Book Review: Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Posted March 12, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Middle Grade
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on June 25, 2013
Pages: 293
Format: eBook
Source: the library

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First in the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library adventurous mystery series for middle-grade readers and revolving around a gamesman’s sense of fun. The focus is on the cheeky young Kyle Keeley, an adoring fan, who lives in Alexandriaville, Ohio.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library has won or been nominated for a multitude of awards: In 2016, it won the Grand Canyon Reader Award for Intermediate, the Golden Sower Award for Chapter Book, the Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award for Junior Division, the Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award, the William Allen White Children’s Book Award, the Magnolia Award, the Virginia Reader’s Choice for Elementary, the Mark Twain Readers Award, and the Volunteer State Book Award for Intermediate (3–5).

In 2015, Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library won the Garden State Book Award, the Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award for Grades 4–6, the Blue Hen Book Award for Best Children’s/Young Adult’s Novel, the Maine Student Book Award, the Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award for Juvenile Books, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award, and the Rhode Island Children’s Book Award.

In 2014, it won the Sunshine State Young Readers Award for Elementary (Grades 3–5), the Great Stone Face Award, and the Buckeye Children’s Book Award for 3–5.

In 2013, it won the Agatha Award for Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was nominated in 2016 for the Bluestem Book Award and the Young Hoosier Book Award, in 2015 for the Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award for Grades 6–8, and 2014 for the Anthony Award for Best Children’s or Young Adult Novel.

It’s also a television movie released in 2017 by Nickelodeon.

My Take

It’s all about learning, never giving up, and the importance of working as a team…and how fabulous the library is…especially once you learn how to use it! Grabenstein turns it all into a game, a great game that could inspire your own kids to make use of the library…or at least the idea of how knowledge can be useful. Lord knows, Grabenstein had me stumped on a number of clues.

I’d have to agree with the assessment that Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a “cross between [Roald Dahl’s] Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and [the film and novelization of] A Night in the Museum”, as “Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters … with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience” with interactive possibilities. It’s helpful that he uses a third person omniscient point-of-view to allow us to “listen in” to the thoughts and feelings and “watch” the actions of different kids as they pursue the game.

I did love the concept of the initial scavenger game the boys played, although I’m not sure parents would be too pleased with it. Then again, it focuses on a young man who isn’t big on books, but does adore games of all sorts. If this adventure can get Kyle to want to read, well… I had to laugh as Kyle keeps finding books he wants to read…YES!!

I suppose you could consider this a fantasy book as well, since the too-funny Mr. Lemoncello is too odd for words, and as for a world-famous librarian…? Well, who’da thunk? And the money spent on the library…whoa!! Then all those parents being cool with their kids having to “escape” the library? Only in books, lol.

I do like Kyle, and he has quite a generous spirit. Grabenstein’s other characters run the gamut of types with those with a sense of responsibility, those who hide behind a mask, those with a “superior” air, and the cheaters.

The story is FULL of foreshadowing, that was obvious to me afterwards! Better not count on me in these games!

”A library doesn’t need windows, Andrew. We have books, which are windows into worlds we never even dreamed possible.”

It’s going on my buy list! And if you want to encourage your kids to think outside the box and find learning fun, you’ll be picking it up too.

The Story

The real challenge isn’t getting IN to Mr. Lemoncello’s library, it’s getting OUT!

Twelve-year-old Kyle Keeley enters an essay contest and wins an overnight stay in his hometown’s new and technologically enhanced town library funded by Mr. Lemoncello, a game board creator.

Once inside the library, Kyle and his fellow essay winners discover they will need to play their way out of the library, using clues left by Mr. Lemoncello in the ultimate board game come to life!

The Characters

Kyle Keeley is twelve with a love for games…but not for books. Mike is his oldest brother, seventeen, and a high school superstar jock. Curtis is fifteen and the more intellectual of the three. Their parents are keen on the kids being active.

Kyle’s fellow students
Akimi Hughes is one of Kyle’s particular friends. The super enthusiastic Miguel Fernandez is president of the school’s Library Aide Society. Sierra Russell always has her nose buried in a book. Her parents have recently split up. The snooty, brown-nosing Charles Chiltington (his uncle, James F. Willoughby, III, is the head librarian of the Library of Congress) knows he’s the best. Andrew Peckleman is a library aide. Haley Daley is the class “princess”. Bridgette Wadge, Yasmeen Smith-Snyder, Sean Keegan, Rose Vermette, and Kayla Corson are more students who won the contest. Mrs. Dana Cameron is Kyle’s homeroom teacher. Mrs. Yunghans is the school librarian.

Mr. Luigi Lemoncello is a master game maker whose games are always a little goofy around the edges. Just like him. He was born in Alexandriaville into an Italian family with nine siblings. Dr. Yanina Zinchenko is a world-famous librarian who will be the new head librarian. Gail Tobin had been the librarian back when Mr. Lemoncello was a boy.

Twinky is the neighbor’s Doberman.

The Cover and Title

The cover is grayed-out color-wise in its minty greens, pinks, yellows, and blues. It’s definitely all about the game with its dot counters, die, and spin-the-wheel with the silhouette of kids interacting with the library. There’s one sitting atop a slanted “billboard” announcing the title in a combination of script font (in white) and a gradated yellow in a showy circus-type of font with a minty green balloon, all against a deep green background bordered in layers of white. It’s a clever way to announce the series information as well. There’s a gray striped kitty stretching atop a wooden bookcase and what looks like a vintage minty green phonograph horn silhouetted against a pale gray full moon in the upper right corner of a gradated green sky full of sparkling white stars and lines of those game counters in pastel colors. Below the “billboard” is a sweeping curve of staircase leading up with bookcases on either side and more game counters on the stairs and spreading out onto the floor. Another silhouette is pulling down hard on the arrow of the wheel on the lower right while another is walking along, engrossed in her book, and the fourth silhouette is prancing past the stairway. The author’s name uses the same circus-style font in white, centered at the bottom.

The title is the name of the game, Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.

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4 responses to “Book Review: Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

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