My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Kyle Keely isn't a great student, but he loves games. In fact, he's good enough to beat his older brothers--even though he ends up grounded because of his creative solution. It's rumored that Kyle's favorite gamemaker, Luigi Lemoncello, is the mysterious benefactor behind the town's new library. Built under a veil of secrecy, the library's first tour will be awarded to twelve lucky kids.
Kyle rushes to submit his entry and wins one of the spots in the grand opening lock-in. But the next morning, the library's bank-vault-turned-front-door remains locked. The kids are invited to stay and find hidden clues that will lead to a secret exit. Will Kyle and his friends solve the puzzle before time runs out?
ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY is a book-lovers book. With a wink and a nod to CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, Grabenstein has created a world where books are as coveted as candy and library cards are golden tickets. I was captivated by the puzzles and had fun solving them with Kyle. There are many overt references to great children's books, but I delighted in the hidden references to some of my favorites, too.
Grabenstein has captured a universal truth of childhood--libraries are magic places. Growing up, my hometown library didn't have an IMAX dome or mag-lev book ladder boots, but it still felt like a wonder-filled world. I remember the twisting staircase that led to the basement-level children's room. The ceiling was low. Rows of books were arranged at eye-level. I'd sit on the floor with a Nancy Drew book in my lap as the radiator beside me rattled and belched a halo of warmth. Magic.
Like all great games, this book feels like it must be shared to be truly enjoyed. I can see it becoming a classroom read-aloud or used as an idea starter for a library treasure hunt. The best is yet to come with ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY as librarians and educators find ways to incorporate it into the lives of young readers.
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The Kidliterai are library lovers and know that you are too. Share your favorite childhood library memory in the comments.
We'd also like to hear from our librarian and teacher friends. Have you ever done a library or classroom book-themed treasure hunt? Please tell us about it.
Finally, if this book has inspired you to organize your own book-themed game, Chris Grabenstein has created a Lemoncello-style hunt for you. He's even given us the secret access codes (username: lemoncello, password: librariesrcool). Thanks, Chris!