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Book Scavenger #1

Book Scavenger

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A hidden book. A found cipher. A game begins . . . .

Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold's attackers make them their next target.  

354 pages, Hardcover

First published June 2, 2015

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About the author

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

11 books637 followers
Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the New York Times bestselling author of the Book Scavenger series and SISTERHOOD OF SLEUTHS, forthcoming in Fall 2022. Book Scavenger was an Indie Next Top Ten pick, an Amazon Book of the Year, a Bank Street College Book of the Year, an NCTE Notable Book, and has been nominated for over twenty state award and honor lists, among other accolades. The series is being translated into more than a dozen languages. Jennifer’s debut picture book, A GOOD DEED CAN GROW, illustrated by Holly Hatam, will be published in 2023. She holds an MFA in creative writing and has worked in a variety of roles with children and in publishing. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Jennifer now lives in Colorado with her family. More information can be found about her and her books at jenniferchamblissbertman.com and bookscavenger.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,137 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
June 11, 2015

This is a middle grade novel about a book-lover called EMILY and "a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles."

Why am I not 12 years old anymore!?

Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
April 13, 2019
i don't really read enough middle grade to know how this book stacks up against others written for that age range; i'm a middle grade tourist who only pops in when i come across a book that's either so magnificently written that it carves out a little bed in my heart (Rooftoppers) or when it's about baby booknerds or baby chefs or cats having adventures or something else that would have caught my eye when i was in that 8-12 age range, so long ago.

this falls into that second category. it's not at all poorly-written, but it's just a fun adventure book that doesn't try to be anything more than that. which is totally enough for me to have loved it, and to wish it had been around when i was wee; it's just not sleeping in my heart or anything. (shhh, don't wake Rooftoppers)

twelve-year-old emily has two interests: books and puzzles. fortunately for her, garrison griswold, the willy wonka of book publishing exists, and has created a game called "Book Scavenger," which is a sort of geocaching treasure hunt where players from across the country compete to crack codes online which lead to hidden books in the real world, earning them points to rise up the ladder of rankings named after famous sleuths to achieve the top status of "Sherlock Holmes."

emily has just moved to san francisco, home to garrison griswold and book scavenger's headquarters. she's very used to moving, at the mercy of her parents' dream to live in every u.s. state, nomading across the country allowed to pack only one suitcase each, and one additional box of books. emily loves her parents and her older brother, but it's a lonely life to always be the new girl. fortunately, she has her books to escape into, and the challenges of book scavenging, where her user name is "surly wombat." the following is not a spoiler at all, but a lengthy digression about wombats (with pictures) that gets in the way of the review (much like this long explanatory sentence) so i spoiler-tagged it to maintain narrative flow (which i already ruined with this long explanatory sentence)

upon her arrival in san francisco, she finds her first real friend living in the same building. james lee* is a chinese-american boy with a cowlick named steve who is just as obsessed with puzzles as emily. and when she introduces him to the book scavenger, it's clear they were meant to be besties 4-eva.

meanwhile, garrison griswold is about to announce his brand new book scavenger mega-game when he is attacked and shot in the train station. during the struggle, a book of great significance ends up behind a trash can. the next day, on an unrelated book scavenger quest, with garrison griswold clinging to life in the hospital and the very fate of book scavenger hanging in the balance, emily and james (and steve!) discover this book, which turns out to be the first clue in the mega-game! and so begins an adventure of clue-solving and friendship and running from the men who shot griswold and figuring out who is responsible for masterminding the attack. it's a romp of a book, just fun fun bookfun with charming characters that teaches readers about edgar allan poe but also about san francisco-centric writers like dashiell hammett and the beats.

this book is a love letter to san francisco, a place i have never been but where i will be going in the fall. and i already knew i wanted to go to city lights while i am out there, but after reading this book, i also want to go to hollister's bookstore, although i think, like book scavenger itself, it only exists in this book.

but this book also made me want to see lombard street because - fun!

it's an adventure book, but it also has solid values, where emily learns how to be a real friend for the first time, and there is an emphasis upon family bonds and sacrifice, and yeah - it gets a little treacly in places, but i think that's perfectly appropriate in books for this age, so it's not groany or anything. and it really made me want to reread those liza, bill and jed mysteries by peggy parish, which are the best MG scavenger hunt books ever.

books, codes, san francisco. you could do worse things with your time.

*which is also the name of the character in Everything I Never Told You, so i was having fun pretending this was a prequel.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,802 reviews1,234 followers
June 26, 2018
Had I read this book when I was 9-12 I think I would have given it 5 stars. The children’s mysteries available to me then were nowhere near as good, and none that I can remember took place in San Francisco.

This story is great for both boys and girls, and will likely also be appealing to many reluctant readers. Even though this is a children’s book I think many older people (13 and all the way up) can also enjoy it. I particularly loved the San Francisco setting and that this is a book about books. I thoroughly enjoyed the real San Francisco portions. The fictional San Francisco parts felt a bit jarring to me (though likely not true for readers who didn’t/don’t live in the city) but they were still gratifying and a hoot.

