Sep 03, 2008, 07:32AM

Think "Harry Potter"; multiply by 100; sell film rights; rinse and repeat.

If the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series taught us anything it would have had something to do with selling your product in as many forms as possible—except we already knew that (McDonald's Happy Meals, anyone?). Anyway, the big boys and girls at the top of publishing house that carpet-bombed us with "Harry Potter" will roll out its 10-part series "The 39 Clues" replete with websites and possibly a card game version. Steven Spielberg has already snatched up the film rights. On one hand, we're shoveled this mass-marketed, focus-group crap and we're going to watch it—on the other, some of this stuff actually gets kids into books and into using the more creative and imaginitive grey matter in their heads, so that's good, too. We're undecided.*

*And totally into Harry Potter fan fiction.

Designed for boys and girls ages 8 to 12, each book will have a different writer, including such best-sellers as Gordon Korman and Jude Watson. Backed by a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, The 39 Clues also features game cards, a contest with a $10,000 first prize, and a sophisticated Web site that includes games, blogs, videos and thousands of pages of background.

"The word we always used was groundbreaking, " says Scholastic executive editorial director David Levithan. "We wanted to be the first out there to introduce this kind of multidimensional thing."

Scholastic quickly decided that The 39 Clues, its title an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, would make an ideal multiplatform event. Readers might check out the Web site, just as kids who love online games might then turn to the books. A recent study by the American Library Association revealed that many librarians already use games to attract young people and, ideally, get them interested in books.

"I love the gaming aspect of The 39 Clues," says Jenny Levine, a digital specialist for the library association. "I could also see a lot of libraries forming 39 Clues clubs the way they've had Pokemon clubs."


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