The 39 Clues: The Emperor’s Code
Korman, Gordon. (2010) The 39 Clues: The Emperor’s Code. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc. ISBN: 978-0-545-06048-6. Recommended age level: 9-12. See criteria review and parent/teacher activities at www.litland.com
As the race to find the 39 Clues builds to its explosive finish, Amy and Dan must explore an ancient culture and steal a Clue guarded by thousands of the world's best-trained soldiers. It's the most dangerous Clue search yet. As their enemies crowd in, Amy and Dan find themselves separated for the first time ever. The choice lies before them – find the next Clue, or find their way back to each other.
One thing about this series...no matter who the author, you can count on a little humor to lighten up the adventure! Book 8 starts off with comments like Dan’s lament “There’s an international conspiracy to bore me.” And while other books have bad guys chasing good guys, does the good guy almost get made into a lollipop?
Amy and Dan are understandably having to adjust to finding out that they belong to the Madrigal family, renowned evil-doers. Then finding that their parent’s aliases in Africa had criminal reputations was crushing. But deep inside remained hope, the hope that they, their parents, and their beloved grandmother were really the good guys. Any other series might have the characters longing to be evil with its false sense of power and control. This is an example of how good overshadows evil continuously throughout the story.
Ingenuity continues to prevail as Dan can quickly size up his desperate circumstances and innovate a way out of them. Not to be forgotten, Amy demonstrates her amazing intelligence when finding and interpreting clues. We are reminded again that, while perceived as underdogs by their cousins, these kids are superior because they have the truly important strengths: family love and support, hope, and good hearts that force them to figure out the best way out of any situation.
Ultimately Book 8 is all about loyalty. The news of Amy and Dan’s heritage threatens to break apart what’s left of their family. Their strong bonds with one another are contrasted by giving us peeks into how the Janus branch (Jonah Wizard family) treats one another.
Similar to when Amy was fooled by Ian Kabra into liking him, Dan is duped by Jonah Wizard into thinking they are working together. Ultimately Wizard does choose family relations with Dan over the 39 clues search, demonstrating again how this younger generation differs from the older members at the head of each clan.
This leads, then, to our final thought: the underlying theme of being true to oneself. Over and over again we hear self-talk where characters lament of how the search for the 39 clues---to be the most powerful person in the world---makes a person “less than human”. After doubting their own ability to be good and humane, Amy realizes they do not have to be evil just because they are Madrigals. “...we can change our destiny...”. Thus Hope, the fuel of humanity, drives them towards success again. An excellent portrayal of good character presented in an exciting adventure...highly recommend for readers of all ages!