‘The Island of Dr. Libris’ by Chris Grabenstein: Middle grade scifi


Rating: 4 stars

“The Island of Dr. Libris” is a cleverly conceived story that kids from fourth grade through middle school might enjoy. It’s by Chris Grabenstein, author of last year’s popular “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.” It’s a perfect summer read — the whole story takes place during twelve-year-old Billy Gillfoyle’s summer vacation.

The prospect of a summer spent with his mother, who is working on her dissertation, in a cabin with no television or even a computer, is not a cheerful one. And when Billy breaks his only electronic device — his precious iphone — he knows it’s going to be a long summer. His father is not with them — and it looks like his parents just can’t get past their differences.

The cabin belongs to Dr. Libris, a professor at his mother’s school. In Dr. Libris’ study are bookshelves filled with all kinds of books — mostly classics. So he finally resorts (at his mother’s suggestion) to reading books. But the strangest thing happens when Billy begins to read.

As he is reading about Hercules and the Antaeus, the rock man, he begins to hear the dialogue and the action in his mind. And then he realizes that the voices are not just in his mind — he really hears them.

The mystery deepens when no one else hears the voices. He realizes that the voices come from Dr. Libris’ island, and he decides to investigate.

Alternating with the story are the lab notes from Dr. Xiang Libris explaining — in a vague kind of way — what is happening. The reader doesn’t find out exactly what is going on until near the end, but the notes allow the reader to understand that some kind of wild experiment (and perhaps a profitable one) is being performed. And Billy is the test subject.

Through Billy’s adventures, readers will “meet” Robin Hood and Maid Marian (and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham), The Three Musketeers, Hercules, Jack and the Giant, and Pollyanna. Billy makes a friend, foils the bad guys (both fictional and real), and brings his parents back together.

Not bad for what started out as a boring summer!

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Dial, for review purposes.