The best books with a fun competition/game aspect at the heart of the story

Who am I?

Kim Long loves to write stories with a sense of adventure, a dash of magic, and a hint of science. Her debut, Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament, was a 2021-2022 Texas Bluebonnet Master List Selection. She loves board games, scavenger hunts, and puzzles, so books with aspects of those elements have always appealed to her. Every book recommended below has at least one of those elements, and the great news is that it's also the first in its series, so if you fall in love with the first book, there’s a good chance you’ll love the others, too!


I wrote...

Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament

By Kim Long,

Book cover of Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old physics whiz Lexi Magill won't let anything stop her from winning Wisconsin's Teleportation Tournament—the annual competition where teams teleport around the world to solve STEAM-based puzzles. She needs the prize money to re-enroll in the science academy her parents can no longer afford. 

Castles, museums, and labyrinths await as Lexi and her team attempt to stay on course and outwit their competition. The perfect adventure for middle grade readers who like scavenger hunts and puzzle-solving.

The books I picked & why

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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

By Chris Grabenstein,

Book cover of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Why this book?

I love the puzzle-solving aspect of this book. The reader can try and solve the puzzles along with the characters or just read along and see how the kids figure it out. Lots of different personalities are represented, and while the library is somewhat “fantastical” in its high-tech visuals and gadgets, the story is very much grounded in our world. It’s a fun ride!


The Gollywhopper Games

By Jody Feldman, Victoria Jamieson (illustrator),

Book cover of The Gollywhopper Games

Why this book?

I love the idea of a competition run by a game/toy factory that is its own game that requires solving all kinds of different puzzles. There are brainteasers the reader can try and solve on their own, but it’s also a blast sitting back and reading how the competitors navigate other puzzles, like an obstacle course and maze. Family and friend relationships also play an important role as the main character strives to come out the winner!


The Candymakers

By Wendy Mass,

Book cover of The Candymakers

Why this book?

Told in alternating points of view by several characters as they compete in a national competition to find the tastiest confection in the country, this book lets the reader into the minds of all the main competitors. The enemy isn’t really the enemy once we get to know their feelings and thoughts. Being in a candy factory is an added bonus, as it’s such a unique location.


Book Scavenger

By Jennifer Chambliss Bertman,

Book cover of Book Scavenger

Why this book?

I love how this book has a game theme but isn’t limited to a specific location. Instead, the main characters travel throughout San Francisco to compete in Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). The reader can play along and there is a deeper mystery to solve—who attacked the game’s creator and can the culprit be caught before another attack is made?


Race the Wild: Rain Forest Relay

By Kristin Earhart,

Book cover of Race the Wild: Rain Forest Relay

Why this book?

This is a great chapter book series for younger readers with competition at its heart. This first book takes place in the Amazon rainforest, and teams have to navigate survival challenges and brain puzzles to win. The main character also has to deal with changing friendships as he worries his friends (who are on a different team) may be cheating. Overall a fun, fast-paced adventure!


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