Wednesday, October 28, 2009

MIDDLE-GRADE BOOK REVIEW:

Beyond the Grave (The 39 Clues – Book #4) – Jude Watson – Ages 9-12


All of the authors in this series face a tricky situation. The 39 Clues is a series of 10books with each book written by a different author than the one before. The series needs to avoid seeming generic and formulaic from book to book and include the authentic voice of each writer.

Trickier yet for Jude Watson is having to follow three of the best (and three of my favorite) middle-grade adventure writers - Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson series), Gordon Korman (Kidnapped series), Peter Lerangis (Spy X series).


A final tricky dilemma for these authors is writing from the point of view not only of main character Dan, an eleven-year-old adrenaline freak with a photographic memory, but also from the point of view of his older sister, Amy. That’s where many boy readers would just say NO. But with the 39 Clues series, these same readers are treated to a humorous look at themselves and the goofy things a boy might do that Dan actually does.


This series – along with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series – is a can’t miss as a read-together with my two school-age children. With Beyond the Grave (Scholastic Inc, 2009), we were not disappointed at all with Watson’s turn at the adventure following the two young Cahill’s in their around-the-world quest for the ultimate prize. And it doesn’t hurt that the primary locale is Egypt. From secret rooms and an underwater Nile expedition to being trapped in an ancient ruin, Watson keeps the speed of the chase at a high level, rarely letting his foot off of the pedal. When he does let up a bit, he does it subtly, primarily to bring in back story of the children’s grandmother whose will sends the pre-teens off on this adventure of a lifetime.


RATING:







UP NEXTA look at the National Book Award Finalists:
• David Small’s Stitches (Norton, 2009)
• Deborah Heiligman for Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Holt, 2008)
• Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus, 2009)
• Laini Taylor for Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2009)
• Rita Williams-Garcia for Jumped (HarperTeen, 2009)

1 comment:

  1. Howdy Todd, I love your blog. It is an issue I am quite fierce about.

    Saw that you might be reviewing Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice and thought you might want to spy on a YouTube I created from the author & Claudette's recent appearances. Claudette is still the fierce and funny presence she was at 15 when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZOpqtdd8nw

    Last week I was talking to a Dad whose 13-year-old was no longer reading. I suggested trying audio books. He emailed me a few days later to say that before audio books maybe he should try his Dad voice again, try raeding aloud. They are reading (I was thrilled to discover) Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice. Grand.

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