Get kids excited about reading with The 39 Clues series and use these resources to help you teach the books in the classroom.
About The 39 Clues
The 39 Clues is an exciting adventure series that will visit every continent and lead your students through 500 years of history, all while introducing them to fascinating historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Amadeus Mozart, Amelia Earhart, and more!
Designed to connect with even the most reluctant readers, it meets children where they like to learn in a multi-platform approach. It will get your students engaged in history and leave them ready to devour the next book in the series. By combining a ten book series with an online game where students can solve puzzles, each child is able to become a member of the Cahill family and join in the pursuit of the clues to find the ultimate source of the Cahill fortune and power.
Guide to The 39 Clue #3: The Sword Thief By Peter Lerangis
Theme of this section: Characterization
Use this guide to help your students see the color characters bring to a story.
What the Book Is About
Amy and Dan Cahill have been located once again, this time in the company of the notoriously unreliable Alistair Oh. Could they have been foolish enough to make an alliance? Spies report that Amy and Dan seem to be tracking the life of one of the most powerful fighters the world has ever known. If this fearsome warrior was a Cahill, his secrets are sure to be well guarded . . . and the price to uncover them just might be lethal.
About the Author
Peter Lerangis is the author of over 150 books, for early readers through teens, which have sold nearly 3 million copies. He injects his own brand of suspense, humor, and colorful characters into many different writing genres: mystery (the Spy X series), science fiction (the Watchers series), teen romance (the Drama Club series), and serious historical fiction (Smiler's Bones).
Characterization — Powerful Literary Tool or Cahill Secret?
While plot is the road map of a story, characterization is the car that drives the story to its destination. Reading for character can be more difficult than reading for plot. However, helping your students learn this literary skill can transform their reading journey from a drab interstate road trip to a vibrant scenic Sunday drive!
What is this powerful literary tool? Is it a Cahill secret? NO! It is simply a device the author uses to help the reader empathize with the protagonist (main character) and secondary characters in a story. By feeling and sensing what is happening to the people in the story, the reader is able to live vicariously through the character. It is like the reader is actually Dan or Amy on the hunt for The 39 Clues!
Authors use a variety of techniques to introduce the reader to their characters. While artists can draw the details for all to see, authors must paint with words for the reader to uncover. In fact, many are like clues — some are easy to spot like dialogue; while others require a deeper level of detective work like examining a character's motivation through actions, dialog and background.
Clues that can make characters come to life:
Authors use adjectives, similes, and metaphors to make the character realistic so the reader can clearly see them in their mind and be able to respond to them. This is the easiest type of character clue because authors tend to tell the reader the information.
Dialogue and Thoughts
This type of character clue is easy to find but must be translated by the reader into information about the character. Dialogue breathes life into the character's personality. It is an opportunity to "hear" the character in the reader's mind. In The Sword Thief, the reader is able to "see" into Irina's mind when she thinks," They will betray you, Alistair, unless you betray them first." The author goes on to state, "Thoughts of human weakness always picked up her spirits..." Should anyone ever trust Irina? Why does she love human weakness? What do her thoughts reveal about Irina?
Actions and Gestures
Do actions speak louder than words? In characterization, actions bring another dimension to a character. When the characters are Cahill's, the actions might just mean more than the words they speak! Amy learns that Ian Kabra's actions can be deceiving in this book. What does this plot twist tell the reader about Amy? Why is she trusting? What does it tell us about Ian Kabra that he manipulated Amy into liking him?
Revelations about the Past
While Dan and Amy are trying to find the 39 Clues with very little luggage, their emotional baggage they carry is enormous! A character's psychological outlook provides the reader with clues about their actions based upon their history. In The Sword Thief, the reader learns more about Alistair Oh's past. How do his Uncle Bae's actions in the past to get to the 39 Clues shape Alistair's actions in the present?
Dialect or Way of Speaking
Dialect or the way a character speaks can offer information from not only what part of the world they are from, but also their educational, economic, and social influences. It is from dialect that the reader can "see" Irina Spatsky as an ex-KGB agent. While the way the Eisenhower's speak to one another reinforces their extra large view of life! What does Amy's stuttering tell us about her character? Do you believe that Jonah Wizard is really a gansta?
It's in the Adjectives
In their investigation journal, have students sleuth for clues (and adjectives) about each of the characters. Based upon the descriptions they have uncovered, students will draw a detailed picture of their favorite character.
Students can pair up and create a new character for the series. Using only dialogue, students must paint a picture of this new Cahill without the use of props or costumes.
Based upon the physical descriptions of the characters in The 39 Clues Series, have students dress up as their favorite character and act out their favorite scene.
Revelation Round Up
Have students brainstorm revelations and clues about each character's past. As a group, put the revelations in a T-graph labeling one side revelation and the other side prediction. Discuss with students how certain events in a person's past history influence their actions. What predictions can they make about future books based upon this information?
Create name cards of each of the characters in The Sword Thief. Place one card on the back of each student. The remaining students will be the clue-givers. They may only tell each "character" one clue about their person. Instruct the students that they are to give clues based upon what they know about the character from the book. See how many clues it takes for the student with cards to figure out their character. This activity can be changed each round so that one time clue-givers may only reveal physical descriptions, the next it might be character behavior. Continue rounds until all students have had a turn to be clue-givers and "characters."