The Maze of Bones
A book review for parents
This first adventure, mystery book in "The 39 Clues" series by Rick Riordan is published by Scholastic, Inc.
The Maze of Bones is written for kids 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
At the reading of Grace Cahill's will, Cahills from around the world are present to collect their portion of her estate. But Grace threw them a curve: Each heir can take $1 million or join an epic treasure hunt in which the winner will receive power beyond his or her wildest dreams. Dan and Amy, favored young relatives of Grace, accept the challenge despite the threats of their guardian, Aunt Beatrice. With the help of their au pair (nanny), Nellie, they fly to Paris and battle their quirky, scheming relatives to follow up on clues involving Ben Franklin (supposedly an ancestor of the Cahill clan). At the end of the book, Dan and Amy are ahead in the race, but readers are left guessing at answers that will be found only in upcoming installments of "The 39 Clues" Series.
Nellie mutters something in Spanish that "sounded like a prayer" to Dan and Amy.
Amy and Dan's parents (of whom they speak fondly) are deceased. For a while, Dan and Amy are under the guardianship of a mean aunt who doesn't like them and calls the authorities on them when they go against her wishes. Nellie is easily lured into their adventure and does whatever they ask. She serves as an authority figure only in the sense that she can drive a car and get them through customs. Various adult members of the Cahill family are fiercely competitive. They lie to and steal from Dan and Amy — and even threaten them with weapons and poison — in an effort to solve Grace Cahill's mystery hunt. Grace dies early in the book, but the text makes it clear she had a loving connection with Dan and Amy and was glad they were not evil schemers like her other relatives.
These are intelligent children who work their way through a foreign country searching for clues. They've been disowned by their mean aunt and can't return to the U.S. because she has notified the authorities that they've escaped. Grace has urged them to trust no one. Although Nellie chauffeurs them, she doesn't do anything to care for them. They tell her to wait in the car for them while they look for clues, and she complies. The kids do not have any real authority figures in their lives.
Other Belief Systems
Grace Cahill has a necklace that she considers a talisman or good luck charm. After her death, it is in Amy's possession.
One use of God's name taken in vain. A cousin once uses the word wankstas. Weapons and poison are threatened against the children.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- How was Nellie a good baby sitter?
How was she not a good baby sitter?
- The kids sometimes deceived their relatives.
How were their actions right or wrong?
- The book implies that their actions were OK because they were part of a contest to solve Grace's treasure hunt.
Is deception ever OK? Explain.
- What did you learn about Ben Franklin that you didn't know?
Was everything in this book about him true?
(Parents could help children dig deeper into the life of Ben Franklin and check the accuracy of the stories in this book. They could do this concerning Paris and its history as well).
- If you had the choice Dan and Amy did — to take a million dollars or to compete in Grace's treasure hunt — which would you choose? Why?
Note: "The 39 Clues" promises to be an extensive series. It is written by several different authors and comes with coded game cards that allow readers to go online to the39clues.com and help solve the mystery.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.