2014's Buckeye Children's Book Award winner for grades 3-5 was Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. I remember being excited for this book when it was published, simply because it took place in a library! After I read it, I wanted that library to be in every town in the world, it was so cool! Talking holograms? Flying lifts to get to a high shelf? A board game room?
Sign me up!
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library is mainly focused around a boy named Kyle, who has a hard time keeping pace with his impressive older brothers. Kyle looooves games, and is a big fan of Mr. Luigi Lemoncello, the world's best game maker. Kyle ends up applying for a chance to visit the new library in town (in Ohio! Wooo!), as it was made by Lemoncello and because he wants to get out of his most recent grounding for breaking a window. He wins, along with 11 other twelve-year-olds, and enters an amazing realm -- made all the more amazing, because the town hasn't had a public library for 12 years!
While in the library, the kids learn about the place, but also learn they are now a part of a game -- who can escape from the library, using clues hidden around the building? A few kids opt out, but the rest, including Kyle and his best friend Akimi, stay. Charles, a notoriously snobby boy whose ultimate goal is to win (no matter what), makes for some trouble, but Kyle starts to realize there is more at stake here than just prize money and fame.
One of my favorite things about this book is how Grabenstein incorporates book titles into phrases Mr. Lemoncello says throughout the story. It always made me smile when I stumbled across one. I also liked how many clues involved solving a rebus -- something not all kids know about, but many enjoy trying to figure out.
I also really liked how teamwork and positivity were rewarded, while scheming and cheating were not. Of course, I loved all the references to Dewey and other library knowledge. Even though Mr. Lemoncello's library doesn't actually exist, it gives kids a good idea of all the things they can use a library for.
There are many comparisons to Willy Wonka (Grabenstein himself makes the comparison in the story), and it's completely accurate. Just as Wonka knew that the other kids were horrible brats, Lemoncello is aware of which kids are playing the game the right way, and which ones are not. Both are also very eccentric and a bit odd, but all in a rather humorous way and are celebrated for their uniqueness.
I still haven't had a chance to read the sequel, Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics -- and now I hear a third one is in the works, Mr. Lemoncello's Great Library Race!
Please join us in our reading challenge! We welcome anyone at any time! :)
For more information, please see this post.