This book is such fun with all of the puzzles and ciphers. It’s also a great story about friendship, family, and love of literature.
Chapter book, fiction
Interest level: grades 4 and up
YHBA 2017-2018 intermediate nominee
5 out of 5 stars
Emily and her family has just moved to San Francisco. Emily’s parents have a goal of living in all 50 states, so while Emily is used to moving constantly and usually without any notice, she is not used to making friends. She figures why bother getting attached, since she won’t be staying anywhere.
So it is very different for her when she discovers that the boy who lives upstairs, James, shares her love of puzzles. Emily and James quickly become friends and Emily introduces James to her favorite pastime — playing the Book Scavenger game. Book Scavenger is an online game where participants hide books and then post clues and map locations for others players. The creator of the game, Garrison Griswold, lives in San Francisco, so Emily is thrilled to move to this new city.
The story begins with Garrison Griswold being attacked and a book he was going to use to begin a new scavenger game gets lost. As Griswold lies unconscious in the hospital, Emily and James discover the book, recognize it as one of Griswold’s puzzles, and are determined to solve it. So are the bad guys, which sets up tension as they are searching for the the children they know have the book.
There are similarities to the Mr. Lemoncello books by Chris Grabenstein, with puzzles and ciphers being scattered throughout the story. What makes Book Scavenger a story with depth are the growing friendships, family issues, and historical details that Jennifer Chambliss Bertman has incorporated.
Emily struggles to understand and navigate the dynamics of one of her first good friends ever. She and James have a falling out that makes her examine who she is and what her priorities are. She also confronts her brother who is no longer as close to her as he once was, and ultimately she lets her parents know how she feels about the constant moving. Emily really grows as a character, and many of her struggles can make the reader think about their own actions and feelings.
Bertman has included a lot of information about San Francisco, as well as historical writers, including Edgar Allen Poe. The information is presented in a way that is authentic to the story and educational at the same time.
The strong characters and plot, as well as the fascinating world of ciphers and puzzles, make this a well-written story that will be popular with many young readers.
The Book Scavenger game is also a real online game. You can participate by going to http://bookscavenger.com/