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Tom and Jerry Shiver Me Whiskers (2006) Movie Review

Tom and Jerry Shiver Me Whiskers

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: a Tom and Jerry movie
Starring: Mark Hamill, Kevin Michael Richardson, Wallace Shawn, Kathy Najimy, Charles Nelson Reilly
Director: Scott Jeralds
Release Date: 22 August 2006
Language: English
Length: 74 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

Three rival pirate brothers have been trying to find the treasure of the Spanish “Mane” for years.  When Tom finds a treasure map in a bottle, he has no idea that he has located what the brothers have been searching for.  Red Pirate Ron soon discovers that Tom has the map and he doesn’t hesitate to snatch it from his cat’s grasp.  Meanwhile, Jerry has bargained for his life with Blue Pirate Bob by promising to steal the map from Tom.  Of course, everyone really wants the treasure map for themselves and spend the entire movie trying to double cross and get ahead of everyone else and find the treasure!

Review:

This is one of the earlier feature-length animated films that star Tom and Jerry and I enjoyed it, but I did not think that it was as cute or clever as some of the later films are.  The story is pretty basic, double cross, steal, lie, cheat, whatever it takes to get the treasure and throw off everyone else from following you.  I know, I know, pirates.  What Unhappy Pirateselse was I expecting?  Something more.  This movie was clearly inspired by the very successful Pirates of the Caribbean movies (skeleton pirates, a cursed treasure, a talking skull, etc) and I cannot blame the animators for trying to capitalize on the popularity of the pirate genre afterwards.  Unfortunately, they decided to make a really long version of one of the older Tom and Jerry cartoons where they chase and fight each other for the entire time.  I found that most of the skits were pretty predictable and not very imaginative.  They also did not manage to capture the sly and sneaky aspects of Tom and Jerry’s personalities and they were just a bit bland for some reason.

What made the movie tolerable for me and the other older children was the humor found in several scenes.  Tom and Jerry spend a long time at the beginning stealing the map from each other while trying to dodge an attack dog, parrots, pirates, pirate captains, monkeys, a giant octopus and more.  Jerry is smarter, but Tom is bigger and not afraid to go after what he wants.  The talking skull (voice by Mark Hamill) is not the brightest bulb, but he provides some unwitting comedy as he challenges the treasure seekers with tests they have to pass before they can get to the treasure.  But my favorite characters were the parrots and their owners.  The blue pirate and the red pirate only say “yar!” and their parrot mascots translate for them.  The purple pirate speaks perfectly well and has a parrot that will only say “yar!”.  There is a lot of slapstick, non-verbal comedy and Tom and Jerry do not speak, as is traditional so you have to actually pay attention to what you are watching rather than what you are hearing or you will miss some very funny moments!

The music is a treat, as always.  It plays pretty much continuously through the entire film and really added to the quality of the movie.  The animation is a bit too slick to match the old-fashioned Tom and Jerry Shiver Me Whiskersanimation I am used to seeing, but I quickly got used to it.  If you rent the DVD or buy the movie, make sure that you watch the bonus feature that shows you what happened after the main story ends (a kind of “where are they now” recap) as it is very entertaining.  I enjoyed this movie and it reminded me of how much I loved Tom and Jerry as a child, but it also made me realize that I have moved beyond these cartoons and don’t enjoy all of them as much as I used to.  Still, this movie will be sure to appeal to younger viewers who are looking for a lot of action and obvious laughs.  The story is super easy to follow and Tom and Jerry are quite entertaining with the way that they bait each other.  I still say that there are better, more appealing Tom and Jerry movies out there, though, so shop around to make sure you purchase the best movies for your family.

Content:

This movie contains a lot of slapstick violence and punching, kicking, biting, blowing up, setting on fire, etc. is shown in a funny, comedic way.  The characters never really get injured and do not have any long-term effects from the violence.   The talking skull and skeleton pirates may be a little scary for younger viewers.  Recommended for ages 2 and up.

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In Too Deep by Jude Watson (The 39 Clues #6) Book Review

In Too Deep

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

In Too DeepSeries: The 39 Clues Series Book 6
Author: Jude Watson
Publisher: Scholastic Press (November 2009)
ISBN: 054506046X, EAN: 9780545060462
Page Count: 207 pages
Format: Hardcover + 6 game cards (for online game or collecting)

Target Age Group: 9 – 12
My Rating: 4/5 stars another worthy addition to a great series!

