For my first review, I’ve chosen a book that itself is an homage to libraries, children’s books, and the joy of reading: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein.
I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library aloud with Blaine (my 6th grader) this winter. It’s a fast-paced, light-hearted book about a group of twelve-year-olds who compete to solve a puzzle and escape from the town’s new library.
The book features a gamemaker/eccentric billionaire (Luigi Lemoncello) and a large cast of kid characters with distinct personalities. Since most of the action takes place in a 24-hour period, there’s not time for significant character development. Rather, the story focuses on how the kids learn to see each other’s strengths and work together as a team.
The overall puzzle is satisfying and there are many smaller “aha” moments along the way as the characters collect and decipher clues.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library makes for a fun read-aloud because it’s packed with references to children’s books—both classics and newly published books. Like the main character, Kyle Keeley, you’ll find yourself stacking up books on your “to be read” list. (In fact, the book on Mr. Lemoncello’s night stand was our next read-aloud. More about that later.) Although we read it together, my son could have easily read this book to himself, and I would not hesitate to give it to his younger brother.
Any book about an eccentric billionaire who sponsors a contest for kids in a fantastical setting calls to mind Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, of course. My boys and I read (or reread) that one last year as part of Gateway School’s All-School Read, so we enjoyed comparing the two books.
Blaine and I both give this book 4 stars (out of 5). It’s a bit predictable at times. Not the type of book that stays with you forever, perhaps, but it sure is fun.
If you like this book, I’m happy to report that the sequel (Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics) is already out. We’re looking forward to it!
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