Looking Back #9: Detective Day!

I’m counting down to the publication of The Unbreakable Code with highlights from the past two years since Book Scavenger was published. So much has happened in such a short time, and I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, that I’ve neglected to share many of the big and small moments. So here we go, in no particular order . . .

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In early 2016 I was invited to visit Ms. Walterhouse’s classroom where she had planned a “Detective Day” themed around Book Scavenger after she read the book with her class. It was a day filled with critical thinking and problem-solving exercises presented in a really fun way.

When students arrived to class, they found caution tape across their classroom door and Ms. Walterhouse waiting outside the classroom, dressed secret service style.  In order to be granted access to the room and their agent badge, students pressed their finger to a screen which would either “approve” or “deny” their entry.


Inside the classroom was dark. Black lights lit up yarn that had been strung around the room to look like a laser beam security system. The students worked in groups by lantern to solve a series of puzzles and ciphers that were leveled to match the levels in Book Scavenger. Once they successfully completed a mission, they were given a brag tag.


It was during this point in their activities that I arrived, only the students didn’t know I was coming. I circulated the room as a special guest there to observe and it was great fun for me to ask students what they were working on and hear them describe my own book to me. My favorite part of the morning was when the bell rang for recess and the students loudly groaned (groaned!) because they didn’t want to stop working on their puzzles and ciphers!

When they returned from recess Ms. Walterhouse announced who I was and the reaction of the students was priceless. They had written me letters asking me to come, but had been told I couldn’t since I lived in another state, so they were really quite surprised. (Ms. Walterhouse had also removed their book jackets so they hadn’t seen my photo beforehand either.) We had a great conversation, they sang a llama song for me, I signed their books. It was a day I will always remember.

It was incredible gift being able to witness firsthand students’ enthusiasm for a book–and one I wrote!–and to see how my story could be adapted into critical thinking and problem-solving exercises that captivated students so much they didn’t want to break for recess.

If you are an educator interested in planning a similar day for your students, Ms. Walterhouse has created a Book Scavenger activity bundle that includes the following: Comprehension questions, short essays, vocabulary, ciphers and puzzle activities, brag tags, and Detective Day name tags. Click here for more info!

In case you missed it:

Looking Back #1: Re-visiting my alma maters

Looking Back #2: Meeting my editor

Looking Back #3: Meeting Ann M. Martin

Looking Back #4: A Memorable San Francisco Trip

Looking Back #5: Steves and pencils

Looking Back #6: Atlanta Book Group

Looking Back #7: A Story Behind the Story

Looking Back #8: Battle of the Books