Thursday, December 20, 2007

A New Kind of Multi-Platform Literacy for Kids?

My son, author Rick Riordan, has been involved with Scholastic for the last year or so on a hush-hush project that was officially announced Tuesday, December 18, and immediately picked up by news services and bloggers. Here’s some of the information from the Scholastic press release:

Scholastic, the global children's publishing, education and media company, breaks new ground with the launch of The 39 Clues, a multi-platform adventure series for ages 8-12. The first book in the series, The Maze of Bones is written by #1 New York Times best-selling author Rick Riordan, who also outlined the program's 10-book story arc. The Maze of Bones will be released in September 2008, and the official The 39 Clues game will begin worldwide on September 9, 2008.
With the Harry Potter series now completed, Scholastic, the United States publisher of those wildly successful books by J. K. Rowling, is moving forward with what it hopes will be its follow-up blockbuster series. It will feature 10 books — the first of which is to go on sale next September — as well as related Web-based games, collectors’ cards and cash prizes. The project demonstrates Scholastic’s acknowledgment that as much as the publisher heralded the renewed interest in reading represented by the Harry Potter books, many children are now as transfixed by Internet and video games as they are by reading.
“We want to go where the kids are and really be part of their complete world, rather than going to one aspect of their world,” said David Levithan, an executive editorial director at Scholastic. He added, “We talk of it as being subversively educational.”
"The series is an immersive experience, with high-powered, adventurous storylines and characters," said Deborah Forte, president of Scholastic Media. The books will come out once every two or three months. The first title in the series, "The Maze of Bones", has been penned by Rick Riordan, the New York Times best-selling author of the mythologically themed Percy Jackson series aimed at preteens. He has also given the story outline for the next nine installments, which will be written by a team of authors. Scholastic will launch the program simultaneously in all the major English speaking countries — the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Comments from bloggers vary greatly.

Enthusiastic, from the My Cup of Tea blog:
Smart, Scholastic. Very smart. Kids love card games, and its been a while since we’ve had a good one. YuGiOh, Pokemon, my brother and I used to spend hundreds of dollars on the old Star Wars CCG produced by Decipher. This could work. You’ve even made it flashier by having on online component!

A bit hesitant, from The Reading Zone Blog:
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.

And some comments were downright negative, saying that great literature was never produced this way – and that standards are being set way too low. What do you think? Are young gamers ready for books and vice versa? I’m excited about the project and can’t wait to see it in September!

See today's local/regional interview with Rick here.

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