‘Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics’ by Chris Grabenstein: middle grade novel


Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Kids both literary and adventurous loved “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein, and those kids will love the sequel, “Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics.” There is the same clever mixture of literary knowledge and mystery and double-crossing in this book as in the first story.

Kids all over the country think it was unfair to not allow everyone to play in the library games of Mr. Lemoncello, the famous and brilliant game maker. So he created a “Library Olympics” for kids all across the country. Of course, Kyle and his teammates are included, but it’s much more nerve-wracking to defend a title. Especially when they must face not only the challenges in the olympic games but the challenge of solving another mystery — where are the disappearing books?

Kids and adults will love the trivia that kids read as part of the game. One trivia questions is, “In 1985, Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic was banned from a school in Wisconsin because: the attic was cluttered and dangerous; the children in the book were filthy and never combed their hair; the book encouraged children to break dishes so they wouldn’t have to dry them; the book used foul language.”

Children (and maybe some adults) will definitely improve their vocabulary by reading this story. Mr. Lemoncello does not believe in talking down to children and includes some very juicy vocabulary words in his dialogue. “Quizzical, conundrum, egregious, heinous, atrocious” and more. Although to be fair, some of those were spoken by the goody-goody character Charles who uses pretentious words, often incorrectly, hoping to appear more erudite.

Mr. Lemoncello is not only brilliant, he is extremely childish, and the book is what Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory would be if it were set in a library instead of a candy-making factory. There are morals galore and an underlying theme that libraries are a bastion of freedom and that when books are censored, or banned, from libraries, that curtails our ability to freely read and express any thoughts at all. Even if they offend some people, all opinions and ideas are valuable.

This theme is perfect to combine with the study of any historical period when and where books were burned and banned. Think Nazi Germany, the Inquisition, and currently some middle Eastern countries and places like China. When ideas are censored, freedom is limited. And sometimes destroyed.

For another clever middle grade story by Grabenstein on books, read “The Island of Dr. Libris.”

Please note: this review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Random House Children’s Books for review purposes.