saturday, November 7, 2009

REVIEW: The 39 Clues (Book Two)

Korman, G.  (2008).  The 39 Clues:  One False Note.  New York:  Scholastic Inc.


174 Pages.

PLOT SUMMARY:  Book 2 of the 39 Clues series picks up soon after the first book ended.  The Cahill siblings have left Paris and are pursuing the clue they discovered at the end of the last book.  While on their train ride to Austria the Cahills and their au pair, Nellie, find themselves trapped by some of their relatives.  Trouble will continue to follow them from Vienna and into Italy.

Despite the fact that the writing has changed hands, Korman does an excellent job of continuing the pace, humorous dialogue and characterizations set up by Rick Riordan in the first book.  (Although I do feel Dan is more set as a character.  I'm still struggling to figure out what Amy is all about.  Thoughts, other 39 clue hunters?

Unexpectedly, One False Note pays a little attention to feminist ideas by exploring Mozart's sister Maria Anna "Nannerl," who was considered equally talented to her brother but wasn't given the opportunities to succeed that he had.  At one point, Amy Cahill says, "You're not forgotten, Nannerl...People are starting to appreciate you as a genius in your own right" (p. 65).  And that'll be helped by mentioning her in such a popular children's series.

In general, it is possible to pick up One False Note without having read The Maze of Bones first.  The second book does provide backstory.  But on the grad scale, it is better to know how the hunt began than jumping in mid-search.


This time around, students can research the geography and history of Vienna, Austria and Venice, Italy.  The biographies of the Mozart family are also up for grabs.  Other teaching moment topics include monks, treatment of celebrities, Rembrandt and Marie Antoinette.

I forgot to mention when I reviewed The Maze of Bones, Amy has a stutter that presents itself when she is nervous.  This can give readers who also struggle with confidence or a stutter a sense of representation or hope.

In general, if a teacher is taking middle grade students on a lot of museum trips, it might help to have the students be familiar with the series.  The teacher could then encourage students to think of the trip as a secret (and slow paced and quiet!) scavenger hunt.  Students could fill out worksheets to get answers to the hunt.  Of course, a teacher would have to be able to scout out the museum first to develop said worksheets (Oh, a teacher's work is never done).


"The hunger strike began two hours east of Paris.
Saladin took a single dainty whiff of the open cat food tin and turned up his nose" (p. 1).

"We know the Holts are on our trail, and I'll bet the rest of the competition can't be too far behind them.  They're older than us, smarter than us, and richer than us.  We can't let up for a second" (p. 21).

"Those Cahill cousins were capable of anything!  The winner of this contest might literally rule the world.  A lot of nut jobs had done some terrible things with that kind of power as a prize.  What chance did two young kids have?" (p. 41).

"Those guys are crazy!  They're like mini-Dearth Vaders without the mask!"
"They're Benediction monks!"  Nellie exclaimed.  "They're men of peace!  Most of them are under vows of silence!"
"Yeah, well, not anymore," Dan told her.  "They cursed us out pretty good.  I don't know the language, but some things you don't have to translate" (pp. 79-80).


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