With Harry Potter's blockbuster story complete, will book-hungry kids get hooked on a multimedia mystery-adventure tale about the world's most powerful family? What if solving the mystery could win them $10,000?
Looking for another round of Potter-style magic (at least in terms of sales), publisher Scholastic today unveils the first installment of The 39 Clues, aimed at readers ages 8 to 12.
Imagine the Lemony Snicket books crossed with The DaVinci Code and a dash of Indiana Jones, and the whole thing linked into an elaborate Web presence and a series of Mom-pleeeease-can-I-have-them game cards, and you'll get the idea. Here are some quick facts to know when you start seeing the hype and hear the Spielberg connection thrown around:
• Book One: The Maze of Bones (Scholastic, $12.99) was written by bestselling children's author Rick Riordan (whose Percy Jackson and the Olympians series will wrap up with a fifth book in May). Riordan also outlined the other nine books for The 39 Clues.
• Review copies of The Maze of Bones sent in advance to book critics contained only the first 182 of the book's 224 pages — so the ending couldn't be leaked before publication.
• Each of the other nine volumes will be written by a different author. Next up is One False Note by Gordon Korman, coming in December, just in time for holiday shopping. The books will be published every two or three months over the next two years.
• The 39 Clues focuses on the sprawling Cahill family, a mysterious and powerful clan whose relatives include Napoleon and Houdini. Young siblings Amy and Dan Cahill go on the hunt for the key to their family's secrets when their grandmother dies and leaves a strange and challenging will.
• In addition to the novels, The 39 Clues features 335 collectible game cards with details about characters, locations, secrets and resources. Each book comes with six cards; 16-card random packs will be sold separately.
• The Web site the39clues.scholastic.com provides the story's online world and a place for kids to track their game points and clues and hunt down more secrets.
• Scholastic will award more than $100,000 in cash and prizes over the next two years to readers who play the game, including a $10,000 grand prize.
• Movie rights to The 39 Clues have been optioned by Steven Spielberg. Variety reports that Jeff Nathanson, who helped write the Spielberg-directed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, is working on a script for what may be the first of several movies based on the series.
Colette Bancroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435.