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The Maze of Bones
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Gr 4-6-This is the first installment (Scholastic, 2008) of a projected 10-book series about 39 clues to a family's secret 500-year-old history left in a will by Grace Cahill, the last matriarch of the most powerful family in the world. The people mentioned in her will have the choice of inheriting one million dollars instantly or competing to win the fortune by collecting all the clues. Orphans Amy and Dan Cahill attend their grandmother's funeral and are swept into a worldwide search. The first clue, to "seek out Richard S," leads the youngsters to Poor Richard's Almanac, Ben Franklin, and the catacombs below Paris. This is an involved tale with lots of characters and plot twists that set the stage for the nine books that will follow. The children escape a fire, a bomb, a sink hole, and outsmart disreputable Cahills. Along the way, they learn about their dead parents and world history. The Maze of Bones was written by Rick Riordan; other authors will be writing some of the other titles. David Pittu's narration is measured and powerful, and he easily assumes foreign accents as the roles deamnd. The second clue is given at the end of the book. Scholastic has devised an online game (the39clues.com) where readers play a part in the story and can win over $100,000 in prizes. Listeners will be hooked and eagerly await the next title.-Marilyn Hersh, Hillside Elementary School, Farmington Hills, MI Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Built around a ripe conceit--wealthy matriarch scatters cryptic clues to a mysterious fortune around the globe--this first installment in a projected 10-book series is tons of fun. Lead-off hitter Riordan (The Lightning Thief) mixes just the right proportions of suspense, peril and puzzles in a fast-paced read (Riordan mapped the narrative arc for all 10 volumes, but other high-profile authors will be writing for the series, too). Likable orphans Amy and Dan Cahill have moxie (plus Dan can memorize numbers instantly) and frailties (Amy hates crowds). As the siblings compete with less honorable members of the Cahill clan, all distantly related to Benjamin Franklin, to win the fortune by collecting all 39 clues (only two are found in this first book), they learn about their dead parents, each other and world history. The humor is spot on--one uncle is credited with inventing the microwave burrito. The only flaw? The story does not end so much as drop off a cliff. (The second book, One False Note by Gordon Korman, is set to arrive in December.) While waiting, readers can collect cards, each of which contains evidence, and play the online game (www.the39clues.com), for which Scholastic is offering over $100,000 in prizes. This ought to have as much appeal to parents as it does to kids--it's Webkinz without the stuffed animals, and a rollicking good read. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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