Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

IMG_0860I’d been hearing a lot of buzz on the internet about this book and how it would be a great read aloud story to share with a classroom.  I didn’t know much about it except that it took place in a library, so I decided to go find it and check it out.  I’m so glad I did, and now I AM reading it to my new students as we kick off the school year!

Kyle Keeley is a seventh grader in Alexandriaville, Ohio.  It’s a small town that hasn’t had a public library in twelve years, so kids who are Kyle’s age have grown up without a library their whole lives. Kyle has two older brothers; one is a jock, the other a genius.  Kyle excels at playing games of all kinds, but he’s not that into school, or sports, or reading.  Until…he finds out that the master gamemaker, Luigi Lemoncello is the man who is paying to have a brand new library built in Alexandriaville! Mr. Lemoncello is one of Kyle’s heroes and the creator of games such as Squirrel Squad, Family Frenzy, and the Indoor-Outdoor Scavenger Hunt.  He makes card games, video games, board games, puzzles, games with secret codes… you name it, he’s done it.  Suddenly Kyle has to scramble to finish that extra credit essay assignment that he blew off, because that essay was for a contest to be able to spend the night in Mr. Lemoncello’s new library!

Twelve twelve-year-olds are selected to experience the state-of-the-art library before the general public will be allowed inside.  The book is a cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Night at the Museum.  The kids are becoming a part of an even bigger game, and the library is coming to life around them while they explore.  Mr. Lemoncello is very much like a Willy Wonka-type character, appearing randomly to give out clues and run the game. (Pay careful attention to how Mr. Lemoncello speaks in book titles and see how many you can identify.  That by itself is kind of like another side game while you read!)  Players are eliminated along the way (though nobody has to go to the juicing room after chewing blueberry bubble gum!) and competition grows fierce as the children race to collect the clues that will help them to escape the library.

Here’s the coolest part though: At the end of the book, there is a note from the author.  He says that there is another puzzle in the story, one that was hinted at, but not used.  The clues are there, and it is up to the reader to figure it out.  If you can solve the puzzle and email the author the correct answer, you can win books for yourself and your favorite library.  You have until January 1, 2014 to play, so get to reading!  I think I’m on the right track, but I’m not telling…

Read this book if you’re a Wonka fan, or if you love mysteries, puzzles, adventures, and balloons!  This is a fast book to read because it is so hard to put down and force yourself to stop.  I read it in a day when it was too hot to do much else than to lay around quietly and not move too much.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library has an AR level of 4.5 and is worth 7 points.