Rated Reads

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

by Chris Grabenstein

Rated: None

Ever since I turned the last page of this book, part of me has just wanted to sit down and write this: “What you’d get if you crossed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with The Westing Game and threw in a bunch of book references. Not perfect, but really good.”

That really does sum it up. But I suppose you want a plot, yes?

Mr. Lemoncello, of the title, is a world-renowned, slightly eccentric game maker. (Both of the board and electronic kind). He’s one of those self-made billionaires who want to give back to the community, which, in this case, is Alexandriaville, Ohio (another one of those “everywhere” states, like Kansas). The community’s library closed down 12 years ago, so some kids have gone their entire lives without a library (which really is sad). Mr. Lemoncello’s designed and paid for a new state-of-the-art (read: really cool technology integrated with the books; one of my favorite things was the floating elevator/ladder thing in the fiction section) library. And made a contest out of the grand opening.

Kyle Keeley is a seventh-grader in Alexandriaville and a huge fan of Mr. Lemoncello. So, of course, he had to get in on the contest (which is only open to seventh-graders). And he does, along with 11 other 12-year-olds. The contest itself is twofold: the first part is to get in to the library. The second part — and the bulk of the book — is getting out. The contestants need to solve a puzzle in order to get out, and the winner gets something … big.

This is where those comparisons I mentioned at first come in. The characters are very Charlie-esque, fitting into their stereotypes (Sierra as the Bookish Girl, Andrew as the Jerk, Charles as the Entitled One, Kyle as Charlie, and so on) so the story unfolds as it should. I would complain about the use of stereotypes, but it worked in this setting. I rooted for the kids I was supposed to and cheered when the ones I loathed got booted.

But the GAME. The game was clever and fun and fantastic. I tried to figure it out as I went along, but I’m not as observant as some readers, so I didn’t get it before the characters did. No matter: I enjoyed being along for the ride. And the LIBRARY — with its holo windows on the ceiling and holographic displays — is a 21st-century dream. I so want someone to build this.

And the book references were amazing. I’m sure I didn’t get them all, but the ones that I did get, I loved. It’s the perfect mix for me: bookish, fun, and whimsical.

I just hope there are kids out there who will enjoy it as much as I do.

Rated: None

— Reviewed by Melissa Fox

Melissa Madsen Fox's blogging career began in 2004 when she started Book Nut. Reading, reviewing and book blogging have taken over what's left of her life after being a stay-at-home mom to four rambunctious daughters and wife to a slightly- absent-minded professor of political science.

One Response to Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

  1. […] Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein. A friend who really knows her YA/middle-grade stuff loved this, so I thought I’d check it out for myself and my 11-year-old. I got it from the library, handed it over to my young book-devourer, then enjoyed it after she did. It’s everything you’d want from a book for young readers: fun, clever, kind of adventurous, and highly imaginative. It made me and my daughter both wish there was a real library as amazing as the one imagined by Grabenstein. Every town needs a Mr. Lemoncello with deep pockets and a desire to give back to the community via a well-appointed library. […]

  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
  • by Chris Grabenstein
  • Rated: None
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: