‘Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library’ by Chris Grabenstein

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Rating: 4 stars

“Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” is author Chris Grabenstein’s paean to children’s literature. Not only does most of the story take place in the most amazing (fictional) library ever imagined, throughout the story Mr. Lemoncello — a very Willie Wonka-type character — peppers his speech with book titles and references to book titles. Mostly children’s books, of course.

The protagonist, Kyle Keeley, is not much of a reader. He’s really more into playing games — all kinds of games. He likes board games and computer games and video games. He plays action games with his brothers. His hero is Luigi Lemoncello, the genius game-maker. Reading and homework? Not so much fun.

But when he finds out that the extra credit homework essay is his chance to win an early entrance into the brand new library (courtesy of Luigi Lemoncello) with an all-night lock-in and lots of games, he’ll do almost anything to get in.

Librarians are the new super-heroes in this book, and books lead the way to solving the puzzle and winning the prize. Along the way are booby-traps, surprise bonus prizes and video cameras watching the twelve twelve-year-old children competing (honestly or not) to win the final prize.

As the plot unfolds, Kyle finds many books that he decides he might just want to read. And the dialogue will make anyone familiar with children’s books smile. For example, when they figure out a clue, Lemoncello says, “You are correct! There’s no dead end in Norvelt, not today!” and “The correct answer is — and not just because of Winn-Dixie — D) all of the above!”

Sharing and cooperation are good, and cheating and poor treatment of books are bad (librarians will love that last one!); these are just a couple of the author’s terrific messages. Also: reading is the key to knowledge, and knowing the Dewey Decimal System might just help you if you are ever stuck in a library.

This would be a great read aloud for fourth or fifth grade classes (although middle school kids, too, will enjoy this one). Also be sure to read “The Island of Dr. Libris” by Grabenstein.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Random House Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.