Book Scavenger

by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman with illustrations by Sarah Watts
Published by Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt and Company
ISBN: 978-1-62779-115-1

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.

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  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Bank Street College Best Book of the Year 
  • NCTE Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts
  • Indie Next Kids’ #6 pick (Summer 2015)
  • ABA Indies Introduce New Voices Finalist 
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Year
  • Junior Library Guild selection, 2015
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book for Summer
  • SF Gate Summer Reads Recommendation, 2015
  • Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Finalist, 2015
  • SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist, 2016
  • Colorado Book Award Finalist, 2016
  • Georgia Children’s Book Award Finalist, 2016-2017
  • Maryland Black Eyed Susan Award Nominee, 2016-2017
  • Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Nominee, 2016-2017
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Nominee, 2016-2017
  • Triple Crown Lamplighter Book Award Winner, 2016-2017
  • Utah Educational Library Media Association Award Master List Selection, 2016
  • Jr Tome Society and Club Tome It List Nominee, 2016-2017
  • Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee, 2017-2018
  • Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award Nominee, 2017-2018
  • Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee, 2017-2018
  • Nebraska Golden Sower Award Finalist, 2017-2018
  • North Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominee, 2017-2018
  • South Carolina Book Award Nominee, 2017-2018
  • Connecticut Nutmeg Book Award Nominee, 2018
  • Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee, 2017-2018
  • Illinois Bluestem Book Award Nominee, 2017-2018
  • Utah Beehive Award Nominee, 2018
  • Mississippi Magnolia Children’s Choice Book Award Nominee, 2018
  • Rhode Island Middle School Book Award Nominee, 2018
  • Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award Nominee, 2018
  • Washington Library Association Sasquatch Book Award Nominee, 2018
  • Oregon Battle of the Books selection 2018-2019
  • Minnesota Youth Reading Award Nominee 2018-2019
  • Hawaii Nēnē Book Award Nominee, 2018
  • West Australian Young Readers Book Award Nominee, 2019
  • Translation rights sold in: French, Spanish, Catalan, German, Czech, Polish, Chinese (Simplified and Complex), Russian, Korean, Romanian, Turkish and Hungarian


“Full of heart and replete with challenging ciphers for readers to decode, Bertman’s debut is literary cousin to classic puzzlers like The Westing Game.”

—Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

“Fans of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library will appreciate the abundant literary allusions, and readers will hope for more adventures, hinted at in the book’s final lines.”

— Jennifer M. Brown, children’s editor, Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Emily’s sleuthing weaves well with her journey to nurture friendships and set down everlasting roots. A debut that challenges the brain while warming the heart.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“A puzzle-mystery in the spirit of The Westing Game, Book Scavenger challenges readers to play along. The codes and puzzles are pitched at the perfect level for tween sleuths, and the literary references . . . will pique readers; interests in doing some scavenging of their own. Part friendship story, part travel adventure and part cryptography manual, Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s debut is a book lover’s delight.”


“A love letter to San Francisco and its literary history, this well-paced novel of intrigue also provides quite the education, namedropping the likes of Jack Kerouac, Dashiell Hammett, and Amy Tan, diving into the world of ciphers, and offering bountiful brainteasers with Dickensian naming devices (there’s an explanatory author’s note), all while maintaining a skillful and satisfying balance of brains and heart. . . . be prepared to start a Book Scavenger chapter (pun intended) in your own library, stat.”

The Bulletin

“Sprinkled with ciphers, San Francisco landmarks, and literary allusions, Book Scavenger is a fun, light, implausible adventure . . . This will appeal to fans of Blue Balliett’s art-world mysteries.”

— School Library Journal

“Well paced and involving, the story will intrigue kids with an interest in mysteries and codes as well as books. The writing includes references to local landmarks as well as literary allusions to Jack Kerouac, Robert Louis Stevenson, and, especially, Edgar Allan Poe. A lively first novel.”

— Booklist

“The plot is clever and the pace of the book will keep the readers curious up to the climactic end. Several other books with themes related to puzzles and games are alluded to in the story. This book will be fun for lovers of this genre.”


“Codes and ciphers star in this puzzle-game of a novel, offering challenges for code-breaking fanatics plus plentiful explanations for those who prefer that someone else do the legwork”

The Horn Book

“Bertman’s debut novel establishes her as a major new voice in middle grade fiction. Prediction: Book Scavenger will become a beloved classic in the mode of The Westing Game and The Egypt Game. It’s off the charts wonderful.” 

— Claudia Mills, author of Zero Tolerance and Kelsey Green, Reading Queen

“Book Scavenger is that flashlight-under-the-bedcovers book that would have gotten me into serious trouble when I was a kid. How can so much fun and excitement be packed into these pages? Let’s all clamor for Book Scavenger to be real!”  

— Jody Feldman, author of The Gollywhopper Games

Book Scavenger is the book I dreamed of when I was young. Adventure! Ciphers! Hidden treasure! And it’s all for the love and celebration of books! This book nerd couldn’t put it down, and you won’t be able to, either.”

— K. A. Holt, author of Rhyme Schemer and House Arrest