For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it's the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now 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 himself, and might contain the only copy of his mysterious new game.
Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold's new gamebefore those who attacked Griswold come after them too.
The paperback edition of Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman features a gorgeous, brightened cover and an interview with the author. This title has Common Core connections.
“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.” Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Fans of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library will appreciate the abundant literary allusions, and readers will hope for more adventures.” Shelf Awareness, starred review
An Amazon Best Book of the Year
An Indie Next List Pick
A PW Best Book for Summer
A Bank Street College Best Book of the Year
An Amazon.com Best Book of the Month
A Texas Lamplighter Award Nominee
A Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award Nominee
A Georgia Children's Book Award Finalist
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, Sarah Watts
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2015 Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
All rights reserved.
GARRISON GRISWOLD whistled his way down Market Street, silver hair bobbing atop his head like a pigeon wing. He tapped his trademark walking stick, striped in Bayside Press colors, to the beat of his tune. A cabdriver slowed and honked his horn, leaning to his passenger-side window.
"Mr. Griswold! You want a ride? It's on me, my friend."
"Very kind of you, but I'm fine, thank you," Mr. Griswold called back, and raised his cane in a salute. He preferred traveling by streetcar or BART. They were the veins of this city he loved, after all.
A woman clutching a cell phone hurried to Mr. Griswold's side.
"My son is such a fan of Book Scavenger. Can I trouble you for a photograph?"
Mr. Griswold checked his wristwatch. Plenty of time to spare before he had to be at the main library for his big announcement. He balanced a hand on the woman's shoulder as she held the phone at arm's length to take the picture.
"So is it true?" she asked. "Do you have another game in the works?"
In response, Mr. Griswold pulled an imaginary zipper across his lips and gave her a wink. He continued on his way, through the stream of pedestrians, whistling and tapping his cane on the brick sidewalk, completely unaware of the two men who'd stepped into his wake.
One was tall and gangly with bushy black eyebrows peeking from the edge of his backward ball cap. His partner was a bulldog of a man who moved as if his chest propelled him down the street instead of his legs. His hands were jammed in his front sweatshirt pocket, and his stare didn't waver from his target.
Mr. Griswold descended into the BART station. When he paused before the fare gate to remove his Fast Pass from his wallet, a voice from behind spoke his name. Mr. Griswold turned and faced the men. His smile faltered. It was early afternoon, off-hours for commuting, and the trickle of people coming in and out of the station was slow. Nonexistent at the moment.
He adjusted his frameless glasses and looked the tall man in the eye. "I'm running late for an appointment, gentlemen." Mr. Griswold wiggled his salt-and-pepper mustache — a nervous habit. The way that short man popped his knuckles and gave him a look that could only be described as scornful caused him to put up his guard.
"We have a friend in common," the tall man said.
"Yeah, a friend." The short man laughed hoarsely.
"Ah, I see." Mr. Griswold turned to go through the fare gate, but the tall one stepped in front of him and blocked his way.
"I'm in quite a rush," Mr. Griswold said. "If you wouldn't mind calling my office, I'd be happy to speak with you at a later date."
Mr. Griswold extended his walking stick between the two men, trying to force his way through, but the tall man grasped him firmly by the shoulder.
"We want the book," he said.
Mr. Griswold resisted the urge to hug his leather satchel firmly to his side. Inside was a special edition of The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe that he had crafted himself using the Gutenberg 2004 EX-PRO Printing Press and Binding Machine he kept at his house. He planned to make forty-nine more, but only the one in his bag existed at that moment. He'd brought The Gold-Bug as a prop for the unveiling of his new, elaborate game. It would be just enough to give a hint, a small peek, to the public of what would be involved. But these men couldn't be talking about that book. Nobody knew about it yet — nobody at Bayside Press, and nobody in his personal life.
Mr. Griswold used the cuff of his suit jacket to dab a bead of sweat from his temple. "I run a publishing company, gentlemen. We deal with hundreds of books. Thousands. You'll have to be more specific than that."
"You know the one we want," the short, stocky man said. He leaned in close, stretching on tiptoe like he was looking up Mr. Griswold's nose. He jerked his neck back to his partner. "He knows which one, right, Barry?"
The tall man stomped his foot. "We said fake names, remember?"
"Whatever," the other responded. "This guy's old. His hearing's probably shot."
Taking advantage of their brief moment of strife, Mr. Griswold swung his walking stick and whacked Barry on the cheek, then pushed past him toward the entrance to the lower level.
His cry echoed in the cavernous station. There was a low crack, like a distant boom of thunder. Mr. Griswold felt something like a punch to his back. He stumbled and fell to the ground, hitting his head on the stone floor. Had he been shot? He struggled to breathe. A numb dampness spread across his lower back, and his head throbbed where it had connected to the ground.
Barry cursed and rushed forward. He stooped beside Mr. Griswold and placed a palm on his forehead, as if he were checking for a fever. "What did you do, Clyde?"
"What happened to 'we gotta use fake names'?" Clyde said.