This was a fun, light, enjoyable book. At times I found it scary, with a tad more feeling of menace that I prefer, but given that this book is for middle grade children I knew it wouldn’t get too dark, and it didn’t. There were a couple times I had to suspend disbelief, but not so much that it took me out of the story. Some smartly done red herrings too!

Interestingly, the instructions that start the story, although short, were a bit of a drudge for me (I have a story about the exercise my wonderful fifth grade teacher gave us about the importance of carefully reading instructions and they reminded me of that.) But they made the book’s story feel all that more authentic, and I think many readers will enjoy them.

I was left feeling love for the main characters and happiness for them. I felt invested in their lives: the three kids, the parents and some of the other adults, and properly scornful of the villains.

This is a lovely friendship story and a great romp. Lots of fun, with heart. Perfect for children who are fans of mysteries, puzzles, codes, and definitely children who’ve lived in or visited San Francisco or who have some interest in the city.

The author’s notes at the end are wonderful, and I learned a lot about Poe and some other subjects related to this story.
January 18, 2019
I leaped when a friend bought “Book Scavenger” for me this Christmas! Demographics are irrelevant if authors stick to mysteriousness and discovery! We do not need puzzles in the technical sense, as long as characters are answering intrigue. As a girl who is not good at math or sports, I revel in the motivating, equalizing “Mr. Lemoncello” series; rewarding all kinds of efforts. A person great at cryptograms does not lord it over others. Repetition can grow discouraging and boring. Ask the creative girl, living in a world of math and sports. All readers need the thrill of being able to exclaim: “I would rock that clue”!

I feel about “Book Scavenger” the way I do about “A Wrinkle In Time”. It is a positive film but does not have the wow factor it could have had. I don’t think it is right to penalize a genre. I must have read that Emily is twelve but envisioned a YA story. I docked one star, for what the wonderfully-creative Jennifer Chambliss Bertram could have controlled: sticking to mysteriousness. This makes books accessible to any reader. Skip parental lectures, nasty peers, bossy teachers, and don’t tack-on crimes. There aren’t enough pure adventure quests! I see the sequels are in the crime style; alas.

Yes, it is nice that Emily learns about friendship, has an unusual life, and improves ties with her older brother. Keep that in the background: put the riveting action front & centre. I was excited when Emily and James got creative, solving clues with knowledge about San Francisco. If this series were less about cryptograms, the internet, juvenile issues, and more about creative thinking and footwork; I would continue. A non-crime mystery, about solving clues, is needed! I praise Jennifer’s originality and would relish in book-exchanging scavenger-hunts, in Canada!
Profile Image for Vanessa J..
347 reviews605 followers
August 5, 2015
This book is my dream book from my early years: It’s about a girl – Emily – who loves books. There is a game – Book Scavenger – around the US that consists in hiding books and finding them through clues. There are ciphers and cryptograms, and it’s about books! See why it’s everything a book lover might want?

The game itself is silly; I mean, they hide the books in public places, so how the hell do they manage to prevent people who don’t play Book Scavenger from finding and keeping the books? It’s not as if a book is an easy thing to miss – they’re rarely small!

I let this pass because this is supposed to be a middle grade novel, and I’m obviously not the target audience. Plus, it was entertaining to read this. My 12-year-old self came out and enjoyed herself.

However, there were two things I could not forgive.

The first one is that answers were given before the questions were asked. I wanted this to be a great mystery! I wanted to think! I wanted to solve the ciphers! What we got, though, was a game in which the answers to every riddle were said before we even knew what they were looking for. That way I could not be part of the game, as I wanted.

Look, I love ciphers and codes. I’m currently in the process of decoding the cipher in the last page of The Ghosts of Heaven (dammit), and while it’s kind of an impossible task, I still love the thrill that goes with it. There were ciphers in this book, but we never get the opportunity of finding for ourselves what they mean.

Again, I wonder if this is for the fact that this is a middle grade novel.

My second issue was that the book could get a little unrealistic at times. Like, how Emily’s brother felt okay about moving from state to state just because of a stupid luxury his parents had. I hate moving. When I moved from my country, I hated it. I hated it not only because I left my family but because I had to start from zero, and that’s not nice at all, unlike some books portray it. Matthew was in high school and he even had a band, so it struck me as really unrealistic that he didn’t care.

Matthew’s case is not the only unrealistic thing, though. For example, there is a “bad guy” here who wants the book Emily is hunting for no reason. I mean, this is a freaking game! He goes so far in his task of getting the book: He sees Emily finding the copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Gold-Bug, and what does he do next? He stalks her. He gets her personal information – where she lives, what school she attends – just for a book!

Emily’s character was not particularly likable. She was so incredibly selfish. She only cared about that game. School didn’t matter, her friend James didn’t matter. The only important thing in her life was that game, and I just… Sigh, I guess I’m too old for this.

