It’s not exaggerating to say that I could be a little obsessed with mysteries and puzzles as a kid. My 4th grade teacher – a young, enthusiastic woman who insisted we call her “Ms.” not “Miss”– constantly reminded us girls we could be as good as boys at math and got me interested in logic puzzles. When I was in fifth grade, my classmates predicted I’d one day write detective stories. (That didn’t quite turn out as I expected, but there’s still time!) I grew up with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown and The Happy Hollisters in the big bookshelf downstairs, and when we went to the public library on Saturday mornings, it wasn’t unusual for me to come home with a few more.
Later I moved on to Agatha Christie, P.D. James and others, but I still love to read mysteries written for kids. They aren’t usually riddled with serial killers, graphic descriptions of violence, or other blood and gore, and I’m ok with that.
So when I came across The Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, I was hopeful. Emily and her family have moved again, and this time they happen to be living in San Francisco, the hometown of a great book scavenger game. Before long, Emily and her new friend James are cracking and creating secret codes, trying to be first to figure out the solution to a new game which hasn’t even been announced, because – shocking news – the game’s genius creator has been attacked.
Emily, James and Emily’s brother, Matthew, keep things moving along, and the attention to ciphers and codes is pretty fun, too. I’m willing to roll along with almost anything, so I let a few slightly unbelievable connections and coincidences slide. And what a great idea for a game – a sort of combination of geocaching, puzzles and literature! You can join in on the fun at http://bookscavenger.com/.
Looking for more middle grade mysteries and puzzle books? Try these:
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, Chris Grabenstein
Under the Egg, Laura Marx Fitzgerald
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg
The Apothecary, Maile Meloy
The Puzzling World of Winston Breen, Eric Berlin
The Wright 3, Blue Balliett
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
Absolutely Truly, Heather Frederick
Greenglass House, Kate Milford