Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Book Review: Book Scavenger
By Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Henry Holt and Company, 2015
Reviewed from NetGalley
Audience: Grades 4 to 8
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Emily's family moves often, but her one constant is Book Scavenger, an online book hunting game that combines literature and treasure hunting. Now that she is moving to San Francisco, she's excited to learn about the new game from Garrison Griswold, the founder of Book Scavenger. While on his way to the game unveiling, he is mugged, and ends up in the hospital. Emily, with her neighbor James, end up at the BART station where the crime occurred and find a book-a book that is part puzzle, part treasure, and part target. Emily tries to play the new game and learn the ropes at a new school while also trying to dodge men that seem to be after the book. A fantastic bookish adventure along the lines of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library and The Westing Game.
If you know me, you know that I do not use the phrase "like The Westing Game" lightly, but I do feel that this is a fair comparison. It has a similar feels to TWG due to the game aspect, which was by design. Garrison Griswold does resemble a charitable Samuel Westing, although Emily is not as feisty as Turtle. I would still say that Greenglass House has a little more magic, but Book Scavenger is a little more accessible, and more fast paced.
Ignoring the game for a moment, there is also a good friendship story at play here too. Emily has never made friends before since she knows that she will be moving on. This time, she does bond with James over his love of puzzles and she learns that it's nice to have a friend, but she doesn't know how to be a good friend when James needs her help on the cipher challenge. This message isn't heavy-handed, even though as a secondary plot point it could have easily become so, and readers will likely understand the importance of this message.
Like so many adventure novels today, it strikes me as funny that authors have to always explain why the characters cannot use their cell phones to get out of trouble. You can imagine that this book hunt does get Emily into trouble, and together with James and her brother, Matthew, they are on the run. Of course Matthew's cell phone battery dies and they are left at the mercy of their enemies. The message kids, never leave home without a fully charged cell phone! This is an epidemic in children's literature, right up there with dead/missing parents! Or, if you choose to write a book, you could set it in the 80's before cell phones were a thing, then you don't have to constantly explain why the characters can't just call the police.
Tangent aside, I would recommend Book Scavenger to readers that love a good puzzle or just love books in general.