Synopsis:
After the devastating revelations contained in Book #5, The Black Circle, Amy & Dan are a little shaken. Now that they have a few clues to who killed their parents, they have a hard time focusing their entire attention on the race to find the clues. Amy especially is struggling to make sense of what her fractured memories show her. From what she can remember, she now realizes that her parents’ were hot on the trail of the 39 clues and were close to a major discovery. Amy can also remember that Ian & Natalie’s mother, Isabel Kabra was there, along with Alistair Oh and Irina Spasky. Did one of them set their house on fire? And did Amy accidentally reveal a critical clue to their enemies when she was too young to know better?

In order to try and find more information, Amy & Dan travel to Sydney, Australia and look up their godfather, Shep, a laid-back Aussie surfer/bush pilot. He is able to help them track down a mysterious Australian convict from the 1800s, as well as retrace the trail of the famous aviator Amelia Earhart. Along the way, they must survive being used as shark chum, trapped in a mining shaft with the most poisonous snakes and spiders in the world, volcanic eruptions, storms and another house fire. The stakes are even higher this time as Amy & Dan are no longer hunting for clues to win – this time it is personal.

Review:
There are many series that you can read out of order or skip books and not miss out on any information. This is not one of them. I strongly encourage you to begin the series at the beginning: #1 is The Maze of Bones, #2 is One False Note, #3 is The Sword Thief #4 Beyond the Grave, and #5 The Black Circle. Each author gives a synopsis of previous plot lines that are pertinent to the ongoing story line so you can get the gist of what is happening, but you miss out on a lot of the mystery and more subtle story lines so I don’t recommend it. Also, you will want to purchase the books yourself so that you can play the online games and collect all of the clue cards (which is half the fun!). You can only use the code on the cards once so siblings cannot share, but you can play the games and the missions multiple times online so everyone can get a turn.

It would be hard to top the last book in the series, which this one does not, but it is still a great addition and really helps move the plot along. Dan is finally starting to mature and, even though he still argues with Amy, he has learned to forgive and not hold grudges. Amy spends a lot of time wrestling with internal demons, only to find out that her family loves her no matter what and that she needs to stop blaming herself for things that she has no control over. She becomes a much stronger and braver person in this book, which was great to see as I hate to see her acting so timid all the time. They also start noticing more about the people around them and realizing that they are people with motivations, bitter disappointments, and even tragedies in their past. This is especially true of Irina Spasky, who finally chooses sides in this book. Other characters are wrestling with their inner demons in this book too. All of the children are realizing that doing what is right is not always easy and does not always match what those around them are doing. For the first time, I felt like there was a book in the series that was more character driven then action driven. This book was a very welcome addition to the series and I think that it was definitely needed at this juncture. By getting to know the characters better, readers become more emotionally invested in the treasure hunt and want to know what is going to happen as well as rooting for Amy & Dan to win. I was glued to the pages until the book ended and now I am left with nothing until February 2010 when the next book comes out!

Content:
This book is completely appropriate for children as it was written for children. There is a lot of intense action and many of the characters go out of their way to try to purposefully harm or kill the lead characters, but they always manage to escape. For the first time, though, someone close to the children dies. Isabel Kabra, a mother of 2 children, is introduced in this book and she is one of the most vicious villains out there. There were a lot more attempts on Amy & Dan’s life than in any other book and I think that they are going to continue to escalate from here. There are no descriptions of dead bodies or gruesome details, just enough facts are provided to move the story along and for you to realize what has happened. There is nothing that is inappropriate for children, but, as this series is so good, I highly recommend that you read this book with your children so that you can discuss whatever they have questions about. The website is also completely safe and you can leave your child happily playing unattended for hours on this carefully monitored site. A great option for both boys & girls who enjoy adventure!

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The Black Circle by Patrick Carman (The 39 Clues #5) Book Review

The Black Circle

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

The Black CircleSeries: The 39 Clues Series Book 5
Author: Patrick Carman
Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 2009)
ISBN: 0545060451, EAN: 9780545060455
Page Count: 168 pages
Format: Hardcover + 6 game cards (for online game or collecting)

Target Age Group: 9 – 12
My Rating: 4/5 stars a must read for those who want to find out more about Amy & Dan’s past!