All of the previous points might have led me to rate this 2 stars, but I’m rating this 3 because of two things:

1. Entertaining: Yeah, with its unrealism and its annoying things, it was still fun reading this.

2. This is an ode to Edgar Allan Poe: God, that author is one of my favourites. His sense of humour is so twisted, his horror stories manage to be creepy, etc. I freaking love him, so I had to give this book extra points for making him an important part of the book.

If you love treasure hunts, Edgar Allan Poe, or just want to remember your childhood days, this is a book for you. I ended up liking it – not as much as I wanted, but I still enjoyed it. Now I’m going to read Poe’s The Gold-Bug, because according to this book, there are ciphers, and plus, it’s Poe!
Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews710 followers
May 25, 2015
***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

This book is basically everything past Rashika would have wanted from a book and one present Rashika adores.

The past couple of middle grade novels that I had read were great but there seemed to be something missing. I figured that could have been the result of me not being the intended audience but this  book reminded me that it doesn't matter who the reader is, a book can be enjoyed by a reader of any age.

I know I always say that my favorite genre is fantasy and that is true but my favorite comfort books are always a blend of mystery and adventure.  In middle school, I went through a phase where all I read were quirky, intelligent mysteries and this book is one that would have made kid Rashika really happy. It makes adult Rashika happy too because while I may no longer be 11, there is always something to be said about a mystery that mentally challenges you.

One of the things this book has going for it is the great main character. Emily is not a perfect character. There are a lot of times where she will put her own needs above those of James (her new friend) and that may be frustrating but it’s also realistic. Sometimes, you get too wrapped up in what you’re focusing on and when it turns out people don’t have the same priorities as you do, it’s shocking. But, Emily is still great. She is also a smarty-pantsy! She doesn’t always figure out all the clues on her own and sometimes requires help but then again, what fun would the book be if she magically knew the answers to everything?

Another great thing about the book were the secondary characters. From James to Matthew to Hollister. They help make the book all the more lively.

Matthew and James especially contribute a lot because through them, we get to see two important relationships: the one between siblings and the one between friends. Matthew is an adorable little fanboy who no longer has time for his little sister and doesn’t even realize how much he has hurt her in the process of not spending time with her. He quickly redeems himself once he figures out what a douche he was being and becomes such a supportive brother!

James, I don’t think is Emily’s first friend, but I would definitely wager that he is one of the more important ones. With him comes an element of diversity because he happens to be Chinese American which is great. James puts up with Emily until he cannot and then calls her out on her shit which is great because it makes her aware of the fact that James is not someone she can take advantage of.

Fantastic characters aside, THIS IS A BOOK ABOUT BOOK SCAVENGING. That should be reason enough to pick this book up! I know I practically did somersaults when I read that part in the summary. What is awesome is that this book delivers what it promises! Book scavenging actually plays an important role in the book!

The plot is also well developed and I loved putting the clues together! I wasn’t surprised when we found out who the bad guy was but it’s not really meant to be a big twist. It’s actually makes sense given the actions of the character. One of the awesome parts about the mystery aspect is that it is intertwined with a treasure hunt. The main character has to solve the clues to get to the treasure and yes to treasure.

This is such a fun read to be swept up by and I’d recommend it to everyone looking for a fun middle grade read that will take you on an adventure.
Profile Image for Karsyn .
2,330 reviews39 followers
March 16, 2015
I normally do not rate DNF books, but since there was a very specific reason I didn't finish this book, I felt like my rating was justified.

Review ~

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Did Not Finish
1 of 5 stars
368 page Kindle book

I received this book from NetGalley for my honest review.

It's a sad time that I write my first DNF review.

I wanted to LOVE Book Scavenger. It's my kind of book. Puzzles and clues and a scavenger hunt?! This was (I thought) right down my alley. Even as a 37 yr old woman, I love certain children's books. After all, I've LOVED similar children's books, such as the following, which all have (in some way) clues or puzzles to solve ~

The Inventor's Secret (Cragbridge Hall, #1) by Chad Morris The Avatar Battle (Cragbridge Hall, #2) by Chad Morris The Impossible Race (Cragbridge Hall, #3) by Chad Morris Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #1) by Trenton Lee Stewart

There's a definite difference between juvenile and childish. This book fell too far on the childish line for me and I couldn't get past it.

The most unfortunate thing about why this book was a DNF was the reason I could not finish this book. That reason ~ STEVE.

The first time Steve was mentioned, I giggled. It really wasn't funny actually, but it was late and I was tired, so I admit it, I giggled. I thought it was a joke. Unfortunately, it was not. The 2nd time Steve was mentioned I scowled. It wasn't a joke? She was going to mention Steve again? By the 5th time, I decided if Steve was mentioned one more time, I was done. I gave it more than 1 time, but soon after, I was done.

To appease my own curiosity, I decided to search the Kindle book to see if Steve was mentioned anymore. If he was mentioned 1 or 2 more times, I might have continued.

Steve was mentioned a total of 35 (that's THIRTY-FIVE) times in the book.

