Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Scavenger (Book Review)

Title: Book Scavenger
Author: Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Publication: Henry Holt & Co., hardcover, 2015
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Plot: Emily’s father idolizes Jack Kerouac and On the Road and both parents are determined to live in each of the 50 states although Emily longs to stay in the same school long enough to make close friends. One consolation has been the fun she has with Book Scavenger, a game in which participants hide books and place clues online to lead others to the hiding places throughout the country. When Emily’s family arrives in San Francisco, her landlady’s grandson James becomes a companion in this game and they find themselves in the middle of a puzzle much more dangerous than anticipated.

Audience: Fourth or fifth graders. 

What I liked: This is a fun read full of delightful book descriptions and quirky characters, and the author is clearly a kindred spirit (as demonstrated by mention of some of her favorite books). Readers will relate to Emily’s longing for a friend and sympathize with her as she realizes that being a friend requires sensitivity to the other person’s needs and interests. The mystery is entertaining, and Edgar Allan Poe is the perfect choice to be the centerpiece of an elaborate game by the Book Scavenger creator.  As someone who was always fascinated by scavenger hunts, I yearned to participate with Emily and James.

Bertman was clearly inspired by a classic, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - although for some reason that I can’t remember I preferred her other book, The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I mean Noel) - but both are great reads, and I applaud Bertman for adding to this genre. She doesn’t reach Raskin’s heights but Book Scavenger is well worth reading and I hope to see more about Emily, James, and her brother Matthew.
What I disliked: I got tired of James' named cowlick but that is a minor complaint.

Source: The copy I read is from the library but I bought one for my nephew’s birthday and coincidentally his mother bought him another (great minds think alike - we also bought the same book for her daughter's birthday)!  My nephew James enjoyed it and is looking forward to a sequel.  I am eager to hear what others thought about this book.

Note that this book was edited by Christy Ottaviano.  She is a fellow Radcliffe Publishing Course alumna and I remember being pleased when she got her own imprint at Holt.  She is very talented and I should read all the books she edits, were there world enough and time. . .