The Island of Dr. Libris
By Chris Grabenstein
Expected publication March 24, 2015 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Billy's summer is not looking so great. He's stuck in a lakeside cabin with just his mom, who is too busy working on her dissertation to spend much time with him. But when he reads a book from a particular shelf in Dr. Libris' library, everything changes. Soon, Billy is on the island in the middle of the lake with the characters from a book. But this can't be real - can it?
I've been a fan of Grabenstein's for a long time now and I really enjoyed Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, so it was a no-brainer for me to download and read the e-galley of his newest book.
It's also not difficult for me to imagine why this book exists - Grabenstein's last book was a big hit, particularly with librarians and other book-lovers, and he also co-authors a bestselling series with James Patterson. This book is another homage to books and reading, so I'm sure the publishers are counting on this being a hit as well.
Unfortunately, for me, this one just isn't as good. It doesn't have the same charm and fun as Grabenstein's previous title and, honestly, it feels a bit unfinished to me (which may simply mean that a sequel will come sooner or later). It shares many similarities with Grabenstein's previous books - short chapters, characters to whom it's easy to relate, and loving tributes to beloved characters and stories. But it just didn't work as well. I never really connected with Billy and the secondary characters never develop in their own right - Walter just felt like a sidekick rather than his own person, which is a shame. Notably absent is Dr. Libris himself. There are some memos included that are meant to give some indications of his character, but he doesn't really enter into the story directly and I felt like the story needed him. A lot of my unanswered questions might have been addressed had Dr. Libris actually played a role in the story. I never understood the motivation for Dr. Libris' experiment or how it would make him money - which is mentioned several times but never explained. Additionally, while Billy must figure out how to solve the problems he has unintentionally created for the characters, it's not the same as the puzzle-solving mysteries of Mr. Lemoncello. I had high hopes for this, but it just fell short for me.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.