The Unbreakable Code (Book Scavenger #2), by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, (April 2017, Henry Holt & Co. BYR), $16.99, ISBN: 9781627791168
Recommended for readers 8-12
The sequel to Book Scavenger (2015) continues the adventures of friends, code breakers, and bookworms Emily and James. Emily’s parents have put a hold on their state-hopping, giving Emily a feeling of permanence she missed terribly. She and James find themselves in the middle of another mystery when they notice their teacher, Mr. Quisling, acting strangely; they follow a trail of encrypted messages in Book Scavenger-laid Mark Twain books. The messages are an attempt to break a legendary, historic puzzle known as the Unbreakable Code, which leads to either a treasure or a curse. As mysterious and suspicious fires pop up around them, Emily and James are worried that Mr. Quisling is the arsonist – unless they can figure out who his mysterious Book Scavenger messenger is.
The Unbreakable Code is loaded with the adventure, mystery, and code-breaking fun that made the first book so enjoyable. There are mysteries within mysteries, and a real sense of urgency as the tweens try to get to the bottom of the arsonist on their trail. There’s a very good subplot about the history of Chinese immigrants during the California Gold Rush that shines a light on a part of history that doesn’t get as much discussion as it should. Ms. Chambliss also presents a very different Mr. Griswold, changed by the events in Book Scavenger. He’s withdrawn, hesitant, apprehensive; his buoyant style is toned down, and he surrounds himself with his assistant, Jack, and the company of dogs to guard him. Emily and James’ secondary mission is to nudge Mr. Griswold back to his former self.
A fun follow-up and a fun accompaniment to coding and spy programs. Introduce kids to coding with Book Scavenger and Gene Luen Yang’s Secret Coders! Kids can play their own game of Book Scavenger at the Book Scavenger website and sign up for the newsletter.
Book Scavenger, by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (June 2015, Henry Holt), $16.99, ISBN: 9781627791151
Twelve year-old Emily is on the move again. Her unconventional parents are on a quest to live in all 50 states, so she and her brother don’t get a chance to put roots down anywhere. This move takes them to San Francisco, where Emily’s idol-Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the game Book Scavenger-lives. Shortly after arriving, she and her new friend James discover a strangely new copy of the classic Edgar Allan Poe story, The Gold Bug; they learn that Griswold has been viciously attacked and is in the hospital, and people start showing an unusual interest in her copy of The Gold Bug. Could there be a connection?
This is a new spin on the middle grade mystery, with a real-life tie in that’s interesting and brings kids into the world of The Book Scavenger. Influenced by the online site Book Crossing, where you leave books for people and record where you’ve left and discovered books, Book Scavenger creates a game where you can attain levels of detective-dom by finding books and hiding books using clues to lead your fellow players to them. Chambliss and publisher Henry Holt have brought Book Scavenger to life, hiding advance review copies of Book Scavenger all over the country and inviting readers to locate them – go to http://bookscavenger.com/ to get on board and join the fun!
There is some great discussion on cryptography and hidden codes used in the book – James and Emily are fans that bring the practice into their school after being caught passing notes – and the book becomes a true whodunit, with readers trying to figure out who could have been behind the attack on Garrison Griswold, and more importantly, what is the secret of The Gold Bug? The characters are likable, even if Emily does become frustrating in her single-mindedness over solving the mystery at points, and Book Scavenger makes for exciting summer reading.
Check out Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s author page for updates on what she’s working on.