I didn’t purposefully pair these two books to be read at the same time, but Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein and Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman complement each other nicely. Both stories center around book-centric puzzle games, and I would recommend them to anyone who likes to work out problems within the text as they read.
But the two stories also make for an interesting contrast in strengths. While I think Mr. Lemoncello takes the prize for colorful, laugh-out-loud characters, Book Scavenger pulls off a more subtle, touching plot.
Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics (sequel to Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library) is stuffed-
to-bursting with characters, plot points, and twists. It really feels like the second coming of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and it’s very self-conscious of the comparison. Kyle and his friends, winners of Mr. Lemoncello’s first library game, must beat the smartest children from across the country to retain their champion status and discover who’s sabotaging the library in an attempt to close its doors.
The protagonists are the usual troop of brighter-than-average kids with excellent vocabularies, who apply their mental prowess to solve puzzles and mysteries. They’re kind, considerate, and quippy, with occasional touches of poor judgement to keep the plot rolling.
The antagonists, however, are drawn with such a delightfully heavy dose of sarcasm and bad temper that they verge on the absurd: a preppy snob who convinces his fawning mother to form an anti-library league; a erudite girl whose memory knows no bounds and tongue knows no reins; a bird-obsessed man who looks like a bird, keeps birds, and hates squirrels almost as much as he loves birds. The three of them are so deliciously mean and yet so awfully funny that you love to hate them, and it works because the whole world is a touch zany, a funhouse mirror reflection of reality.
Book Scavenger, however, truly excelled with a puzzle plot that is so cool you’ll wish it was real. Emily moves to San Francisco with her Live-In-All-Fifty-States family and is thrilled to realize she’s in the hometown of her favorite game, Book Scavenger, in which participants hide their own books and search for others’ to earn points. When she is drawn into a mysterious puzzle game that seems connected to Book Scavenger’s hospitalized founder, she races with her new neighbor to follow the clues and find the prize before the shadowy opponent that’s on their heels.
Ms. Bertman’s wide array of puzzles, codes, and ciphers is simply fantastic, woven into the story so that you can solve them along with Emily, and the over-arching puzzle story is full of Edgar Allen Poe Easter Eggs (and I can only hope will draw young readers into checking out more Poe.) But what really reeled me in was Emily’s struggle between the desire to put down roots in a town she loves and the pressure of knowing she likely won’t live there very long, emphasizing the tension and loneliness that can accompany every move, no matter how exciting. #allthefeels
Loved both of these, and can’t wait for sequels. Give me ALL the books about books!