Synopsis:
Amy & Dan Cahill discovered the next ingredient in Egypt, but did not find a clue to lead them to the next location. Instead, they were presented with a mysterious message instructing them to travel to Russia – but only if they want to find out what really happened to their parents. This is the first time that Amy & Dan realize that their parents did not die in a tragic house fire, but were, in fact, murdered. They feel that they have no choice but to fly to Russia, leaving their au pair behind, and using the fake passports and disguises provided by their mysterious ally, NRR. But the truth will not be uncovered by something so simple as one location with a single clue. Instead, they have to travel all over Russia, discovering pieces of the puzzle and they are under a strict time limit. Realizing that Amy & Dan simply cannot travel the length & breadth of the country by themselves to find all of the clues, they recruit the Tomas clan representatives, the Holts.

While it is true that the Holts tried to kill them several times in the past, this time Amy & Dan feel that they have more control over the situation. To put it simply, the Tomas branch has fewer clues than any other Cahill branch and the Holts are desperate to be able to report a success – no matter who they have to work with. If each group covers 3 locations in different Russian cities, they can uncover all of the clues if they hurry. To gather all of the information they need before they confront NRR, the groups must learn more about the Romanov family, the last royal family in Russia and continue to evade the Lucian branch representatives – including their old enemy and former KGB agent Irina Spasky. Among the locations, they must visit the Summer Palace and the fantastic toy room of Alexei; the Blood Church, where the Romanov family was gunned down and it was said that Anastasia miraculously survived; and the Road of Bones, where those who died building the road were used to pave it.

Review:
There are many series that you can read out of order or skip books and not miss out on any information. This is not one of them. I strongly encourage you to begin the series at the beginning: #1 is The Maze of Bones, #2 is One False Note, #3 is The Sword Thief and #4 Beyond the Grave. Each author gives a synopsis of previous plot lines that are pertinent to the ongoing story line so you can get the gist of what is happening, but you miss out on a lot of the mystery and more subtle story lines so I don’t recommend it. Also, you will want to purchase the books yourself so that you can play the online games and collect all of the clue cards (which is half the fun!). You can only use the code on the cards once so siblings cannot share, but you can play the games and the missions multiple times online so everyone can get a turn.

In my opinion, this is by far the best book in the series (speaking of books 1 – 6, which is all that is out right now). Full of mystery, magic, and fantastic adventure, I simply could not put this book down until I read it all and found out what happened! Patrick Carman gave wonderful characterization and made me feel for one of the most unlikable villains in the series. I found myself not only liking the villains, but liking Amy & Dan a lot more than in previous books. The action was nonstop and the descriptions and historical data were inserted so seamlessly that they became an integral and vital part of the story. You will learn a lot more about Russia than you think – and you absorb the information without even realizing it! I have not traveled to Russia yet, but this book made me want to go there to see the amazing sites that Amy & Dan got to view. Simply put: Do NOT miss this book in the series! It starts to reveal the past of Amy & Dan, as well as several of the other characters in the books. It also marks the beginning of a successful collaboration between Amy & Dan and the musclebound Holt family. I see this teamwork setting the groundwork for a lot more interaction between the vying groups – especially with the children. There is a lot of foreshadowing in this book so, if you want to know what is going to happen, this book is the one to read to start making educated guesses.

Content:
This book is completely appropriate for children as it was written for children. There is a lot of intense action and many of the characters go out of their way to try to purposefully harm or kill the lead characters, but they always manage to escape. It is like an Amazing Race for children, just without the camera crew! This book contains some of the most intense action of all of the series. It deals with murderers, revolutions, assassinations and a lot different ways of dying. There is nothing that is inappropriate for children, but, as this series is so good, I highly recommend that you read this book with your children so that you can discuss whatever they have questions about. The website is also completely safe and you can leave your child happily playing unattended for hours on this carefully monitored site. A great option for both boys & girls who enjoy adventure!

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Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson (The 39 Clues #4) Book Review

Beyond the Grave

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

Beyond the GraveSeries: The 39 Clues Series Book 4
Author: Jude Watson
Publisher: Scholastic Press (June 2009)
ISBN: 0545060443, EAN: 9780545060448
Page Count: 192 pages
Format: Hardcover + 6 game cards (for online game or collecting)

Target Age Group: 9 – 12
My Rating: 4/5 stars the break-neck pace continues!

