Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Wordsmiths, Cardsharks, & Avatars: Books with Game-Players - February 2012

Selected and annotated by Lauren Chenevert

Benz, Derek & J.S. Lewis.  Revenge of the Shadow King.  Orchard, 2006.  384p.  Gr. 5-8.
When the four eleven-year-old members of The Order of the Grey Griffins discover a magical card game, they must employ every ounce of luck and strategy they possess to prevent the characters depicted on the game’s cards from taking over their real-life small town. 

Gorman, Carol. Games.  HarperCollins, 2007.  279p. Gr. 4-7. 
Eighth-grade bullies Mick and Boot have a knack for getting in fights—Mick employs vicious words, while Boot favors his fists.  As punishment, the school principal hands down the unlikeliest of sentences: the boys must play games together for several hours each day. 

Hautman, Pete. All-In. Simon, 2007. 181p. Gr. 9-12.
Left for broke in Las Vegas after a rigged game, teenage poker player Denn Doyle must bet his way back to the top to find out why he’s been turned against.  Equal parts Vegas glitz and suspenseful mystery, Denn’s journey climaxes with a high-stakes, $1.2 million dollar poker tournament faceoff with archenemy Artie Kingston. 

Henderson, J. A.. Bunker 10. Harcourt, 2007.  253p.  Gr. 7-9. 
At the Pinewood Military Installation, experimental genetic mutation has suddenly gone very, very wrong—and seven teenage residents pay the price in a catastrophic explosion.  Gaming technology meets science fiction in this action-packed, page-turning tale. 

Kostick, Conor.  Saga. Viking, 2008.  368p.  Gr. 7-10.
Video gamer Erik isn’t quite sure what to make of Saga, an addicting virtual-reality world that feels all too real when the game’s Dark Queen tries to enslave those inside.  Philosophical questions of “realness” coupled with suspenseful action create a doubly satisfying science fiction adventure. 

McGuiness, Dan. Pilot and Huxley: The First Adventure. Graphix/Scholastic, 2011. 64p.  Gr. 2-4.
When Pilot and Huxley forget to return their favorite video game to the rental store, the store’s alien owners zap them with the Deathbot 200 and send the boys careening into another dimension.  Pilot and Huxley’s imaginative adventure is complete with plenty of grossout humor and bright, full-color graphic novel illustrations. 

Nielsen, Susin.  Word Nerd.  Tundra, 2008.  256p.  Gr. 6-9. 
What could Ambrose, an overprotected and obnoxious seventh grader, possibly have in common with Cosmo, the ex-con living in the upstairs apartment?  Why, they’re both Scrabble aficionados, of course!  A humorous coming-of-age narrative that offers thoughtful writing and sound character development. 

Powell, Laura. The Game of Triumphs.  Knopf, 2011.  288p.  Gr. 7-10.
When Cat stumbles upon the Game Masters of Arcanum, she initially passes them off as nonsensical.  But when she discovers that their Game of Triumphs is real, she seizes the opportunity to risk it all to claim one of the Game’s momentous prizes—justice for her parents’ murder. 

Sachar, Louis. The Cardturner: A Novel about a King, a Queen, and a Joker.  Delacourte, 2010.  352p.  Gr. 7-12.
In this surprisingly compelling story—complete with intricate gameplay, family secrets, and a colorful cast of characters—seventeen-year-old Alton spends the summer serving as cardturner for his blind great-uncle Lester, who plays competitive contract bridge.

Wallace, Rich. Perpetual Check.  Knopf, 2009.  128p.  Gr. 7-10.
Two brothers, Zeke and Randy, have practically nothing in common, though they both enjoy a well-matched game of chess.  But when they meet in the championship of a weekend tournament, their sibling rivalry comes to a head—and both Zeke and Randy have a thing or two to learn about each other. 

Wolitzer, Meg. The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman.  Dutton, 2011.  304p.  Gr. 5-7.
The Youth Scrabble Tournament in Florida serves as the battleground for this narrative, as Duncan, April, Nate, and their Scrabble partners seek to prove their skills.  A funny, feel-good tale, with a healthy dose of Scrabble competition as well as thoughtful explorations of the non-Scrabble side of each character. 

Yang, Gene Luen. Level Up; illus. by Thien Pham.  First Second/Roaring Brook, 2011.  160p.  Gr. 7-10.
After the death of his father, Dennis Ouyang’s video game-playing habit becomes an all-consuming fixation.  With a muted color palette, this graphic novel explores the father-son relationship and the tension between a carefree childhood and an adulthood full of responsibility.