Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is fun, fresh, and fast-paced.  The book is reviewed by Melissa G. at Sweet on Books.

What you need to know:

• Twelve 7th graders compete to be the first to find the secret passage out of their new public library.
• This story should appeal to both boys and girls, especially those who are reluctant readers.
• The kids compete in games of wit including trivia, anagrams, puzzles, and more.
• Local libraries can play their own version of Mr. Lemoncello’s library game by downloading the
Lemoncello-style Scavenger Hunt from Chris Grabenstein’s website.
• A comprehensive study guide is also available on Chris Grabenstein’s website.
• To learn more about Chris Grabenstein, check out the Sweet on Books interview with him.

Sweet Book Summary:

Fun, fresh and fast-paced, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a winner because it incorporates so many elements that appeal to both young readers and the adults buying their books. For kids, the characters are easy to relate to, the adventure is thrilling, the conflicts are realistic, the short chapters move quickly, and it’s filled with modern technology. Adults will enjoy giving this book to middle graders because it’s exciting without being violent, and while the characters can be mean, they are not truly cruel. On top of that, education, books and reading are held in high regard, the boy/girl relationships focus on friendship not romance, and good, old-fashioned things like board games and libraries are seen from a more modern, accessible perspective.

The excitement begins on page one when game-junkie, Kyle Keeley, is trying to outsmart his older brothers at Mr. Lemoncello’s Indoor-Outdoor Scavenger Hunt. That’s just the beginning, though, because the real thrills start when Kyle is one of twelve 7th graders selected to spend the night in the new public library. The old library closed the year they were born, and Mr. Lemoncello himself, who coincidentally grew up nearby, mourns that loss more than most. In fact, he’s the one who donated the millions to build the new library and he’s the one sponsoring the contest. Of course, when it comes to Mr. Lemoncello, things tend to get wacky and crazy. One overnight in the library turns into a weekend contest, but instead of getting in, these kids now have to figure out how to get out.

Kyle and the others search for clues using maps, holograms, advanced magnetic levitation, rebus, trivia, anagrams, and more. Just like on reality TV, some kids form alliances, and some of them scheme against each other. They are stereotypical in some ways – the dumb blond, the mean rich kid, the nonchalant, video-gaming boy – but as readers get to know them, they find that they shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover” because they’re not always what they seem to be at first glance. The pages are filled with references to books like The Phantom Tollbooth, The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and many more. Some references are obvious, and some are subtle, as when Mr. Lemoncello says, “And now, I must return to my side of the mountain…I have great expectations for you all!” Most of the main points are spelled out pretty clearly for the reader, including how Kyle comes to realize that reading a book can be like watching an IMAX movie in is head, the fact that Mr. Lemoncello resembles Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and that their lock-in is like The Hunger Games minus the bows and arrows.

This ode to libraries and books brings readers back to a time when libraries were wondrous places, but at the same time keeps them entertained with modern fun and games. It simultaneously embraces current day technology with old-fashioned techniques. By repackaging the original concept of the library with high-tech components, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library gives the next generation of readers what they want and librarians something that they need!

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