Wednesday, February 3, 2010

So what do we think? The 39 Clues Book 7: The Viper's Nest

The 39 Clues Book 7: The Viper’s Nest
Lerangis, Peter. (2010) The 39 Clues Book 7: The Viper’s Nest. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc. ISBN 978-0-545-06047-9. See  for full review.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! No wait, that was the Wizard of Oz! But our African adventure in The 39 Clues Book 7: The Viper’s Nest does have the occasional viper, hyena, and creepy crawly cross its pages sufficiently to remind us we aren’t in Kansas any more!

Although varied across the different countries, the African tribal cultures have some similarities. As collectivist societies, they believe each person is part of a circle of relations. Past, present and future in time are as one. Native spiritual beliefs mix with the modern (usually Christian or Muslim), resulting in a deep belief in and attachment to the existence of a soul and its import to the community as a whole. In Book 7, Lerangis has integrated just enough of the language and “ways” of the native Africans to create a sense of authenticity for its characters and plot setting, while still keeping the story sufficiently “light” so that its energy and pace can build as Amy and Dan succeed from one narrow escape to another.

Similar to book 3, Lerangis has filled these pages with subtle humour. Puns like Uncle Alastair being “the whac-a-mole of reliability. One minute he’d pop up in your life as protector and best friend. The next minute, he’d betray you and you’d want to bonk him down again.” add fun to the realistic dialogue of the characters. 

Newly added shadowy figures continue to intrigue us, wondering when they will pop up again. The reader has tidbits of knowledge that Amy and Dan do not possess because we hear the self-talk of other clan members. This, in a Hitchcock-like style, creates tension for readers as we think we know who they should (and should not) trust.

Looking at the dialogue between Amy and Dan pages 84-85, culminating in  “Mom and Dad would be proud of you. They valued life.” (p. 85), sometimes the advice the siblings give one another in this series seems so simple, and yet profound, it can almost serve as a guide for parents or teachers to use proactively teaching conflict resolution and collaboration skills. Details such as these are important to illuminate for those schools who have integrated character education or leadership themes into their curriculum.

When considering how good character and virtues are demonstrated in a story, it is important to consider what its main characters choose not to do, as well as their actions and words. Other questions to ask...does the story illuminate why the character makes a certain choice? Do the characters learn from their mistakes? In The 39 Clues Book 7: The Viper’s Nest, this occurs throughout the story. Watching Amy and Dan mature in their own wisdom helps the reader to better differentiate wisdom and virtue. This is an excellent book and highly recommended!

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