Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
By Chris Grabenstein
Published 2013 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Kyle is a gamer - and not just video games (though they're his favorites). When he learns that his favorite game creator, Luigi Lemoncello, has built the new public library and is letting 12 lucky kids be the first to enter it, he has to be one of them. And he is. What will Kyle discover in the game-filled new library?
I feel like I am one of the only people on the planet who has read and loved Grabenstein's earlier mystery series for kids (it begins with The Crossroads). I loved them because they were actually scary and mysterious but also fun and full of heart. So, when his new book started getting tons of rave reviews, it was a no-brainer for me to pick it up. I wasn't disappointed.
This is a super-fun, fast-paced adventure mystery that I can definitely see kids getting into. Grabenstein has really created a puzzle for book lovers and I can think of a number of my young patrons who fit that description. What really makes this book a stand-out for me is exactly that. This is an ode to children's books, of all shapes and sizes, and I loved that. I think it's all too easy for adults to forget how much these books mattered to them as kids and to write off what their children read as too silly or juvenile. My fiercest desire is that adults embrace children's literature for what it is: literature, sometimes life-changing, sometimes heart-breaking. Grabenstein is clearly an adult who's done so.
In addition, I think with the varied cast of characters, kids will be able to find someone they relate to and can root for among them. While none of them are true standouts, I don't really think they are the heart of the book. For me, the heart of the book is the love of learning it teaches. This book actually does teach kids quite a bit - a lot about the library and how it works, how to find things, the importance of careful research, and more. What's most exciting is that it does it through very fun puzzles and games, which, if you've been in the presence of a child, you know is the key to getting them to learn things.
Overall, a very fun read. I hope Mr. Grabenstein writes more mysteries like this!