Tag Archives: Launch Party Week

Interview with Christy Ottaviano, editor of Book Scavenger

To mark the occasion of Book Scavenger‘s publication, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer’s phenomenal editor, Christy Ottaviano, publisher of Christy Ottaviano Books at Macmillan Children’s. It’s always fascinating to hear what the editor of a book loves about it!

Calista: Do you remember what it was about this book that made you go, “I want it” when you read it on submission?

Christy: When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was The Westing Game.  I was also a big fan of From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil E Frankweiler.  Both of these books came to mind while I was reading the submission of Book Scavenger.  I was immediately intrigued by the book gaming element — I love mysteries and especially books that have puzzles to solve and secrets to uncover — but what really drew me in was the voice of Emily.  She is such a rich character — a bookworm and a loner; someone who could really use a friend. Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is such a gifted writer.  In Book Scavenger she creates an exciting mystery yet the characters never take a back seat to the layered plot — everything works in tandem and in good rhythm.

Calista: What comp titles* did you reference when you were acquiring this book? Why?

Christy: The comp titles referenced were a few books I’ve published by Elise Broach — Shakespeare’s Secret and Masterpiece given that they are both mysteries and feature quiet, thoughtful characters who are curious about the world around them, whether it’s learning about Shakespeare or Albrecht Durer!  I also referenced The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart) as well as Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Chris Grabenstein) for similar reasons.

Calista: What are some ways the book changed during the editing process?

Jenn did an amazing job revising the novel.  She approached every aspect of the editorial process with such insight, thoughtfulness and focus. We worked on a variety of elements — making the mystery more compelling, incorporating more challenging puzzles and ciphers into the clues, building to a more satisfying climax and conclusion, and, most especially, fleshing out all of the characters (getting rid of a few even) so that each was clearly defined in relation to his/her role in the book. On a personal note,  I really fell in love with Emily and James and think their friendship is such an honest example of a girl/boy tween friendship in middle school.

Calista: Who is the ideal reader for this book?

Christy: The ideal readers for Book Scavenger are kids who like all of the books I’ve referenced in this Q&A as well as fans of the Chasing Vermeer series (Blue Balliat), The Gollywhopper Games (Jody Feldman), and Rhyme Schemer (KA Holt).  It’s for kids who love to read stories about quirky characters who have unusual talents; fans of sleuthing stories and mysteries; and lovers of puzzles in all forms.  Without a doubt, this is one of the freshest, and most engaging books I have ever worked on.  A treat on so many levels!

* Comp title = “comparison title”. Frequently an editor will be asked to provide comp titles for a book when presenting it to the acquisitions team at the publishing house, to give the sales and marketing and publishing teams a sense of where the book will “live” in the marketplace.


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Pin the Quote on the EMU & Win A Mystery Prize! It’s time to celebrate Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger!!

Do you love treasure hunts, puzzles and books? Then you’re going to love Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger!!



It’s an homage to The Westing Game, westing


Edgar Allen Poe,


and the art of ciphering.

To celebrate Jenn’s book, we’re going to play a game of pin the quote on the Emu! Each Emu listed below picked a game that s/he would like to see come to life.  See if you can match the quote to the Emu’s listed below. Whoever accumulates the most points wins a signed copy of Book Scavenger plus a mystery prize! Each correct answer is worth one point.

Here are the quoted Emu’s in alphabetical order: Adam, Calista, Christine, Elaine, Janet, Jenn, Laurie, Luke,  Maria, Megan, Mylisa, Penny, Rebecca, Susan & Tam.


Ready? Set? Go!

Pin the quote on the Emu!


1).        I’d like to bring a Star Wars game to life. Space travel? The Force? Lightsabers? Yes, please. I’d either want to summon into existence a tabletop RPG campaign (like the amazing ones that my friend Lisa writes) or else I’d want to live in the 2003 Game of the Year: Knights of the Old Republic, the video game that made me love video games. Just thinking about that game makes me want to put on my Jedi robe (yes, I have one) and do katas while listening to John Williams. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…




2).        My vote goes to “Ticket to Ride,” the European edition. Who wouldn’t want to see a train-riding adventure come to life? One game I wouldn’t want to come to life: Ouija!!


ticket to ride


3).        Oh, BALDERDASH! I haven’t got a CLUE how to pick just UNO. At first I thought this question was a MASTERPIECE, but with all this AGGRAVATION it’s causing my CRANIUM, I think it’s a real brain TWISTER. I’m SORRY. It BOGGLEs my mind. I don’t want to RISK my reputation on such a TRIVIAL PURSUIT, but I have so much TROUBLE with my MEMORY. I could just SCRABBLE around for an answer that is absolute PERFECTION, but I’m no MASTERMIND. Well, I don’t want to have a MONOPLY on this whole OPERATION, so YAHTZEE what I can come up with.