So, by now, you are wondering "Who the hell is Steve? Why are you so bothered by Steve?" I'll tell you. But prepare yourself, this might be disturbing.

Steve is.....



well, there's no easy way to say this, so I'll just put it out there ~



Steve is a COWLICK. W....T....F?!?!?! I'm NOT kidding you all all here. The one main character, James, named his COWLICK Steve. Not only is Steve mentioned in the first place, Steve is referred to a whopping THIRTY-FIVE times.

This is, to me, the difference between juvenile and childish. That was childish to me, and while 7 year olds might like to hear on going tales of Steve, I could not do it. Steve ruined this book for me and that made me very sad because other than that, the book had been OK. It wasn't great yet (DNF @ 23) but I would have kept with it, if not for the ongoing discussion of Steve.

Setting = A
Plot = B
Conflict = ?
Characters = D-
Theme = A
Cowlick = F-
Profile Image for Kaytee Cobb.
1,941 reviews413 followers
February 21, 2019
Omg I loved this so much. It was smart and engaging and full of bookish enthusiasm and exactly what I want from my middle grade fiction. Also, I want to actually play book scavenger in real life, so if someone could make that happen, that would be great. I absolutely plan to pick up book #2 in the series and see where we go next with Emily and James.
Profile Image for Ghazal_Ra.
156 reviews73 followers
April 1, 2021
حتی برای دومین بار خوندنش هم جذاب بود...
من یه جور عجیبی این کتابو دوست دارم که قابل توضیح نیست🥺❤
اگه شماها هم به ماجراجویی های تینیجری علاقه دارید بخونیدش (در هر سنی که هستید!)
پیش به سوی ۲ جلد بعدی🚶🏻‍♀️
Profile Image for Luisa Knight.
2,824 reviews812 followers
November 8, 2022
I really enjoyed this! I think the idea is a fun one and you learn a bit about books, authors, codes and ciphers, and San Francisco bookstores. The hunt also includes a mystery, and with bad guys on the kids heels, you’ll be sure to keep turning pages until you’re through.

Parents, a couple things to note: the older brother has a mohawk-thing going on with his hair, the back drop of the story is Halloween, the two main kids get into a fight, and the daughter is disrespectful to the parent’s wishes of living in all 50 States throughout their lifetime. Overall it’s clean and ends with the two kids making up and the brother and sister relationship coming closer together. More details down below!


Children's Bad Words
Mild Obscenities & Substitutions - 20 Incidents: stupid, what the heck, nuts, "Man was he scr*wed,” shut up, for Pete’s sake, cockamamie, idiotic, scr*w
Name Calling - 16 Incidents: show-off, pain-in-the-butt brother, doofus, dorks (a kid says about his parents), that rat, you idiot, you weirdo, you’re such an idiot, numbnut, “The three farts of Christmas past, present, and future,” Her Royal Fungus (used throughout the book), stupid, Barf-ew
Religious Profanities - 16 Incidents: Gee, Jeez, Geez, oh my gosh

Romance Related - 3 Incidents: A boy puts his arm around a girl’s shoulders. “Toward the end of Poe’s life, there was a woman they were both friends with, an so some speculate there was a love triangle in play.” Rear ends

Attitudes/Disobedience - 9 Incidents: A kid partakes in vandalism. There is a bully throughout the entire story who places a bet against the two main characters. A girl lies to her teacher. A girl fibs.
Two friends get into an argument and don’t talk for days (the girl was being selfish). In the end, they make up but not with any real apology. A brother and sister get into a fight. Again, they make up but with no real apology. A boy tells about a time when he ran away from home (to his friend’s house). A girl does not want to return a book to it’s “claimed” owner until she’s solved the riddle. Several times, her teacher puts moral pressure on her to do the right thing. A girl’s parents have great news and she somewhat selfishly gets upset and runs to her room. She does not apologize but her parents apologize to her.

Conversation Topics - 6 Incidents: Two girls do a dance routine. Halloween is mentioned often throughout the book. It is not a main theme but is in the background, so does include references to costumes, witches, zombies, etc. Mentions a liquor store, a bar, a man taking a drag off a cigarette, a lip piercing, and betting on horse races. A book entitled “The Black Cat” is described: “it’s about a guy who drinks too much, kills his cat in a drunken rage, and then thinks the cat comes back from the dead. Then the guy goes even crazier and kills his wife …” A mom and dad dance the conga. A mom and dad dance the salsa.

Parent Takeaway
None of the main characters are very likable or have stellar character traits to mimic. So you wouldn't really read the book for that - they can fade into the background a little anyway. What you do read this book for is the mystery - great twists and loads of fun riddles and problem solving throughout the book. If your kids are perhaps tweens and mature enough not to mimic the annoyances, give this a try. It really is fun!

**Like my reviews? Then you should follow me! Because I have hundreds more just like this one. With each review, I provide a Cleanliness Report, mentioning any objectionable content I come across so that parents and/or conscientious readers (like me) can determine beforehand whether they want to read a book or not. Content surprises are super annoying, especially when you’re 100+ pages in, so here’s my attempt to help you avoid that!

