Tag: scholastic

Patrick Carman Grabs Young Readers with “Trackers”

Adam Henderson is a technical wizard. Growing up working and tinkering at his father’s computer repair shop located in the shadow of Microsoft meant Adam had access to the latest and greatest technology. By fifth grade, Adam was engaged in white-hat hacking, finding and reporting security holes to companies. By sixth grade, his attention focused on Trackers–spy devices cobbled together from video game controllers, cameras, joysticks, and even remote-controlled cars. Adam called upon three of his friends to test these Trackers, not knowing that the four would quickly get sucked into a world of crime obscured by layers of subterfuge and deceit. This is the world of Trackers, a multimedia book series by Patrick Carman that almost seamlessly weaves short cinematic sequences, puzzles, and video games into the reading experience. As with Carman’s previous books, these elements emerge organically from the narrative, playing an essential role in the story’s development.

The two books in the series, Trackers and Trackers: Shantorian, are framed as the transcript of an FBI interrogation conducted by special agent Gantz. As Adam recalls the events that led to his arrest, he periodically provides Gantz with codes to access multimedia files he prepared to support his story ranging from site rips of websites he encountered to video footage recorded using his team’s Tracker devices. Readers can enter these codes on the Trackers Interface or read the text transcripts Gantz entered as appendices to the FBI’s interview transcript, located at the back of the book. While this process may sound complicated, in practice reading Trackers is fairly straightforward: every time you see a code, either go online to watch the action unfold, or read the text transcript if you don’t have internet access.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss the series with Patrick Carman, who explained, “Kids will find a way to get to the material. Kids don’t have a problem with stopping and starting . . . that’s the way they’re wired.” This non-traditional reading experience appears to be resonating with young audiences. According to Carman, the online videos from Skeleton Creek, his previous multimedia book series, received over eight million views. Carman referenced receiving “…hundreds and hundreds of emails from educators, librarians . . . talking about how these kinds of formats are helping to bring readers that we had lost back to books.” Readers are becoming similarly entangled with the mini-games created for Trackers, competing to earn top scores. The scores have become so high, in fact, that the PC Studio team has been “trying to figure out over the past couple of months if there’s some way that [players are] hacking this thing so that they’re able to get these kind of scores, and we cannot figure out how that’s possible . . . the top three or four people are way beyond what we can do here at the studio.”

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Looking Back at Scholastic’s Transmedia Efforts for 39 Clues

39cluesbooksOn September 9th, 2008 Scholastic published The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. The book debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and marked the beginning of Scholastic’s 10-book experiment in transmedia publishing. On February 2nd, Scholastic is releasing the seventh installment in the series, The 39 Clues: The Viper’s Nest by Peter Lerangis. February 2nd will also mark the premiere of The Viper’s Nest audio book and the corresponding set of collectible puzzle cards in Card Pack 3: The Rise of the Madrigals.

39 Clues tells the story of two children, Amy and Dan Cahill, who are thrust into a global hunt for clues that will reveal the secret to the Cahill family’s power. The series is a cross between The Westing Game and The Amazing Race as the two children compete against members of four branches of the Cahill family to uncover the secret histories of famous Cahills including Benjamin Franklin, Anastasia Romanov, and Amelia Earhart. Although the series initially portrays their competition as cutthroat caricatures of their respective family houses, the series gradually reveals the complex motives of their fellow competitors.

While the story is primarily told through the books, each novel serves as a launching pad for further exploration, as a number of clues are hidden within each book’s pages. For instance, in The Maze of Bones, a series of apparently misnumbered pages spells out a secret message that aids the reader in solving a puzzle on one of the six collectible cards that came with the book. By going to the 39 Clues website, the reader can complete a puzzlesolving mission culminating in an online game that explains the message. Alternatively, by buying and solving puzzle cards expansion packs from the series, players can discover the 39 clues for themselves and reveal more of the Cahill family history. The story also branches through products ranging from a board game to Madrigal Maze, an iPhone application. Continue reading

Skeleton Creek

For those of you looking for a great cross-media spooky mystery comes Skeleton Creek, a half book, half movie experience by best selling author Patrick Carman. Published by Scholastic Press, the book serves as the doorway to the world of Sarah Fincher and Ryan McCray as they try to solve the mystery of Skeleton Creek. Their challenges come in the form of ghosts, mysterious park rangers, and other discoveries that set the path for their adventure — to which the reader, of course, has a front row seat. Ryan is hurt early on in the story, during one of his and Sarah’s first escapades, and so he resorts to writing down his thoughts in his journal (which is the book) and watching the videos that Sarah provides him via her password protected website (which is the movie element).