"I can't believe this!" Barry cried. "You have a gun? You shot him? That wasn't part of the plan."
Clyde shrugged. "I improvised."
"What if he doesn't have the book on him?"
"Of course he has it on him." Clyde inspected the hole in his sweatshirt pocket where he'd concealed his gun. "He needs it for that press conference."
An automated announcement drifted up from the level below where the trains and buses arrived. Barry slid his arms underneath Mr. Griswold's and dragged him backward to an empty bench.
With a soft grunt, Mr. Griswold collapsed against the slick granite wall behind him. He crumpled from a seated position to a prone one, his back sliding against the wall, leaving a streak of blood to mark his trail. He tried to land on top of his bag in an effort to keep it from the men, but Clyde tugged it free.
Clyde pulled the book from Mr. Griswold's bag. "The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe." He tossed it to Barry. "That has to be it."
Mr. Griswold's vision blurred the two men together and apart. He wanted to say something, to stop them, but all that came out were moans.
Barry hardly looked at the book before hurling it to the corner, where it rebounded off the wall and slid behind a trash can. "That's a brand-new book!" he shouted.
"It's still a book," Clyde said.
"He's a publisher! He's going to have books on him. We were told to look for an old book. A really old book."
A BART train rumbled in one level below. The hum of people leaving the cars carried upstairs.
"We gotta get out of here," Barry said. The two men raced to the exit.
A boisterous group wearing black-and-orange jerseys rode up the escalator. One of them noticed Mr. Griswold slumped on the bench and ran over. A man dialed 9-1-1 on his cell phone. A woman crouched next to him and repeated, "Hang on. Everything will be okay."
As Garrison Griswold hovered on the brink of consciousness, he wasn't worried about when help would arrive. It was the slim edition of The Gold-Bug wedged between the trash can and the wall that consumed his thoughts. All that work, all his plans. Everything was in place, but without The Gold-Bug, his game wouldn't get launched. His nearly priceless treasure would never be discovered. He hoped desperately that the right person would find his book. Someone who would take the time to understand and appreciate the secrets it held.CHAPTER 2
THE CLUE was a substitution cipher — Emily was sure. Figuring that out had been the easy part. The hard part was trying to crack it. She rearranged the letters in another attempt to solve it:
Throw ferzu borg the zoey.
That couldn't be right. Who was Ferzu Borg and why would she have to throw him a zoey? And what was a zoey, anyway? This was no way to advance to the Auguste Dupin level of Book Scavenger.
With a huff, Emily ripped the page from her notebook, crumpled it, and dropped it with the other failed attempts littering the cab of the moving van. At the top of a fresh page, she carefully recopied the cipher she'd printed from the Book Scavenger website a few days ago.
"Hey, Sherlylocks," her dad interrupted. "Take a break and enjoy the scenery. You know who once lived in San Francisco, don't you?"
"Gee, let me guess. ..." Emily continued writing in her notebook without looking up. Her dad had only mentioned they were moving to the home of his literary idol, oh, sixty million times.
"'There was nowhere to go but everywhere.' Jack Kerouac wrote that in —"
"On the Road, Dad. I know."
Emily sighed, frustrated with the cipher and frustrated with her dad for breaking her concentration. She slid her pencil back through her ponytail for safekeeping. They were driving through a valley jam-packed with rows of houses wrapped around hillsides like serpentine belts. Emily guessed there were more houses in this one corner of California than in the entire state of New Mexico, where they had most recently moved from.
In the side-view mirror, she could see the family's beat-up minivan trailing behind them. They had nicknamed the minivan Sal, another homage to the great and almighty Jack Kerouac. Their mother gripped Sal's steering wheel and leaned forward the way she always did, like she was so excited to get where they were going, whether it was the grocery store or California. Matthew, Emily's older brother, bobbed his lopsided Mohawk as he listened to music. Most likely Flush, his favorite band. Emily would bet a box of books on it.
"Nothing more exciting than a new beginning, don't you think?" Emily's dad asked.
Emily nodded, although she wasn't sure she agreed. Her parents were so proud of this life they'd created, but she didn't get their enthusiasm for new beginnings. It was like starting a bunch of books and never finishing any of them.
California would be the ninth state for Emily in her twelve and three-quarters years, all part of her parents' quest to live once in each of the fifty states. Yes, a quest to live in every state. That always went over well when Emily tried to explain their frequent moving to people.
"Are you in the military?"
"Are you in a witness-protection program?"
"Are you on the run from the feds?"
"You just move around for fun?"
Starting before she was born, her parents had bounced from state to state because, in their words, "that's where our paychecks pulled us." When Emily was five, they lived in New York and her dad was laid off from his job at a publishing company. He started to take on freelance copyediting jobs. That same year, her mother was given permission to do her programming job remotely, which meant anywhere she had a computer. Realizing their work wouldn't be tying them to one spot, her parents decided to make their fantasy of living once in every state a reality. They started a blog called 50 Homes in 50 States and chronicled their moving adventures. The blog had been a hobby to begin with, a way to capture memories from the different places they lived, but it grew into a side business with companies paying to advertise on it, and travel sites and magazines asking them to write articles. The Crane family had been averaging a move almost once a year ever since.