So Follow or Friend me here on GoodReads! And be sure to check out my bio page to learn a little about me and the Picture Book/Chapter Book Calendars I sell on Etsy!
Profile Image for Amy.
390 reviews40 followers
May 18, 2017
Not having kids of my own, I judge these books based on how I would have enjoyed them as a kid. If I still had my spiral notebook where I kept track of my many Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High books, I would have chosen the fuschia color from my multi-ink click pen and drawn in rounded script the title of the book followed by five shakily drawn stars (By the way, I still haven't mastered the art of a perfect star shape).

Emily Crane's parents have vowed to live in all fifty states. This means Emily never really grows roots into any one place or ever makes any really good friends. Her constant companion is Book Scavenger, a treasure hunt where players score points for both finding and hiding books, using their online profiles to track their progress.

The Crane family is on their newest adventure, moving to San Francisco, which also happens to be the headquarters for Garrison Griswold, creator of Book Scavenger. His newest game is to be unveiled that afternoon, but is never announced as Griswold is involved in what's believed to be a mugging and is in the hospital.

Not long after this Emily, along with her brother Matthew and neighbor James, come across flowers and get well cards left at the subway sight where Griswold was attacked. While bending down to retrieve some trash that didn't make it to the can, Emily sees a book crammed between the can and wall. She is convinced that the book must be part of the scavenger game. What she doesn't know is that she isn't the only one seeking that book and this will lead her on a quest to solve the puzzle before anyone can take the book away from her.

What follows are lots of really fun puzzles and code breaking with themes of family and friendship interwoven throughout. There are a few sections that ask the (ahem, older) reader to suspend belief, but it never takes you out of the story. I would not hesitate to recommend this to any reader, young or old. And bonus - there's already a Book 2!
Profile Image for Paige  Bookdragon.
938 reviews612 followers
September 2, 2015
I love the idea of Book Scavenger simply because if I found a hidden book I'm sure as fuck that I would take it, fairness be damned.

I mean, FREE BOOKS dude. Won't that be awesome?

Anyway,Book Scavenger is fun read even though I grew a bit tired in the middle. I find it quite long and I think there's some things that should be omitted to make the story fast paced and thrilling.

The story is about Emily and James in a one of a kind adventure consisting a weird book and some hooligans who were after it. Kinda like Blue's Clues.. (Ahh...weird example.)

If you like a book about books and if you're a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, then this book is for you.
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,282 reviews262 followers
January 22, 2021
This book was extremely entertaining and engaging. If you enjoy puzzles, codes and ciphers, this book will put you in your happy place. Think Geocaching for books, with a little extra puzzle and mystery, then you have Book Scavenger! – Jennifer K.
Profile Image for Brenda.
863 reviews37 followers
May 5, 2015
Originally posted at Log Cabin Library

I absolutely adored Book Scavenger, it was such fun to read. Everything from the authors note where Bertman lists the inspirations for Book Scavenger (which is a combination of books, movies, Geocaching, cipher's and the website BookCrossing.com). To the setting of San Francisco filled with various historical facts and figures that make for an interesting plot. Plus there is a nice mystery that sort of involves Edgar Allen Poe. I enjoyed all the characters and relationships, with my favorite being Emily's older brother. A really wonderful and creative story. The perfect sort of book for someone who loves solving puzzles and may spark an interest in cipher's and codes, not to mention trying to learn how to break them. Which is much harder than it looks. I love the marketing campaign for the Book Scavenger and think it is quite unique to have an online game where you can actually follow hidden clues to find and read ARC's of the book. Talk about art imitating life, or would it be life imitating art in this case? A delightfully fun story and bonus the author is working on a sequel.
I received a review copy from the publisher for free via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,818 reviews418 followers
August 24, 2018
Just ok. I really thought it was a mash-up of Westing Game, Lemoncello, Mysterious Benedict, and not as good as the best aspects of those.

Not to mention, I'm actually a member of Bookcrossing. And out of the several thousands of books I've released in the wild, I've gotten reports back on less than 5%. Little Free Libraries are another neat idea that don't seem all that effective irl, either. Geocaching, now, that's interesting... there's a bit more community excitement there. Now in the author's note to this book I learn of Letterboxing... I'll have to look into that....

Any of you participate in any scavenging or orienteering games?
Profile Image for Tara.
Author 7 books204 followers
February 22, 2015
This book has instantly become one of my all-time middle-grade favorites. It has mystery, humor, wonderful characters and friendships, fascinating puzzles, tantalizing literary references, and a perfectly-realized San Francisco setting. I really think that this is a book that kid and adult readers will enjoy in equal measure, making it a great choice for family or classroom reading.

In short, I loved everything about Book Scavenger, and am so excited that Emily and James's adventures will continue in a sequel! I'll be first in line for it.

