Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman; illustrations by Sarah Watts; Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt; $16.99. Ages 8 to 12. 343 pages.
This marvelous mystery, full of references to Jack Kerouac and Edgar Allen Poe and set in San Francisco, is a celebration of books and reading and will appeal to anyone who enjoyed the puzzles in Chris Grabenstein’s “Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.” Eccentric Garrison Griswold, inventor of the online book game “Book Scavenger,” is headed to the main library in San Francisco to make a big announcement about an elaborate new game when he is mugged in the BART station. Twelve-year-old Emily – who is used to moving all the time as her free-spirited parents work toward the goal of living in all 50 states – and her new friend James, who loves secret codes, find what seems to be a new edition of Poe’s “The Gold Bug” jammed between a wall and a trash can at the BART station where Griswold was attacked. The book is full of typos. But could they be a code? And will Emily learn to value friendship above her eagerness to play the game?
This debut novel offers a well-crafted mystery and an entertaining introduction to cryptography along with an interesting look at family dynamics and middle school friendships.
– Jean Westmoore