4).        Two Emu’s would like to see the game Hungry Hungy Hippos come to life. Who are they? Worth two points!       hippos_


5).        It would be amazing to see a real-life game of Quidditch. quidditch  I’ve also been a longtime fan of Clue, but that wouldn’t be a great choice since it would involve, you know, murder.  clue_

Chutes and Ladders would probably be a lot of fun as a real-life game!    chutes

6).        I’d love to see Parchesi come to life. I played it with my Grandpa whenever he babysat me when I was little, and wouldn’t it be just incredible, to imagine that the four “pawns” from the game are really four children on a dangerous, remarkable mission? And they have to make it through 68 obstacles (spaces, in the game) in order to get back “home.”




7).        I would like to see Candy Land come to life with real candy/sweets at each stop. I would choose to be Gramma Nutt since she lives in a peanut brittle house on the corner of Candyland. I don’t think there would be much left of Gramma Nutt’s house by the end of the game. I’m sure I’d get hot playing this game, so I’d want to spend extra time at the bubbly Ice Cream Sea where Queen Frostine resides. My sweet tooth should be very happy by the end of the game.        candyland_

8).        I’d love to have a game like Jumanji come to life. The idea of falling into an “alternate world” and then have it pop into this one – especially with all those animals – I love it!



9).        So one of the favorite games in our house is WHO WHAT WHERE…you probably know it?  You pick a card from the WHO (famous person or creature), WHAT (activity), and WHERE (location) piles and then have to draw a scene that incorporates all three.  So, for example, you might have to draw Big Bird ice skating on the moon.  It is so much fun for every single person in the family…fun and often funny! I would love to see WHO WHAT WHERE come to life.  Can you imagine it?  You pull the cards and then the scene magically comes to life…life sized too!  You could watch it for a moment and jump in and ice skate with Big Bird!




10).      Minecraft! Not for myself, but for my kids. I actually think it’s a great game (in moderation!) for problem solving and design and spatial skills. If you could combine that with physical activity and a separatedimension for all the endless and tedious Minecraft conversations, that would be a huge win!




11).     I played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons when I was a teenager. My favorite character was Crafty Christina. She was a high-level thief, but chaotic good alignment, so she only liked stealing from rich, evil people and monsters. She was a gnome, and she rode a giant German Shepherd, who also helped her in battle. Camping and adventuring with a band of trusted friends… what could be better?

  Then and Now

12).      I’m a big gamer, so I’ll go with my current love, Lord of the Rings Online. When it comes to life, I will be a hobbit minstrel upon a white horse, healing everything in my path with my harp. Unless it makes me mad. If it makes me mad, I’ll put down my harp and shriek at it until it explodes.  lord13).      There’s a TV commercial where a man gets dropped into a life-sized version of Pac-Man, and my kids all think it’s just the coolest.





It got me thinking about my favorite video game as a kid: Q-bert. How fun would it be to jump around turning all the squares around you different colors? Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think it would be fun to watch someone ELSE jump around and I could offer encouragement from the sidelines. Life-sized Frogger would be amazing too, but only if the players don’t end up flattened when they make a mistake!




14).      I had a deck of “Old Maid” cards when I was a kid, and they had the most captivating (to me) illustrations. Half the time I ended up just using that deck to tell stories about the characters in the pictures. It would be riot, now, to see what those characters would say to each other if they could.










Thanks again for helping us celebrate the launch for Book Scavenger! A general winner as well as a winner for this post will be announced on June 8th!


Want to hide or find a book, or see the latest activity, visit Book Scavenger’s website!


You can buy your very own copy of Book Scavenger at these locations:




Books a Million


Barnes & Noble


Good luck!!





