Wednesday, March 17, 2010

REVIEW: The 39 Clues (Book Five)

The 39 Clues Book 5: The Black CircleCarman, P.  (2009).  The 39 Clues:  The black circle.  New York:  Scholastic Inc.


168 Pages.

Appetizer:  Amy and Dan wake to discover they've received a telegram that resumes their hunt for the clues and sends them to the Cairo Airport and on to Russia where they'll uncover secrets related to Rasputin, Anastasia, the Lucian branch.

This time around, the siblings are given planted clues, disguises and money from an unknown ally, called NRR.  Cautioned that they may be heading for a trap, Amy and Dan follow the unusual clues and form an alliance with Hamilton Holt.  This turn was a bit surprising to me.  Mostly because, in the previous books, Reagan Holt was the only member of the Holt family that seemed sympathetic.  So, I had a difficult time liking the Holts.  Part of this could be because I'm still not over the booger flicking scene in the previous book.  Cringe and ick.  Ick and cringe.

There were a few moments were I also had trouble suspending disbelief with this addition to the series.  Amy and Dan are given disguises early on in this book that allow them to pass for adults.  I had a little trouble believing that.  Mainly with Dan.  His disguise involved a goatee.  And in my mind, the result of an eleven year old wandering around with a goatee is ridiculous, not believable.

Ghost In The Machine (Skeleton Creek)Skeleton CreekSo, I'm betting Patrick Carman has been a busy, busy guy these last few years.  Not only did his addition to the 39 Clues come out in 2009, but he also had The Skeleton Creek series come out last year too.  It just so happens, that series is also a multi-media literature series as well, with every few chapters being paired with a video for viewers to follow another point of view of the ghost story.

Dinner Conversation:

"Amy Cahill liked to be the first one up in the morning.  But not if it was because someone was screaming outside her hotel-room door" (p. 1).

"Most of the time, Dan Cahill would rather show up to school in his underwear than get involved in his sister's love life.  But this was different" (p. 10).

"She watched as he looked at it, his attention riveted on the black-and-white image of a couple, young and clearly in love, standing in front of the American embassy in Russia.
"It's really them, isn't it?" asked Dan.
"You bet it is," Amy answered.
In Paris, Dan had lost his only picture of their parents and Amy knew what having a new one meant to him.  But it had also sent them both into a tailspin.
Mom, Dad, what were you doing in Russia?" (pp. 20-21).

"That's the best story you've told me in your whole life," said Dan.  "I don't even care if it's true or not."
"Dan, I think it is true.  We of all people should believe it, even if history buffs don't buy it.  Rasputin was a Cahill!  Maybe we're even from the same branch of the family!"
"Like we could be superheroes!?!" Dan's eyes bugged out."

"Does he always talk that way?"  NRR asked Amy, clearly amused.
"He does.  It's a problem."
"He'll grow out of it."
Dan's head swiveled back and forth.  They had formed some sort of girl alliance!" (p. 137).

To Go with the Meal:

A teacher could capitalize on this book and share some of the history of Russia and the USSR.  Also, I'd argue that it might even be necessary to show students an image of The Motherland Calls statue.  There's a whole scene that involves the giant monument and it's very hard to visualize if you don't know what it looks like.  But why stop there?  A teacher could provide images on a lot of other Russian and Siberian landmarks as well.

A teacher can also go into the history about Levin and the Russian Revolution.  (Although, it's also worth noting, the book pretty much avoids mentioning the change over to communism completely.  Intentional?  I don't know.)

I think kids would also love to focus in on the legends and truths about Rasputin and Anastasia.  When I was in ninth grade, I went through a long phrase where I tried to find out everything I could about Anastasia and I know I'm not alone.  So, this book could be a jumping off point for other kids to do the same.

A more science-y topic would be to discuss hemophilia.  It could lead to a lesson about blood.  Or a teacher could also focus on the materials and elements that make up the clues that the Cahills are searching for.

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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