Profile Image for Caren.
493 reviews104 followers
November 1, 2015
Oh my gosh, I loved this book. This is one of those rare books adults can enjoy just as much as the middle grade readers who are its target audience. It's a good story, but it is also well-written with bits of literary history and descriptions of various ciphers and codes. It is just so much fun. The author's note at the end tells the reader a bit about the book's background. Ms. Bertman grew up in San Francisco, the setting for the book, so I felt her description of the city must be pretty accurate. The young characters are very well-drawn and likable. The only character who didn't appeal to me was the social studies teacher, Mr. Quisling. I have a feeling that name was chosen with its meaning of "collaborating with the enemy" in mind. Although certainly not a villain in the story, he also is not really trustworthy for the young protagonists. The great thing about the story is that the reader is kept guessing right along with the kids. Best of all, the characters love books just as much as I do! For an adult reader, there is a thought-provoking set-up in which Emily (one of the lead characters) has (self-employed, with jobs that only require an internet connection) parents who are pursuing their dream of "living in all 50 states", which means they uproot the kids and move frequently, making the announcement of the next destination a big surprise to the kids. Emily's older brother has taken the disruptions in stride. He is apparently a pretty outgoing, unflappable kid. For Emily, however, it means she goes into each situation holding back, afraid to make attachments that will only so soon be broken. There are some really true-to-life descriptions of how the siblings have grown somewhat apart as they have grown up and developed interests that don't converge anymore. Yet, they still have strong affection for each other and, in the end, Emily's brother, Matthew, helps her find a way to cope with the many moves. I loved his advice to her: "'What I finally figured out with all our moving is you miss out on stuff whether you stay or go. So I decided to just go with it. Embrace how we live.'....Matthew was right---you missed out on stuff either way. Or you gained stuff, depending on your perspective." (page 234) The friendship between Emily and her landlord's son and fellow middle-schooler, James, is also sensitively presented. The reader gets to consider the importance of sometimes laying aside one's own pressing interests for the sake of helping a friend, and of how to resolve differences. I think that is what sets this book apart. Beyond the really good story-line, the reader is asked to think about the complexities of relationships with others: with one's family, one's friends, one's social setting.
I must admit, I stayed up "past bedtime" to finish the book because once you start reading, it is hard to tear yourself away. I can hardly wait to share it with my grandson!
Profile Image for Aly.
2,730 reviews
July 27, 2021
I love puzzle books, where characters attempt to follow clues to solve a mystery. It's especially fun in the middle grade stories because kids can be so resourceful and there's no romance to get in the way. This has an added twist of a scavenger hunt for books, a game that sounds like so much fun and can it be a real thing please??

Emily, James, and Matthew are a fun trio and I especially enjoyed seeing the siblings bond. I am definitely not savvy enough to figure out their ciphers, but I had a good time watching the kids figure out the clues and make their own too. I'm excited that there's more books in the series and can't wait to read about the next mystery!
Profile Image for Gus.
18 reviews
April 4, 2017
It was a great book. I recommend it to everyone. It sends a message that anyone can do great things. And also, Ms. Taake hasn't read it yet, so be sure to read it before she does! :)
Profile Image for Suad Shamma.
693 reviews160 followers
October 31, 2015
This one's a favourite for sure! Reading the synopsis I knew the book sounded interesting, but it turned out to be an absolute treasure. I devoured it in a matter of hours and was very sad to see the end of it and even sadder to realize that this is the author's first and only book so far!

Emily is an avid reader but also an avid member of the Book Scavenger game founded by Garrison Griswold. She is working up the ranks in the game, with the aim to achieve the highest detective status. This involves solving codes and riddles in order to find books that are hidden across the country - if not the world - and hiding books in return for other members to find etc. Griswold lives in San Francisco, and Emily has just moved there with her family - who have set a goal of living in every state, which has become tiring for Emily, but not so much her brother Matthew, who has grown used to this lifestyle - and is therefore excited to be in the city where it all started.

However, Emily soon finds out that Griswold was attacked and lies in critical condition leaving the local scavenger hunt cancelled. She is severely disappointed of course, and befriends her neighbour James, who takes her and Matthew on a tour of the city, unintentionally leading them to the location of the attack. There, Emily finds a brand new book by Edgar Allen Poe in the bin, which she mistook for a book left by another Book Scavenger. So she takes it, and leaves her membership card.

This begins a tale of adventure, mystery and suspense, with Emily and James right in the middle of it. Unaware, Emily had not just taken the book that the attackers were looking for, and are now on her tail, but also the first clue to the start of the local scavenger hunt game that Griswold had planned before his untimely attack. Realizing all of this, Emily is determined to finish the game with the help of James, and occasionally, her brother Matthew, getting herself in all sorts of trouble.

All of that being said, this book is about a lot more than just mystery and adventure. It is a book about friendship, loyalty, family ties, love and history. Jennifer Chambliss Bertman presents to us a very interesting history of Poe and the rivalry with Rufus Griswold, as well as introduces to us the amazing universe of codes and ciphers. This isn't just a regular middle grade story, but is actually incredibly clever and leaves you on your toes as you try to solve this puzzle right along Emily.