Synopsis:
Amy & Dan Cahill escaped the death trap in Korea and are trying to move past the brutal betrayals of their cousins and uncle. All they have to guide them to the next clue is a drawing of a pyramid and the word Sakhet. So they set off for Egypt, hoping that they will discover more clues to keep them in the race to find the greatest treasure in the world. But before they can start searching, they realize that Irina Spasky, former KGB agent with poison-tipped fingernails, is hot on their trail! They manage to evade her, but then they stumble across an Ekaterina stronghold in a luxury Egyptian hotel. Seems that they are not the only ones who suspect that Alistair Oh is still alive – and there are those in the Ekaterina branch who hope for his demise. Luckily, an old friend of their Aunt Grace, Hilary, lives in Egypt and manages to rescue them just in time. She and her grandson, Theo, give them a few precious items that Grace left in their care and provide vital information to solving the next clue!

They need to find four jewel-eyed statues of Sakhet, an ancient Eygyptian goddess, and must search through bazaars, antiques shops and the ancient burial chambers of Egyptian queens. Hot on their heels are Irina Spasky, Alistair Oh, the Kabra cousins and someone else. After their experiences in Korea, Amy & Dan don’t know who to trust. Amy especially cannot get over Ian Kabra’s betrayal. Did he really feel anything for her at all or was he just flirting to get information from her? While searching through the desert sands, Amy & Dan learn more about the Cahill family branches, leave false clues behind them to throw their family off their tracks, are haunted by a ghost in a mummy’s tomb, and are left to feed the crocodiles of the Nile. With a family like this, who needs enemies?!

Review:
There are many series that you can read out of order or skip books and not miss out on any information. This is not one of them. I strongly encourage you to begin the series at the beginning: #1 is The Maze of Bones, #2 is One False Note, and #3 is The Sword Thief. Each author gives a synopsis of previous plot lines that are pertinent to the ongoing story line so you can get the gist of what is happening, but you miss out on a lot of the mystery and more subtle story lines so I don’t recommend it. Also, you will want to purchase the books yourself so that you can play the online games and collect all of the clue cards (which is half the fun!). You can only use the code on the cards once so siblings cannot share, but you can play the games and the missions multiple times online so everyone can get a turn.

I really enjoyed this book. It was well written by veteran children’s author, Jude Watson, who gave great descriptions of Egypt and managed to balance historical information with action to keep the reader interested. I think that Amy & Dan Cahill are finally hitting their stride in this book and are really starting to gel as a team. They still have weaknesses and drive each other crazy sometimes, but they have settled in and are in it to win it. They are not letting anything hold them back and they are determined to press forward. They are changing, but not always for the better. Amy & Dan are much more suspicious (with good reason) and are starting to play the game. They leave false trails and misleading clues for other Cahill members to give them more time to get to the final clue first. I felt that they are really starting to mature as characters and that the authors all seem to have a handle on them now so they are becoming more real. There are also more plot twists and surprises, which will be fun for children & adults to guess what is going to happen next and try to solve the mystery on their own before it is revealed.

Content:
This book is completely appropriate for children as it was written for children. There is a lot of intense action and many of the characters go out of their way to try to purposefully harm or kill the lead characters, but they always manage to escape. Amy & Dan are placed in many precarious positions and face betrayal by people who seem to be their friends and allies, but they are not seriously harmed. It is like an Amazing Race for children! As the series goes on, the lines between good and evil become more blurred and there are a lot more shades of grey than flat black and white. Parents may need to discuss ethics with their children or if the ends really justifies the means. Other than that, the book is clean and appropriate for children of all ages! The website is also completely safe and you can leave your child happily playing unattended for hours on this carefully monitored site. A great option for both boys & girls who enjoy adventure!

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The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis (The 39 Clues #3) Book Review

The Sword Thief

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

The Sword ThiefSeries: The 39 Clues Series Book 3
Author: Peter Lerangis
Publisher: Scholastic Press (March 2009)
ISBN: 0545090598, EAN: 9780545090599
Page Count: 160 pages
Format: Hardcover + 6 game cards (for online game or collecting)

Target Age Group: 9 – 12
My Rating: 4/5 stars the wild ride continues!