For a while, Emily loved it. It was a big family adventure. Discovering new places, the suspense of where they would go next. And her parents always tried to make it fun. Like their reveal tradition — a surprise dinner they threw for Emily and her older brother, with clues indicating their next destination. Three weeks ago, Emily had walked into their rental after school, brainstorming ideas for a notable New Mexico landmark to feature in her diorama project, and found the kitchen table set with sourdough bread bowls filled with gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins. Her whole body had tensed up, knowing she'd walked into a reveal dinner, which meant they were moving again. You'd think she would have gotten used to these surprises, but she hadn't.
At first, all she could think about was how she wouldn't get to make her own rock crystal stalactites for her Carlsbad Caverns diorama idea. Then she saw more clues for their next destination: an ALCATRAZ OUTPATIENT MENTAL WARD T-shirt for Matthew; a paperback copy of The Maltese Falcon for Emily; the black-and-orange Giants cap her mom wore; her dad dressed like a beatnik in a black turtleneck, beret, and black-framed glasses.
When she deduced San Francisco was their next move, Emily should have flung the gold coins in celebration. The city was not only home to her dad's literary idol, but Emily's, too: Garrison Griswold, CEO of Bayside Press and mastermind of Book Scavenger, the coolest book-hunting game in existence. (Also the only book-hunting game in existence.) Book Scavenger was an online community of people who loved books and puzzles and games as much as Emily did, and it traveled with her no matter where her family lived.
But instead of celebrating, she found herself forcing a smile for her parents. Now that the Cranes had spent years bouncing from state to state, their family adventures were starting to feel ... Emily wasn't sure what the word was to describe it. All she knew was, a few weeks ago, she'd been sitting with a book and her bagged lunch at her usual spot on the stone planter that surrounded the old oak tree at her Albuquerque middle school. A group of girls she barely knew sprawled near her on the grass. She listened to them complain about how boring their upcoming weekend would be because they were going to the community pool again, and then they started talking about a dance class they took together. Two girls jumped up and tried to remember a routine they'd performed years earlier, doing the moves right there on the grass. Emily, pretending to read her book and not pay them any attention, had felt wistful and a tiny bit jealous. Not because she wanted to take dance classes, or be a part of their group, or go to the community pool so regularly it became boring. What bothered her, she realized as she covertly watched those girls, was that she would never have that circle of friendship. Thanks to her family's traveling lifestyle, she would always be the outsider. She could take dance classes and go to the community pool, sure, but she never stuck around long enough to make real friends, much less relive memories with them years later.
As the moving van exited the freeway and rattled past the baseball stadium, Emily tried to focus on the positive: Book Scavenger! San Francisco!
Sunshine glinted off a silver bridge that arched overhead. Not the Golden Gate Bridge — Emily knew that bridge was red and not silver. Flat water and docks were on one side of their van, and a cluster of skyscrapers on the other. In a way, it reminded her of Lake Michigan when they lived in Chicago, with a city view in one direction and a tranquil spread of water in the other. Although the San Francisco Bay was a swimming pool in comparison to Lake Michigan, with mounds of land on the far side that looked close enough to swim to.
They turned away from the water and headed down a busy street. They were soon engulfed by office buildings so tall Emily couldn't see the tops from where she sat. She double-checked the radio station they were listening to — 104.5 — making sure it matched the numbers she'd written in her notebook. According to the information she'd read in the Book Scavenger forums, the station would be broadcasting Mr. Griswold's new game announcement any minute now. In addition to running a publishing company, Garrison Griswold organized outlandish events, such as an annual Quidditch tournament in Golden Gate Park and a literary bingo game with so many participants it filled a baseball stadium and earned him a spot in the Guinness World Records book. It was why people called him the Willy Wonka of book publishing. People traveled to San Francisco to participate in his games, and now Emily was going to be living there herself. At least for a while, anyway. She would have been there in person to hear the announcement, but by the time she knew they were moving to San Francisco, tickets had all been given away.
"Traffic." Her dad sighed.
They had slowed to a stop and idled in a line of cars. Her mother and brother were one car behind in Sal the minivan. A green trolley rattled down tracks in the middle of the street. They inched forward. The flashing lights of a police car came into view, then a fire truck, then an ambulance. Yellow caution tape was strung in a wide perimeter around stairs descending underground.
An officer directed them around the emergency vehicles. Emily craned her head for a better view.
"Is that a subway station?" she asked.
"They call it BART here," her dad said. "I wonder what's going on."
Emily searched for a clue to what happened, but there was nothing to see besides the flashing lights and emergency vehicles. She bowed her head, ponytail curled around her neck, and resumed her code-breaking work.
Excerpted from Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, Sarah Watts. Copyright © 2015 Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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