Those gnawed by emptiness following the completion early this year of the Harry Potter series of books by JK Rowling can take heart. Scholastic, the books' US publisher, has unveiled plans on Tuesday to launch what it hopes will be a follow-up blockbuster series.
Called The 39 Clues, this series of mystery novels will feature 10 books - the first of which will be released next September - as well as related web-based games, collectors' cards and cash prizes.
The series will be targeted at readers in the 8-12 age group and tell the story of a centuries-old family, the Cahills, who are supposed to be the world's most powerful clan. According to the books, famous historical figures ranging from the inventor Benjamin Franklin to the musical genius Mozart were members of the family.
The source of the series' power is a mystery that can only be unraveled by assembling 39 clues hidden around the world throughout history. The plots will revolve around the race by two young Cahills, Amy, 14, and Dan, 11, against other branches of the family to be the first to find the 39 clues that will lead to ultimate power.
"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 programme simultaneously in all the major English speaking countries -- the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
"We have not firmed up plans yet for India, where we have presence in the form of Scholastic India," a spokesperson for the New York headquartered company told IANS.
Releasing the books along with an online game and collectors cards is easy to explain. Though Scholastic, the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books and a leader in educational technology, is committed to promoting the reading habit among children, fuelled by Potter books, it is also aware that many children today are transfixed by the Internet and video games.
"We want to go where the kids are and really be part of their complete world," said David Levithan, an executive editorial director at Scholastic.
The online game will allow readers to search for the 39 clues themselves, while solving puzzles and playing mini-games that will be refreshed daily.
Each copy of the book will come with six collectors' cards that can be used to find further clues in the online game.
Scholastic will be giving away more than $100,000 in prizes throughout the duration of the series. Once a participant finds all 39 clues and uncovers the Cahill treasure, he is entered into a pool of eligible candidates that will compete for the chance to win a grand prize of $10,000.