One False Note (2008), by Gordon Korman

This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 14.4.

One False Note

Rick Riordan opened The 39 Clues series with the gripping Maze of Bones, and Gordon Korman’s second installment maintains the reader’s interest in both the characters and the mystery.  While Riordan and Korman are both known as superlative authors for boys, The 39 Clues series is markedly ungendered: Amy and Dan Cahill are presented alternately as primary protagonist, and young readers will relate to both characters, regardless of gender.  That being said, one of the more interesting elements of One False Note is its focus on the importance of Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, and less so her brother.  While both the extent of the Cahill family influence and the children’s ability to travel the world accompanied only by their teenaged au pair, Nellie, seem rather far-fetched to the adult mind, sufficient justification is provided to permit the suspension of our disbelief.  The history that the search for mysterious clues uncovers is both fascinating and obscure.  Readers will undoubtedly come away with a better understanding of the connections between historical figures and events than any elementary history text is likely to provide.  But One False Note, as part of the series, is more than just a story: it is “a multiplatform adventure series” ( The books come with cards for access to an online game in which the reader becomes a member of the Cahill family and attempts—like Dan and Amy—to discover the 39 clues.  The online component of the story is fun and engaging; readers continue their learning experience through the mild role-playing online, as well as learning (if not already mastered) computer navigation and keyboarding skills.  Despite my initial hesitancy over another “gimmicky” virtual–physical merchandising combination, the positive elements of One False Note, like The Maze of Bones before it, outweigh any reservations.

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