We’ve all heard of scavenger hunts–fun searches where clever people follow clues to find hidden objects. Author Jennifer Chambliss Bertman has upgraded the classic scavenger hunt and given it a literary-geek twist by making the cache a nationwide network of hidden books, accessible only by solving codes and puzzles!
In her first novel, aptly named Book Scavenger, the two 12-year-old protagonists play the delightful and compelling Book Scavenger game all over San Francisco. Luckily for readers, Book Scavenger is a REAL GAME that anyone can play anywhere in the U.S.!
Players can either hide books and leave clues online for others to find or try to solve clues that others have left. Books that are found can be kept by the finder or hidden in a new place with a new clue. Before hiding a book, a player registers it on the Book Scavenger game website, where it is assigned a unique number. Participants can track their hidden books all over the country, as they are often found and hidden again multiple times. After receiving the number, the hider then prints out a special label to adhere to the inside of their book, marking it as part of the Book Scavenger game.
Now the fun part begins. Rather than simply describing a location where a book is hidden, players create codes and puzzles to lead other competitors to their hiding spot. In Chambliss’ book, the main characters’ love of cryptography cements their friendship as they track books and solve the mysterious disappearance of a beloved book publisher along the way. Real-life players can indulge their passion for ciphers as well; many online clues are very difficult to crack!
In the Book Scavenger story, players are able to contact each other online, post reviews of books, and earn points to level up depending on how difficult their codes are. The actual game does not include these features, but the website does allow readers to search for books hidden in their own state and leave messages asking for clarification of the codes. There are several hundred books hidden all over the country.
Book Scavenger is based on a worldwide game known as Book Crossing where books are “caught” and “released” into the wild. Participants can leave notes online specifying where they left a book, but players are generally adults and codes are not involved. Currently, there are 4,749 books hidden throughout the U.S., and several thousand more hidden around the world, with the most books concentrated in Germany (6,744).
Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is currently preparing a sequel to Book Scavenger called The Unbreakable Code, scheduled to be published in April of 2017.
Looking for something even more thrilling? Try playing a WhaiWhai game in a large city near you (technically, you can play this game either outdoors in specified cities or at home, virtually). The New York City book (see below) contains “forty stories about forty fascinating places in Manhattan: the legendary Electric Lady Studios, the lucky subway grate that has seen Marilyn so closely, the New Bohemians’ revolution, the secret story behind Macy’s, Houdini’s swimming pool experiment, incredible breaking news from Orson Welles… and much more! ”
Using your book and a smartphone, follow clues and solve mysteries as you explore either New York City, Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, or Verona. Your book will tell you stories about “legends, historical anecdotes and peculiar events” that happened in your city. As you walk to the various locations mentioned in the stories, you’ll receive a text message containing a puzzle challenge. You’ll be asked to find a hidden detail in your surroundings, then respond with the solution via text. Each time you solve a mystery, you’ll receive another. If you can’t get to New York or Italy, simply type “sofa” for your first text message, and the game will adjust so you’ll simply need to answer questions, not find items out in the world. It’s not just a book, it’s an adventure!