Due to the nature of this work, one could not just read the book or watch only the movies and get the entire story. Both media are intricately tied together and work to give the reader/viewer a sense of the story and the world of Skeleton Creek. However, even as the reader reaches the end of the book and has watched all of Sarah’s movies, the Skeleton Creek experience is not over.

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Scholastic set to Shock its readers

Harris_TJF.jpgHot on the heels of the launch of the novel series The 39 Clues and its significant online experience aimed at young readers, Scholastic is working together with author M.G. Harris to create an extended experience for the second book in her series “The Joshua Files”, named ICE SHOCK.

“The Joshua Files” is a book series aimed at young readers 10+ years of age, much like 39 Clues. Harris’ first book, Invisible City, was released Feb 4, 2008 in the UK as the first book of this series. Harris drops hints about the upcoming novel and ARG in her website’s blog for her fans – she even asks if they’d rather hear more about Ice Shock‘s upcoming plot, or rumours about the alternate reality game. Harris and Scholastic plan to launch the ARG in March of 2009, and until then, she’ll be keeping her fans occupied and interested with teasers and contests.

At the time of this writing, Harris is running a contest for a bound proof of Ice Shock – using a code key, readers are challenged to find a hidden word in the content of Invisible City. Submit the word and register, and you may win. The contest, however, is only open to residents of the UK and Ireland.

Information about the ARG at this point is fairly hush-hush, but we know it’s coming. Stay tuned to her website for details if/when they’re released.

Invisible City: An ancient civilization is awakening. An ancient Maya prophecy is unfolding. One boy – Joshua – holds the key. When his archaeologist father goes missing in Mexico, Josh suspects alien abduction. But when he realises his dad was murdered, Josh is caught in a race to find the legendary ‘Ix Codex’ – a lost Mayan prophecy which predicts the end of the world.

Ice Shock: Josh is even more certain now that his father’s death was no accident – and he’s starting to wonder if he can really trust his closest allies. When he learns of a secret buried within the Ix Codex, he must journey back to the secret Mexican city of Ek Naab. Shocking news awaits him about the mysterious Bracelet of Itzamna. Did Josh’s dad really take it? And where is it now? Josh has no idea what’s waiting for him…

The ARG (source: mgharris.net): Readers, I have been SO busy with stuff (…) most of all working on the Alternate Reality Game we’re developing to co-launch with ICE SHOCK. That’s right, I said Alternate Reality Game – ARG! Conceptually, our game is a cross between Lonelygirl15 and The Beast. But! It’s a secret. So don’t tell, okay?

The secret’s out!

For more information about Harris and The Joshua Files, bookmark MGHarris.net, TheJoshuaFiles.com, or the fan community hub TheMGHarris.com. Keep a watch on this site as we get closer to the launch of Ice Shock and its ARG in March of 2009.

39 Clues: Tidings of Good Cheer for a Former Scholastic Book Club Addict

scholastic.jpgA recent New York Times article announced a new and exciting venture by Scholastic, Inc, the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and related products to home and school.

Starting in September of 2008, Scholastic will publish “39 Clues”, a cross-media experience centered around ten books released over the course of 24 months. Scholastic is pulling some of the top childrens authors published under the brand, including Rick Riordan, Gordan Korman, Peter Lerangis, and Jude Watson.

According to the article in the Times, the plot of “39 Clues” will revolve around Amy and Dan Cahill, two adolescent members of the world’s most powerful clan, as they compete against other branches of their family to collect 39 clues that lead to ultimate power.

Tracy van Straaten, Scholastic’s VP of Publicity for the Children’s Book Publishing division, notes that Scholastic’s Lab for Informal Learning is collaborating on the project with “a company that has ARG experience, as well as game designers” in creating this project. This collaboration may include work with GMD Studios, the company that has worked on such games as Art of the Heist and Who is Benjamin Stove, and are currently presenting their project, Eldritch Errors. The experience will extend beyond the books through a website including character blogs, puzzles and mini-games, as well as maps and treasure hunts. Each book will come with six collectible cards that will provide further clues.

Although the project is still months away, both Kotaku and Ian Bogost at Watercooler Games have expressed skepticism regarding the project due to Scholastic’s decision to retain all rights to the intellectual property. Scholastic responded to the criticism, noting that the decision to retain all rights stems from the project’s development through the Scholastic Lab for Informal Learning.

39 Clues has the potential to introduce a younger generation to the world of alternate reality gaming, and Scholastic has the resources to pull it off, especially if the company leverages the resources available through the Scholastic Book Club, their distribution channel in schools worldwide. The bar for transmedia novels has been set rather high by New York Times bestseller Cathy’s Book.