I couldn't have enough, and I cannot wait for her next book - which I'm dismayed to see is set to be released in 2017!
Profile Image for Amélie Boucher.
697 reviews292 followers
January 31, 2021
I'm so sad. This had all of my buzzwords. Books. Puzzles & games. Mystery. Scavenger hunt. But unfortunately, this didn't live up to my expectations.

Despite the concept of this book sounding amazing, I just couldn't enjoy the story. The writing fell flat, the characters were unidimensional, and I just couldn't find myself invested in the story. Even when the stakes were high, I found myself not caring about the outcome of the story. I quite frankly didn't care about how things ended for our characters. The climax didn't feel thrilling or surprising.

I will unfortunately not continue with the series.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
3,034 reviews36 followers
May 7, 2018
What a lark, how Emily and James solve a treasure hunt where the clues are found within books in the city of San Francisco is a lot of fun. More books in the series = more bookish treasure hunts and puzzles to solve.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,344 reviews
January 7, 2021
I had high expectations for this book as many of my GoodReads friends rated it highly and the premise sounded really neat. I hesitated for some time to read it because I was afraid it might be a bit too creepy for my taste (Poe is not exactly my preferred author and I didn’t know how prevalently his work would feature here). I’m glad to say that I never found the book too scary or disturbing (and I’m fairly skittish when it comes to that sort of thing) and I enjoyed the writing style and found it an engaging read. I really enjoyed the San Francisco setting (I’ve visited several times and felt I know enough about the city that I felt the authenticity in the descriptions, and recognized a few of the sites mentioned in the book). I appreciated that Emily has a loving family, that her parents are interesting people in their own right (rather than cardboard cut-outs) and the relationship between Emily and her brother Matthew felt authentic and I appreciated the way it evolved. James is also a likable character and I have to give a little nod to “Steve”, of course. I enjoyed the Willy Wonka-esque Mr. Griswold and Bayside Press. I appreciated a few bits of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book. Especially from Hollister. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Don’t mistake shared interests for shared ethics.”
“Money changes your circumstances, but it doesn’t change your core. A spiteful person becomes a spiteful person with money. A kind person, a kind person with money.”

However, I’m afraid that, much as I enjoyed some aspects of the book, on the whole it was a bit of a disappointment for me and also a rather frustrating read. Perhaps I went into it with the wrong assumption. I thought it would be a detective story type mystery where we could play along and help figure out the ciphers and the mystery. However, I don’t think it really is. As the author herself says in her Author’s Note, “A true detective story is supposed to present all the clues for the readers so they can attempt to solve the mystery alongside the detective.” In the case of “The Book Scavenger” I don’t think we can do so. Maybe someone with cipher experience could solve some of the ciphers? This is not my forte so I’ll withhold judgement there. But my biggest complaint is that there is no real way to follow along with Emily and solving the steps in Griswold’s game. The clues and destinations are so random. Maybe if you had an in-depth knowledge of obscure Poe stories or knew enough about San Francisco that you know about certain literary figures who lived there or the complete history of all famous establishments in the area, past or present. But, I imagine most middle graders (or even adults) don’t know this. I get the reason for using Poe from a historical standpoint given the ciphers and his connection with writing mysteries, and I thought maybe it would be a big Halloween tie-in but Halloween was barely featured (so I think this would be fine to read any time of year) but we didn’t learn much about Poe or his stories. I guess I was expecting some delightful literary sleuthing with lots of fun little tie-ins to literature that most book lovers would be “in the know” about but, really, it wasn’t.

Given the target audience, I am somewhat disturbed by the dangerous situations Emily gets herself into with so little regard for her safety or even the safety of her best friend. This is not 1950s Nancy Drew era and some of the things that occurred were, IMO, reason for her to call the police or at least for inform her parents

I also had some major issues with Emily’s actual involvement in the game. I don’t think she played a fair game and she was often pretty selfish and, while her behaviors are understandable and I can be sympathetic to her, I don't feel that was resolved well enough that she really learned any lessons.

Despite all my complaints, I would not be opposed to reading more in the series. The writing style is pleasant and I did enjoy much of the story. Still, I do hope the mystery is better and that Emily gets her priorities straight next time.
July 13, 2023
I read this book to complete the deckled edges prompt for the Book Hoarders 2023 reading challenge. This was a cute story. I loved the premise - it's very similar to bookcrossing.com. The story was a little long-winded at times though, which caused me to lose interest so I struggled to focus a bit. As a middle grade book, it's an easy and interesting read.
Profile Image for Carol Royce Owen.
970 reviews14 followers
May 19, 2015
Got to read the ARC of this book and absolutely loved the idea of it. The story is of a game created by Garrison Griswold, publisher of the Bayside Press, called Book Scavenger. In the game, participants hid books throughout the country, leaving clues about the locations by registering them on line. Participants would also search for books that others have hidden by using the clues. Once found the participant would earn points that would move them up the ranks from Encyclopedia Brown to Nancy Drew, Sam Spade, Miss Marple, Monsier C. Auguste Dupin and finally to Sherlock Holmes.

