Top Teaching > Ruth Manna > Last-Minute Shopping — The 39 Clues

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Last-Minute Shopping — The 39 Clues

Images[6] If you’re like me, you’re in the middle of last-minute online holiday shopping. Right now I’m shopping for my ten-year-old nephew, who's not crazy about reading, but loves to play online games. I’ve found the perfect gift: The 39 Clues!

I heard about The 39 Clues on an NPR Morning Edition segment last week. The 39 Clues is a suspense-adventure series in which brother and sister Dan and Amy Cahill collect clues to solve the mystery of their family’s special powers. While Dan (age 11) and Amy (age 14) are collecting clues, so are Cahill relatives in other branches of the family. Each wants to be first to collect all 39 clues and a one million dollar inheritance.

The series is a combination of books, clue cards, and online game playing. And it's funny! The 39 Clues is like Magic Tree House, Nancy Drew, Boxcar Children, and Harry Potter all in one.

Read on to find out more about The 39 Clues.



When my daughter, Julie, was a 5th grader, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out. I credit Harry Potter with making Julie into a real reader. In the same way, The 39 Clues will make readers out of today’s upper elementary and middle school students. 

It’s a multi-platform series. Readers use books, cards, and a Web site to discover facts and solve a mystery. Each book comes with six clue cards, and readers can purchase sets of 16 cards that go with certain books. Cards and Internet activities are part of clue collecting.

Photo: Scholastic bookstore display.



The first ten books in The 39 Clues series were written by a team of authors between 2008 and 2010. Rick Riordan wrote the first book, The Maze of Bones, and outlined the series. Other authors include Linda Sue Park, who wrote Book 9, Storm Warning, and Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of Book 10, Into the GauntletThe Black Book of Buried Secrets is a recently published guidebook.





It would be fun to read The 39 Clues with your class. Book 1 could be read aloud as a way to get students into the series. To introduce the books, you could show your class a video clip. For more ideas, teacher resources are also available. 

If your students have already read the first ten books in The 39 Clues, a second part of the series is coming this spring. In April 2011, Vespers Rising, Book 1 in the second series, will be coming out!

I've decided to get my nephew the first three books, a package of cards for Books 1–3, and The Black Book of Buried Secrets. After he opens his presents, I'm going to show him how to join the Web site and read the first few chapters of The Maze of Bones aloud. 

Have you taught reading or writing lessons based on The 39 Clues? If you have, please share them here!









Due out in April 2011!


  • #1 Ruth Manna

    Friday, December 31, 2010 at 11:31 AM


    You've gotten so many students excited about reading and books through The 39 Clues series! That's why we teach reading, to get kids into books!

    I'm impressed that you and your students are now using 39 Clues format for social studies lessons. :)
    Congratulations! And best wishes for much continued success in the new year!

  • #2 Katie

    Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 04:50 PM

    As a fourth grade teacher, I have become obsessed with this series, in the most positive sense of the word!

    I bought the first book a few years ago at our school's Scholastic book fair on a whim. Once reading it, I had to read more. I quickly became engrossed in the characters and adventure of the hunt for the 39 Clues.

    One thing that I love about this series is that it renewed my passion for reading. My enthusiasm and excitement for this series has spread to my fourth grade students as well. I am able to talk to them about the books that I am reading and loving and my excitement gets them excited about reading as well, whether it is this series or another book/series that they are equally as passionate about.

    I also love 39 Clues because of the different threads of learning that are captured throughout the book. Readers are able to grasp on to one small thread of a topic discussed in the book that may interest them and encourage them to learn and read more about something that they were previously unaware of. When I have shared these books with my class through read alouds and other experiences, they have picked up on geography, history, and literary lessons that they may otherwise have lacked interest in learning.

    In my classroom, students always know about what is current with this series because of my enthusiasm about it. We pre-order copies of the newest releases and students always are excited to receive the books and try to keep up with how quickly I read and enjoy them. I began an after-school 39 Clues club and have had a great response from students so far. Each time I schedule it, it is filled to the maximum capacity with students. What is really neat to see about the club also is what each child takes away from the books. Some love solving the clues, others love interpreting the cards, several prefer the challenge of the interactive games online and a few simply come to discuss the books with their peers. I think this is another reason why I love sharing this series with my students- there is something for them each to enjoy.

    I also have turned much of Scholastic's marketing ideas for the book into useful lessons to engage my students in reading and comprehension skills. For example, when the cover for the 8th book was released, our class previewed it together and worked to find all of the clues hidden inside the cover. Once we did, a passage from the book was revealed. We read it together and had a great shared reading lesson on inferring, as the students tried to figure out where this book was taking place. This impromptu lesson was a great real life lesson for my students on how to use evidence from the text to infer, a skill which at times can be challenging to teach. My class was engaged and excited to combine their research skills, comprehension strategies, and clue hunting abilities to figure out the next setting of the book.

    Apart from these types of experiences, I have also expanded the ideas behind 39 Clues into my social studies lessons. I create clues for the students before each new unit so that they can use the resources they have been presented with in class to determine what topic they will be learning about next. I've found this to be another great way to build their enthusiasm about learning and tie in excitement about reading!

    Thank you for sharing with others about this great series!

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