Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is a terrific book and code lover’s mystery. It’s exactly the type of book my Nancy Drew-reading younger self would have loved. Larrabee enjoyed it too.
Twelve-year-old Emily’s family moves all the time. Their latest move has brought them to San Francisco, home of Garrison Griswold, the creator of Book Scavenger. Book Scavenger is a game in which players hide books and then post clues in the form of puzzles, and Emily is a big fan. (Larrabee’s first comment: “Is this game real? It should be!”)
Emily stumbles across a mysterious book, a copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Gold-Bug. At first, she thinks it’s a Book Scavenger find, but it’s not listed online. When she finds typos in the story, she becomes convinced that the book contains a code that’s part of Mr. Griswold’s new game. With the help of her friend James and her older brother Matthew, she must solve the puzzles and find the hidden treasure while staying one step ahead of the bad guys.
Some of the things I liked best about this book:
- The San Francisco setting: I recommend this book for anyone planning a trip to the City by the Bay.
- The friendship between Emily and James: I love friendship stories!
- The relationship between Emily and Matthew: For anyone who’s watched a younger sibling trying to figure out what’s happening to a teenage sibling, their interactions will ring true.
- The codes: From substitution ciphers to Pigpen ciphers, this book is full of cool codes.
For readers (like us!) who can’t get enough, there is already a sequel, The Unbreakable Code. And the third book in the series, The Alcatraz Escape, is coming out next month!
Imaginary Friends is a toddler. Thank you to everyone who’s followed the blog this year. Keep reading — and keep encouraging the kids in your life to read!
Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Watson Hackl is the story of twelve-year-old Ariana “Cricket” Overland’s quest to find the mysterious Bird Room and convince her mama to come home for good. Set in a Mississippi ghost town, this book is part survival story, part mystery, and part coming-of-age story.
Some of the things I liked best about this book are:
- The beginning.
“Turns out, it’s easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketfuls of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry grocery store. The hard part was getting up the guts to go.”
- Cricket. Her story is in many ways a sad one. Her father has died, her mentally ill mother has left, and her aunt wants to ship her off to live with a great-aunt. But Cricket stays determined and hopeful.
When she was younger, her mother told her, “We’re meanderers, Cricket. We pay attention.” Those qualities make her a good artist, a good detective, and a good narrator.
- The Bird Room. I like the idea of a secret room whose four walls are painted with a garden in spring, summer, winter, and fall. And I was excited to learn from the author’s note that it was inspired by the work of a real artist, Walter Inglis Anderson.
Thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is July 10.
The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr is a wonderful book. It reads like a modern fairy tale. Ironic, really, because it’s the story of a dragon who hates Once upon a time stories.
Benevolentia Gaudium, the dragon known as Grisha, is born in the Black Forest in 1803, the last year that any dragon is born. As a young dragon, he is captured by a sorcerer and imprisoned in a teapot. By the time he’s released from the spell, World War II is over and the world of magic has largely disappeared. All of the dragons are summoned to Vienna, but many disappear, and no one but Grisha seems to remember them. Then, he befriends an unusual girl, Anna Marguerite, or Maggie for short. Together, they set off on a quest to find and save the missing dragons.
Some of the things I like about this book:
- Maggie and Grisha’s relationship. I love stories about friendship and this is a special one. Listen to the way Maggie describes her friend Grisha: “The dragon had a way of seeing clearly, taking her side, and yet empathizing with everyone involved… When she was with him, she felt like her best self, and when she wasn’t with him she looked forward to seeing him.”
- The magic. As Grisha explains, magic demands its exact price. It’s simple to practice, but you have to give up what you most love,
- The dragons. This book is full of interesting tidbits about dragons. Did you know that they can scale up and down in size? And that they need very little sleep?
- The juxtaposition of magical beings and real history. For example, Grisha, when in teapot form, spends time in the pocket of the Emperor Franz Joseph.
- The ending. It’s bittersweet but fitting.
Thank you to Chronicle Books and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is June 26.