Synopsis:
Amy & Dan Cahill last clue leads them to Japan, but they are outwitted before they can even begin! Their tricky cousins, the Kabras, manage to steal their tickets – and Nellie, their au pair – and leave them high and dry at the airport. When their Uncle Alistair Oh appears out of nowhere and offers to take them to the next clue on his private jet (paid for with his microwave burrito fortune) if they will tell him where to go, they are immediately suspicious. Amy & Dan know that they cannot trust Alistair, as he has double crossed them more than once before, but they feel that they have no choice. In order to save Nellie and their beloved cat, Saladin, they tell Alistair to head for Tokyo. Alistair’s Asian ancestry comes in handy as they investigate the infamous samurai warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, whose ancient stronghold may contain the next clue!

Clues in Japan lead them to Korea, where Dan & Amy, Uncle Alistair, the Kabras, Nellie & Saladin all have to join forces to foil the ninjas and other sinister characters pursuing them. Can Dan & Amy follow the clues to Toyotomi’s collection of ancient treasures? To do so, they must survive electric subway rails, ancient Japanese feuds, meeting new family members, romantic flirting from the enemy, and being buried alive!

Review:
Proceed with caution if you have not read book #1, The Maze of Bones, and book #2, One False Note, as this book begins just where the last book ended. I mean, you could have put the 2 books together and thought you were just flipping the pages between chapters. And, I will warn you again – do NOT start this series if you don’t plan on buying all of the other books in the series as it is highly addictive! The series just keeps getting more action packed and more exciting as I learn more about the characters and what the clues lead to. I did not feel that this book was as strong in historical content as the previous two so I kind of missed learning about Japan & Korea through the eyes of the characters, however, from what little bit the author included, I can tell that the characters would agree with a lot of my descriptions of Tokyo, as I have had the good fortune to travel there twice so far. It was fun to learn a little bit more about ancient samurais and feudal Asia, though.

The characters are separated more in this book and there are a lot of other characters including Alistair Oh and Ian Kabra who play vital roles in moving the plot along so the author jumps around a lot on his points of view. You will read one chapter from Dan’s POV, then jump to Amy, then Ian, then Alistair, then Alistair’s uncle, etc. All of this helps move the plot along, but does make it a little bit more difficult to follow for younger readers and takes a little bit of the surprise out of discovering their motives as they simply tell you what is going on in their heads. I loved that some of the “villains” started to show some heart in this entry in the series. Ian starts doubting the Lucian way, which is to achieve your objective at all costs – including the cost of lives. Alistair feels guilty for trying to kill Amy & Dan and double crossing them in previous meetings as he finds they remind him more and more of his own loveless childhood. It seems that Amy & Dan have finally found some relatives who believe in them and want to help them succeed. This sets you up for a whopping shocker of an ending so brace yourself and make sure you have book #4 handy!

I think that boys in particular will enjoy this book as it is all about ancient warriors in feudal Japan and Korea. What boy doesn’t like swords and dream of having the moves and stealth of a ninja? I also think it is great that the authors are going to take the characters around the world and not just focus on Europe. It opens up a little bit of a window to young readers about areas and people that they may not consider reading about until they are older. Through Peter Lerangis’s clear and concise writing style, we find the plot rapidly moving forward and foreshadowing into what I believe will gradually happen throughout the rest of the books in the series. As with previous books, this title comes with a pack of 6 cards that you can use to play games and collect clues online. An installment not to be missed!

Content:
This book is completely appropriate for children as it was written for children. There is a lot of intense action and many of their fellow family members go out of their way to try to purposefully harm or kill Dan & Amy, but they always manage to escape. I think that this is a great series to get your children interested in travel and wondering what people are like in other areas of the world. The characters are varied and come from different geographical areas in the world and there is quite a bit of history and learning snuck in where children won’t notice it. I think this is a great series to read aloud with your child or for you to enjoy on your own and then talk about together. Also, the website is also completely safe and you can leave your child happily playing unattended for hours on this carefully monitored site. A great option for both boys & girls who enjoy adventure!

