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BOOK REVIEWS, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, LOVELACE Nominee 2015-16, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations, The Arts, Young Adult Readers

ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein…LOVELACE Nominee Division I 2015-16

Escape from Mr Lemoncello's Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was a sensational read.  For fans of the Winston Breen series it provides an interesting spin on both game-playing AND on reading!  The premise is that the famous Luigi Lemoncello (famous for his gaming empire–both board AND video games) was originally inspired by Mrs. Tobin, the librarian in his hometown of Alexandriaville.  That library was torn down and the children in Alexandriaville have never had the privilege of having their own library in town.

Mr. Lemoncello has set out to change all of that by building the most spectacular library in existence in his hometown. Middle school students have been invited to submit essays detailing why they would like to be the first to enter the library, and the chosen few will be allowed early entrance in an overnight lock-in.  Little do the children know that the “lock-in” is much more than it first appears.

Kyle Keeley has little interest in libraries or writing essays.  He does, however, LOVE games. HIs half-hearted attempt to be included in the early entrance to the library has ramifications he could never have envisioned when he carelessly jots his one-sentence essay on a piece of paper.

Lemoncello’s Library is filled with puzzles and codes–all based on the books in the library.  Students will get a thrill reading this story as they come upon references and clues intertwined with books and authors that will be familiar to them.  This is a great way to help students start a reading list, simply by using books names in the story.  The books range in scope from Doreen Cronin’s Click, Clack, Moo to E. L. Konigsberg’s The Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler, and from Edgar Allan Poe, the creator of the detective story to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of Sherlock Holmes.  I found myself wanting to re-read books mentioned in the course of the hunt for the escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.

This is an easy read with accessible language that never patronizes the reader, solid, easily identifiable characters and a subtle underlying theme of the integrity of honest collaboration built around a challenging brain-teaser.  This successfully drives the plot and maintains a quick, urgent pace which parallels the competition occurring between the characters.  A fun read on its own, Grabenstein has provided a remarkable springboard for independent reading exploration long after this story has finished.


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