Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's LibraryEscape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
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.

View all my reviews


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!


  1. I loved visiting our local library as a kid, but I was scared of the bathrooms. They were old and dark and full of clanking pipes and doors that didn't always stay shut. So I always avoided using the bathroom--until the day my mom forced me to go because we had a long drive ahead of us. I ran in, slammed the stall door shut, and rushed to finish as quickly as possible. That's when I noticed something scribbled on the back of the door: a list of My Favorite Books. Someone had written their favorites ON THE DOOR. And many of their favorites were my favorites, too. So the next time I needed to use the bathroom, I took a pen with me and added a book to the list. When I went back, the list had grown. I kept adding titles, and so did someone else--until the library got renovated, and the doors were replaced. Our list was gone for good. I never met the kid (or grownup) who was adding to the list, but I'd like to think they missed it as much as I did. The sparkly new bathroom just wasn't the same!

  2. Oh man, this just leapfrogged to the top of my TBR list!

  3. Great review. Adding this to my TBR pile for sure! And Melanie Conklin - that is an AWESOME story.

  4. The summer I was twelve, I checked out a stack of books every few days. After a few weeks, a concerned librarian gently suggested that there should be more to summer than reading. I said was also riding my bike and going to the local pool. Which was true. I didn't tell her I was mostly biking to the library and back, then hanging by the pool and reading! But looking back on it, it was very kind of the librarian to take an interest in the well-being of a gawky, introverted 12-year-old.

    1. Marianne, That's a touching story. Biking and reading by the pool sounds like the perfect summer to me. Thanks for sharing.


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