Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein (2013)

In the traditions of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, comes another fun intellectual adventure for middle graders that will be ideal for big readers. Others, I think, will probably be bored.

Kyle Keeley is a bit of a goofball who has landed himself a solid grounding after breaking a window of their house after trying to win a scavenger hunt game with his brothers. Games are Kyle’s favorite thing, and he would do just about anything to win them. In fact, when he finds out that there is an essay contest for all 12 year olds in his town to be part of the first group of kids to experience the brand new town library at a lock-in, he’s determined to get a spot among the winners. And this library is unlike any public library before it — because the man behind the library desk is Mr. Luigi Lemoncello, world famous gamemaker extraordinaire, basically Kyle’s biggest hero.

After some determined finagling, Kyle lands himself a spot among the lucky, along with his best friend and 10 other kids from his school. The library is everything the group could have hoped for, and after an awesome day and night, the kids wake up to find that the adventure has only just begun. Because before they can go home, they have to win Mr. Lemoncello’s biggest game yet — how to escape from the library.

This thing is chock full of literary references, and not just to old classics, but to modern stories that today’s kids have actually heard of and read! It’s a fun mystery that they can try to solve along with Kyle and his buddies, but I don’t think it’s one that will have wide appeal. There are certain kids I can already think of that will love it, but also a lot I know who would roll their eyes. It’s been on a ton of readers’ choice award lists in the past couple years, but I think that’s mostly due to the fact that most of those committees are made up of — you guessed it — librarians, and we are an easily swayed bunch.

1.5 stars


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