Those of you who have been wallowing in children’s lit purgatory since the publication of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, the last Harry Potter book, can now rest easy. On Tuesday morning, Scholastic is expected to officially announce the publishing of their newest series, which they hope will become the next Harry Potter. “The 39 Clues” will be a multi-author series spanning 10 books. There will also be web, video game, trading cards, and other merchandising tie-ins. The series is aimed at the same middle grade age group that embraced Harry Potter a decade ago. The mysteries will tell the story of the Cahill’s, a centuries-old family who are also the world’s most powerful family. Famous historical figures, including Ben Franklin and Mozart, will be labeled as members of the Cahill family tree, with the plots centering on two young protagonists, Amy (14) and Dan (11). Amy and Dan will race against other branches of their family tree to be the first to find 39 clues that will lead to ultimate power. The first book will be penned Rick Riordan, author of the best-selling Percy Jackson series (which I love). Riordan has also outlined the story arc for the remaining 9 novels, which will be penned by authors such as Gordon Korman, Jude Watson, and Peter Lerangis.
This is quite a coup for Scholastic, as they will retain all rights to this series, unlike Harry Potter- JK Rowling retained the rights to Harry Potter, allowing her to search out and control her own movie and licensing deals. Scholastic is crossing their fingers that this series will be the next Harry Potter while also lining their pockets even more than Harry Potter did.
I am not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I do love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, and Gordon Korman is also popular with my students (I am not familiar with the other two authors mentioned). On the other hand, and I am leaning more towards this one, I have never been a fan of multi-author series. I find that it is hard to keep story elements consistent when you have a different author penning each volume of the series. Or the books become too simplified, like The Babysitters Club. A series like this feels too manufactured for my tastes. I will say that I am a bit intrigued by the plot summary. It sounds like a middle grade version of “The Da Vinci Code”/National Treasure. But I can easily see it moving into the boring, preachy, historical fiction that my students can’t stand. I will probably read the first volume and make a decision from there. But I will be interested in seeing the final product when it is released in September.
Do I think this will be the next Harry Potter? No, I don’t. I don’t think you can predict that kind of success. Kids know what they love, and it can be almost impossible to predict what that is from day to day. Also, Harry Potter built up an incredible YA and adult fan base, who grew up with the books. With these books being published multiple times a year, Scholastic will lose that very important aspect of the fan base- fans won’t have time to grow with the series. Yet, there is something to be said for instant gratification, and most kids these days are used to that instant result when they ask for something. Plus, the online and gaming tie-ins will add a new twist to the marketing scheme, one that Harry Potter had to do without when the first few books were published.
What do you think? Is Scholastic trying too hard here? Will “The 39 Clues” be a success? More importantly, will you read the series?