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From the Files of FOOTER DAVIS (and Friends)

Susan Vaught’s disarming, delightful, devourable middle-grade debut features a trio of young people who are truly worth spending time with. Luckily, in FOOTER DAVIS MIGHT BE PROBABLY IS CRAZY, we get a chance to know these wonderful characters intimately, as Susan lets us peek inside their journals. We get to read Footer’s school papers, complete with doodles, tangential thinking, and teacher commentary. We watch over her shoulder as she lists and crosses out information that’s key to her uncovering the truth about the fire. We keep track of Peavine’s detective journal, where he faithfully records all suspect interviews and makes his personal observations in the form of stage directions. We even get glimpses into Angel’s astronaut journal, when she puts her oar into the investigation.

Susan so deftly uses these devices to draw us ever deeper into the world of Bugtussle that it got us thinking: What other books do we love that make use of characters’ journals and notebooks as central elements of the stories?

From the nifty notebook of Penny Parker Klostermann:

I loved THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson. The main character, Lennie, writes poems on scraps of paper, lollipop wrappers, to-go cups, etc. The poems are interwoven in the story to give readers a glimpse of Lennie’s emotional journey as she deals with the untimely death of her sister. The inclusion of the poetry is powerful and moving.

In EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN by Lindsey Lane, main character, Tommy, disappears. We learn about Tommy from other characters that answer the sheriff’s questions and speculate about his disappearance. But Lane also includes excerpts from Tommy’s journal which add to the mystery of his disappearance.

From the dangerous diary of Mylisa Larsen:

One of my favorite uses of a notebook in a book is Vida’s (“My public calls me Velveeta.”) letters to Calvin in Bluefish.  You’ll have a couple chapters of narration and then you’ll read one of Velveeta’s letters and getting to see what happens to Vida from the outside (narration) and the inside (the letters) is fascinating.

From the marvelous missives of Megan Morrison:

Right now, I’m rereading MONSTER, by Walter Dean Myers – a powerful book about a young, black male who is on trial for murder. The protagonist, Steve Harmon, deals with the surreality of his situation by setting down every word and action of the experience as if it’s happening in a film. The book flips between the courtroom scenes, which are formatted exactly like a screenplay, and Steve’s personal journal, scrawled in his messy handwriting. The journal is where Steve becomes vulnerable and emotional, processing the horror of his situation on a more personal level. The journal is where he deals with the fact that, after court is finished each day, he has to face the realities of jail, where he might well be stuck forever.

From the fabulous files of Maria Gianferrari:

One of the most ingenious ways I’ve seen visuals incorporated into a story, literally, is in Jennifer L. Holm’s Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff. As the subtitle suggests, newspaper clippings, to-do lists, report cards, post-it notes, school assignments, even police blotters about garden gnomes and wheelchairs gone missing (thanks to Ginny’s older juvenile delinquent brother) are woven into the fabric of the story.

I also love the way Abigail, the protagonist in Nancy J. Cavanaugh’s Always, Abigail narrates the story through a variety of letters, both sent, and un-sent as well as her favorite to-do lists. Cavanaugh also does a similar thing to great effect in This Journal Belongs to Ratchet, where homeschooled Ratchet tells the story in journal form where she writes poems and completes her school assignments, making it an emotionally engaging and fast-paced read.

From the authorial archives of Laurie Ann Thompson:

The first one that comes to mind for me would have to be the delightful Ellie McDoodle series, starting with Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel, by Ruth McNally Barshaw. Here’s a bit of that first book’s description:
Twelve-year-old Ellie McDougal, aka McDoodle, is a prisoner. Sentenced to a week-long camping trip with her aunt, uncle, and cousins, she is determined to hate every single minute of the experience. Thank goodness she at least has her sketch journal, in which she records all the excruciating details. Mosquito bites and trips to the Fred Moose Museum she can handle, but how will she keep her journal from falling into Er-ick the Enemy’s hands? And what will happen if-gasp-she actually starts having fun? Part graphic novel, part confessional journal, part wilderness survival guide, Ellie’s story is a treat for young campers, vacationers, or any kid looking for a great summer read.
I loved it, my sketchpad toting kid loved it, and everyone who has met Ruth can’t help but love her, too, so this one will always have a special place in my heart.


And finally, from the lyrical letters of Tamara Ellis Smith:

I second Ellie McDoodle!

And we all second, third, and fourth FOOTER DAVIS!

Footer Davis CvrWelcome, FOOTER, to the ranks of these unforgettable books.


Don’t forget, to enter the drawing for a free copy of FOOTER DAVIS MIGHT BE PROBABLY IS CRAZY, please comment on any post this week! 

You can also buy your own copy of Footer Davis at The Flying Pig BookstoreIndie BoundBarnes & Noble, or Amazon!


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