Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library – Chris Grabenstein

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Blurb:  Kyle Keeley is the class clown and a huge fan of all games – board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most famous and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the town’s brand-new super library that is as much a home for tech and trickery as it is for stories. Kyle is lucky enough to win a coveted spot as one of twelve kids invited for a puzzle-packed lock-in on the library’s opening night, hosted by Mr. Lemoncello. But when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret riddle to find the hidden escape route . . . !

 

I’ll be keeping this one on the shelf I’m building for Minishine and Babybows for when they are older.

It is a joyous romp through the world of literature and libraries, cleverly aimed at a generation who may be more familiar with computer games (in both content and structure), and incorporating the joy of board games and old-fashioned puzzles along the way.  Basically adult approval is guaranteed because it is practically educational, yet at no point does the story get bogged down with stuffiness or preaching:  just action, puzzles and friendship-building all the way.

There are obvious comparisons to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which are acknowledged throughout the book with subtle nods and outright comments on the subject.  As well as the similar plotline, there is the same exuberant gleeful childishness in both works.  However whilst Roald Dahl’s classic was about the various vices of naughty children and their comeuppance, rewarding the ‘pure of heart’, Chris Grabenstein’s novel is an ode to teamwork and cooperation which shows the various individuals breaking their stereotypes in order to combine their strengths and share in the outcome.  The only children to ‘lose’ altogether are the ones who choose to lie, cheat and steal in order to further their own ends at the expense of others.

My only gripe with this book was that the puzzle of the main plotline could only be solved alongside the characters because you needed their uncovering of the clues in order to make sense of what was happening, whereas I would have liked more puzzles that the reader could solve for themself as they went along.  Still, the reliance on the work of others in order to resolve the problem fits with the core moral of working together, so I can’t really complain about the reader being made part of the team too!  And the author throws in side puzzles and quizzes for the competitive reader along the way.

All-in-all I can thoroughly recommend this book for 8 to 12 year olds who love books, games or gaming.  And I can safely recommend it to their parents too!

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

– Chris Grabenstein, Escape From Mr Lemoncello’s Library

Find more from Chris Grabenstein at his website here, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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