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One False Note by Gordon Korman (The 39 Clues #2) Book Review

One False Note

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

One False NoteSeries: The 39 Clues Series Book 2
Author: Gordon Korman
Publisher: Scholastic Press (December 1, 2008)
ISBN: 0545060427, EAN: 9780545060424
Page Count: 174 pages
Format: Hardcover + 6 game cards (for online game or collecting)

Target Age Group: 9 – 12
My Rating: 4/5 stars a great follow-up to the first book in the series!

Synopsis:
Amy & Dan Cahill are hot on the trail of their 2nd clue – and all trails lead to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Seems that the famous composer was a Cahill and descended from the artistic Janus branch. The kids and their au pair, Nellie, quickly find themselves leaving Paris, France and heading on their way to Vienna, Austria to solve the puzzle. It doesn’t take them long, however, to realize that the key to the puzzle actually lies with Mozart’s sister, Nannerl. Nannerl was an amazing musician in her own right, but never got the recognition she deserved because she was a woman. Her journal will lead Amy & Dan to Salzburg and then on to Venice, Italy to try and capture the clue before anyone else in their family. Along the way, they must survive a beat-down by their musclebound, doltish cousins the Holts, an explosion that their sleek cousins the Kabras accidentally set off while trying to steal Amy & Dan’s clue, getting caught in yet another set of catacombs by mistakenly following a family member on a wild goose chase and even an attack by Benedictine Monks! Now if only they could convince their finicky cat, Saladin, to eat something other than red snapper, they might feel like they have really accomplished something…

Review:
My first warning is to go and read book #1 The Maze of Bones before you read this one. You can read book #2 without reading book #1, but it is hard to sum up a book in 1 or 2 pages (as the author does at the beginning of the book here) and not miss out on anything. My second warning is this – do NOT start this series if you don’t plan on buying all of the other books in the series as it is highly addictive! I found myself racing along with Amy & Dan to find out what happened next and swallowed the book in one sitting. It was also great to learn a little bit more about the famous composer Mozart and his family. The book also really made me want to travel to Austria to see everything that the children saw for myself. If only I had the money and the time.

Anyway, this book is a bit different in that Amy & Dan argue a lot in it. Most of their arguments are due to Dan being a little know-it-all and Amy constantly putting herself, and her brother, down and intimating that neither of them is clever enough to really win the prize at the end of the 39 clues. Some may say that they are being typical siblings, (and I would agree), but it may be perceived as a little bit excessive. I understand why the author felt that it was necessary, though, as the 2 siblings are together all the time and I know that I need my alone time to enable to me to keep an even keel around other people. Also, in the first book, Amy & Dan were reacting to circumstances around them and now they have to be more active in choosing their routes and deciding if they want to continue in the race now that they know what they are in for. This naturally leads to discussions, which can easily become heated. Dan & Amy are definitely opposites in almost everything so there were a lot of these “discussions.” I wasn’t too bothered with the arguing, actually, as I come from a really big family and I am sure that is how we sounded to outsiders, too. Only someone who a brother or sister can truly understand that you can argue with someone and still love them and back them up no matter what.

This book is much more fast paced than the first book, which had a bit of a slow start for me. For those of you who didn’t really enjoy the first book in the series, The Maze of Bones, and were a little bit bored, please give this one a try as I think that you will enjoy it more. The first book was needed to set the stage and introduce the characters, but, now that is over, we are ready to get to the good stuff. I really couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next! There was more dialogue and action in this second book and it may be due to the fact that it was written by a different author. It appears that each book will be written by a different, well-known children’s author so the style of this book is a little bit different than the first one, but I didn’t really notice and it wasn’t different enough to jar me out of the story. I found Gordon Korman’s writing style was well suited for children and was clear and easy to read. This book also comes with a pack of 6 cards that you can use to play games and collect clues online. Many of the cards contain puzzles that children need to solve to unlock clues online and I love that Scholastic tried to make this a completely interactive series. My nephew and I spent hours in front of the computer entering all of the cards, playing the games, and solving the puzzles on the missions that were available. This is a great book to read with children.

Content:
This book is completely appropriate for children as it was written for children. There is a lot of intense action and many of the characters go out of their way to try to purposefully harm or kill the lead characters, but they always manage to escape. Amy & Dan are bullied, bribed, threatened and put themselves in great danger, but, of course, they do not get seriously injured and are able to continue to hunt for clues. Parents who do not let their children use their word “stupid” or argue with their siblings may not like some of the scenes, but I thought the book was quite realistic in its portrayal of the hero & heroine. The website is also completely safe and you can leave your child happily playing unattended for hours on this carefully monitored site. A great option for both boys & girls who enjoy adventure!