Emily was presently in the Miss Marple rank, slowly moving toward the next rank, and now with her family moving to San Francisco, the home of Garrison Griswold, her opportunities to do a lot of scavenging was endless. This was the ninth move for twelve year old Emily, and certain, not to be her last, as her parents were on a scavenger hunt of their own in an attempt to live once in each of the fifty states.

This move proves different for Emily, though, as she quickly makes a friend, who, although knows nothing about book scavenging, is a whiz when it comes to puzzles and also discovers, so the two become fast friends and "partners in crime," especially when they find a book that may be a key to a new game by Garrison Griswold. As for Griswold - he is mugged and shot the same day Emily comes to town, and is near death. Will it be the end of the Book Scavenger game forever?

I found this book a mixture of Emany well loved mystery novels that I could mention here, but the author actually mentions many of them in her book. I believe she does so as a tip of her hat to acknowledge those authors' influence on her writing and of their craft and ingenuity, but then goes on to write Book Scavenger with her own flair and creativity making it unique and refreshing, standing on its own merits as a wonderful mystery novel for middle grade readers.. Although there were some clues that the reader had that Emily and her friend, James, did not have, the reader was left with a lot of uncertainty about the trustworthiness of various characters in the story. There were also some great relationships that developed in the story, and life lessons for the characters to learn. And, lastly, as far as this teacher goes, this book certainly put a desire to start a book scavenger hunt in my own school. I look forward to seeing this book published so I can get copies to share with my students. Hmmm...maybe I'll need to have them find their copies.
Profile Image for Drew.
450 reviews501 followers
August 30, 2015
I tend to rate a lot of middle grade books "as a middle grade book." So if I liked it, then I liked it for a middle grade book. I think it's only fair to compare them to other books in the same genre.

But I found that I was genuinely able to enjoy Book Scavenger—and not just as a book meant for ten year olds. It held up to a lot of young adult, and even adult, novels, in the entertainment factor.

Of course, there were a few things that separated this book from those aimed at older audiences, most obviously the fact that the writing was much simpler. But I thought the characters were well developed and it was a lot of fun to follow Emily as she took on adventures and tried to solve a mystery.

I really liked a few themes that were strongly highlighted. The author emphasized the importance of family, and Emily's family wasn't perfect, but she still loved them for all their mistakes.

There was also a big friendship theme. Emily bonds with James, a new boy she meets when her family first moves to San Francisco. I know friendship is a popular theme in middle grade novels, but I liked that Emily and James's was more realistic than most—they quarreled and at one point gave each other the silent treatment after they had a fight, and they were both puzzle lovers so they had their own secret code that they used to write each other messages.

This seems like a silly thing to mention, and it's such a small part of the novel, but I really liked how Emily's older brother had a mohawk. I don't know about you, but a lot of the time middle grade books seem a bit too clean to me. I'm not saying I want them to be filled with profanity and grotesque violence, but some darker or more gritty middle grade material would be a nice change. The characters also have a tendency to be too perfect in MG books, with all the adults acting like well-behaved, perfect role models. So the small detail of Matthew's shaved head really pleased me and added an awesome, diverse touch to the story.

My favorite thing by far in Book Scavenger was the BOOKS. Books are scattered everywhere throughout the plot. There are mentions of popular book titles and, of course, the book-loving main characters. Edgar Allan Poe also plays a significant role in the mystery plot. I got so excited when Emily was playing Book Scavenger and found a hidden book that happened to be one of my favorites. It was really awesome.
Profile Image for Jana.
1,419 reviews87 followers
December 8, 2015
I received a free copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Scavenger is a middle grade adventure book about a girl called Emily who moves to San Francisco with her parents - the city her biggest idol lives in: Garrison Griswold, creator of the legendary game Book Scavenger. And Emily is a passionate book scavenger - she loves to solve the riddles leading to the discovery of the hiding places of books. However, Griswold is attacked and in a coma, and Emily and her new friend James find an odd book they believe belongs to Griswold himself, and quickly they are in the middle of an adventure.

This book had everything a good adventure story needs: great characters, a neat writing style, exciting riddles, puzzles, code and ciphers. It also has books (definitely a great bonus!). Needless to say I really enjoyed it, right? It was so much fun to follow the characters on their journey, to see their development, their struggles, and to try and solve the riddles as they were trying. It left me longing for a game like this to play in real life. It sounds so. much. fun. And it also reminded me of how much I used to love secret codes and ciphers when I was a child. So it was just really enjoyable and exciting. I also really liked how the author wove real historical figures into the story. Oh, and did I mention this is only a first book in a series, meaning we'll get more of this awesomeness?

I would recommend this book to fans of the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton, people who like books about books and those who enjoyed Escape from Mr Lemoncello's Library, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or the 39 Clues series. It is due to be released on June 2nd.

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