Our next book was a whopper of a series, The 39 Clues Book 1 – Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan.  At the time we read it, I think there were only 4 books written, but now I think they are up to #10 or more.  The story is about a sister and brother (Amy and Dan Cahill) who find out they are part of a very influential family that has ties to all the great minds of the world.  After their beloved aunt dies, Amy and Dan are thrown into an Amazing Race-like competition to discover the source of their family’s power by collecting 39 clues around the world.

The idea behind this book was intriguing on many levels.  Each book takes the reader on a historical journey of some kind (because the family’s ancestors are literally all the great minds of the world).  The first book profiles Benjamin Franklin and provides information about his inventions with some American history thrown in.  Other books follow Mozart and Napoleon, as well as Japanese and Egyptian history.  The books also contain trading cards that link to an on-line competition that readers can create an account for and play.

For our meeting, we tried to limit the discussion to Book #1.  This was a challenge as these books are fairly easy reads that are full of action, and a lot of our members read ahead.  The interesting thing was that they all got kind of tired of the series by about Book #4; the formula writing had worn thin for them and they really weren’t into the on-line game and competition.  We discussed a bit about how each book in the series was written by a different author and if they noticed a change in writing style/voice.

To create discussion questions and activities, I workeddirectly from the Scholastic Curriculum Guide (http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=37926) and picked relevant questions for a light, round-table discussion.  Remember, this is a club where I wanted the kids to have fun and be excited about reading!  We also made Benjamin Franklin’s invisible ink using lemon juice (recipe included in the Guide above) and practiced writing and deciphering secret messages.

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