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The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (The 39 Clues #1) Book Review

The Maze of Bones

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

The Maze of BonesSeries: The 39 Clues Series Book 1
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 2008)
ISBN: 0545060397, EAN: 9780545060394
Page Count: 220 pages
Format: Hardcover + 6 game cards (for online game or collecting)

Target Age Group: 9 – 12
My Rating: 4/5 stars a really fun book!

Synopsis:
Fourteen-year-old Amy and eleven-year-old Dan are orphans with wealthy relatives, though none of the wealth seems to have trickled down to them. When their beloved Aunt Grace dies, the only one who truly seems to care for them, Amy & Dan are devastated. They are completely unprepared to hear her will – take 1 million dollars and walk away or embark on the greatest adventure of their lives. Amy & Dan believe that their Aunt would have wanted them to join the treasure hunt and find the 39 clues so they give up the cash and get their first clue. This decision will lead them to follow in the steps of Benjamin Franklin – first to Boston and then to Paris, France. Every location they visit has riddles and clues that the quick-witted and clever children will need to solve in order to find the ingredients they need to win.

But Amy & Dan are not the only ones who decided to pass up the cash. They soon discover that there are 4 branches to the Cahill family – the physically strong Tomas branch; the clever & quick-witted Ekaterina branch; the sneaky & sly Lucian branch; & the artistically gifted Janus branch. All branches have representatives vying for the clues and some of them have been searching for the clues their whole lives and already know what a few of the ingredients are. Not only that, but their family members play to win. Amy & Dan must survive a house explosion and fire, bombs, being stranded and lost in a tunnel of bones, cousins trying to bury them alive in a cemetery and that is just in the first few days…

Review:
I found this book to be a refreshing, fun read. There was nothing unusual or surprising in the book or in the plot, but I am reading this series with my 12-year-old nephew and there is plenty for both of us to enjoy in the books. First of all, it is very difficult to find good books with a young boy as the hero and narrator. Dan is a little obnoxious and whiny, but he grows on you. He acts like an 11-year-old would act, but he is a little bit more obnoxious than most as he is a borderline genius with a photographic memory. Amy is a little bit more timid and would much rather look for information in books than have to go out and experience it herself. I sense that she will be growing a lot in the series as right now she gets intimidated very easily and is willing to give up quickly when faced with obstacles. The point of view bounces between Dan & Amy, but there are a few short chapters where we get the point of view from another character.

There is plenty of action in this book and, while we don’t get to know a lot about the secondary characters, we do find some humor in the archetypes that Riordan chose to use for his villains: Uncle Alistair Oh, a microwave burrito millionaire who double crosses the children in the first day; their cousin Jonah Wizard, top-of-the-charts musician who tries to con them into working with him and then letting Jonah take all the credit; cousins Ian & Natalie Kabra who are beautiful on the outside, but treacherous and devious on the inside – not to mention trained and ready to kill; and the Holt Family led by cousin Hamilton Holt who leads his muscle-bound brood with the skill and imagination of a drill sergeant. The extended Cahill family, as well as the children’s laid back au pair, Nellie, give the book its touches of excitement, action and humor.

Rick Riordan was able to smoothly incorporate historical facts into the plot line so that children don’t realize that they are learning while they are enjoying a grand adventure. I found his writing style was well suited for children and was clear and easy to read. This book also comes with a pack of 6 cards that you can use to play games and collect clues online. Many of the cards contain puzzles that children need to solve to unlock clues online and I love that Scholastic tried to make this a completely interactive series. My nephew and I spent hours in front of the computer entering all of the cards, playing the games, and solving the puzzles on the missions that were available. This is a great book to read with children.

Content:
This book is completely appropriate for children as it was written for children. There is a lot of intense action and many of the characters go out of their way to try to purposefully harm or kill the lead characters, but they always manage to escape. This series could be a great opportunity to explain that a lot of people are neither wholly good nor wholly bad, but that most of us are a little bit of both. The website is also completely safe and you can leave your child happily playing unattended for hours on this carefully monitored site. A great option for both boys & girls who enjoy adventure!

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