Book Review of Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Chris Grabenstein’s Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a really fun read! It was published this year, and I found it on many bestseller lists, and decided I had to check it out.

Book Review of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Gabenstein ~ What My Kids Read
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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was a truly entertaining and well-written book! It reminded me a lot of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Mysterious Benedict Society (reviews here, here, and here), and especially The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (which I just realized I have not reviewed on this blog yet). It’s about an amazing new library that is just about to open, but first, twelve lucky 12-year-olds will win a spot in an overnight lock-in at the library, designed by the brilliant game inventor, Mr. Lemoncello, but the children learn the next morning that the first night was just the beginning of their adventures. They are offered the opportunity to play a game to figure out a new way to leave the library. They only have 24 hours to find clues and leave the library to win a big prize. There are tons of references to various book titles and authors. This is definitely a book to inspire reading!

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is full of puzzles to figure out how the children can escape from the library. By the end of the book, you learn that there is one puzzle in the book (not in the story) that was not solved. If you can solve it, you should email the author. They will be drawing a winner on January 1, 2014. Read all about it here.

The morality was simple and clear in this book. Good behavior was rewarded and bad behavior was punished. The strongest language was from the spoiled rich boy who cheats. He calls people “losers” and thinks the main character is a “fool.” He is described as a “suck-up” and a “brownnoser.” The main violence is when the main character breaks a window, and when the bully of the story knocks the main character to the floor. In both cases, the violence is punished. There are lots of references to video games, mostly imaginary (invented by Mr. Lemoncello), and there are lots of books, some of which might not be ones you want your children reading (Bridge to Terebithia and The Hunger Games are mentioned, just to name two of the more controversial ones), but the controversial titles are not recommended, just mentioned in funny ways throughout conversation. Some parents might want to know that video games systems are referenced throughout the book. Although this is a middle school reading level book, I think even my seven-year-old would enjoy this as a read-aloud.

There is a study guide for this book on Chris Grabenstein’s website, if you are interested.

Book Review of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Gabenstein ~ What My Kids Read

My Mom-Meter gives Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library an overall safety rating of 1 (safe) for ages 7 and up.

The Lexile rating for Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is not listed.

Click here to skip to a Plot summary

Click here to skip straight to Potential Discussion Points

Click here for Liam’s Review

Category ratings (click on the category to see specifics):

Alcohol/Drugs: Safe - no actual four-letter words

BullyingModerately Safe

Disrespectful AttitudesSafe - no actual four-letter words

Gambling: Safe - no actual four-letter words

Gross Behavior: Moderately Safe

LanguageSafe - no actual four-letter words

Magic/SupernaturalSafe - no actual four-letter words

MoralitySafe - no actual four-letter words

Romance/SexSafe - no actual four-letter words

Scary ThemesSafe - no actual four-letter words

ViolenceSafe - no actual four-letter words

Plot summary of Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library: ***Contains Spoilers***

Kyle loves games, and he loves winning games. The book opens with him breaking a window in an effort to win a game against his two older brothers. When Kyle learns that the world’s greatest game inventor (Luigi L. Lemoncello) is behind the new library building and is hosting a library lock-in for twelve lucky twelve-year-olds as the library’s grand opening, he is determined to win a coveted spot at the lock-in. He had scribbled a half-hearted attempt at a last-minute essay to win a spot, but when he learned about the prize, he crafts a very careful essay and emails it in a last-ditch effort to redeem himself. Kyle does win a spot, prompting Mr. Lemoncello to tell Kyle, “The game is never over until it’s over.” The children spend a fun night in the library (once a grand bank), playing games and exploring the amazing library. They awaken the next morning to a new twist: Mr. Lemoncello has a game for them to celebrate his birthday. If the children choose to participate, they will have 24 hours to figure a way to leave the library without using the main entrance or any of the fire exits. There are clues and tips, some choose to leave instead of play, others are disqualified. 3 children leave immediately. One girl is disqualified when she uses a fire exit, one girl loses a challenge and is eliminated, one boy steals a girl’s library card and is disqualified, and a boy cheats and is disqualified. Kyle starts off teaming up with his best friend, a girl named Akimi. As the story progresses they pick up more teammates until they are a team of the five remaining players by the end. Kyle and Akimi choose to stop their pursuit of clues to help a girl (who is technically a competitor), and are rewarded with an extra clue. Kyle consistently does the right thing throughout the story and their team is rewarded for their good choices. The boys that choose to steal and cheat are punished. Kyle and his team all solve the puzzles together at the very end, and discover that there had been a bank robbery at that very bank during Mr. Lemoncello’s childhood, and the burglars had tunneled in. Once the children solve the puzzles, they escape just in time to win the prizes, which they intend to split.

Book Review of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Gabenstein ~ What My Kids Read

Potential Discussion Points for Parents in Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library:

  • Charles says that one of his family mottos is “Knowledge is power.” Also: “We eat losers for breakfast.” Do you think our family has any mottos? What do you think about the two Charles quotes? Are they mottos worth living by?
  • Mr. Lemoncello tells Kyle “The game is never over until it’s over.” What do you think he meant by that?
  • Charles tells Kyle that it was a mistake for Kyle to share his $500 gift card with his family. Later on, Kyle solves the puzzle because of the game his brother decided to buy that night. Do you think that Kyle wasted his gift card by sharing it with his family?
  • Charles tells Kyle “You should never help your competition… Unless, of course, you always play to lose!” Kyle ends up getting a bonus card for helping Haley. What if there hadn’t been any bonuses for helping Haley? Why was is the right thing to do?
  • Charles tells Andrew that if he doesn’t do what Charles wants him to, he will humiliate him. “Did I mention that I have three thousand Facebook friends? Two thousand Twitter followers? Each and every one of them will hear what a weenie and wimp you are if you don’t do this thing to guarantee our team wins.” Andrew gives in and steals Sierra’s library card to gain access to Kyle’s teams’ meeting room. What would you do if you were in Andrew’s shoes? Would you stand up to Charles or go along with his plan?

Alcohol/Drugs: None

Bullying:

  • Charles tells Andrew that if he doesn’t do what Charles wants him to, he will humiliate him. “Did I mention that I have three thousand Facebook friends? Two thousand Twitter followers? Each and every one of them will hear what a weenie and wimp you are if you don’t do this thing to guarantee our team wins.”

Disrespectful Attitudes:

  • Charles acts nice to adults when they are around, but doesn’t actually respect them.

Gambling: None

Gross Behavior:

  • “Adult’s droopy underpants” is an item on a scavenger hunt Kyle and his brothers play.
  • The book series, “Walter the Farting Dog,” is mentioned, and some animatronic geese at the library begin “farting” when the series is mentioned.
  • Mr. Lemoncello invented “smell-a-vision,” where you can “sack Rome with the Visigoths, you could smell the smoky scent of the burning city as well as the barbarian’s b.o.”
  • “A noise like a whoopee cushion” is mentioned.

Language:

  • “Nerd” is used a few times.
  • “Geek” is used a few times.
  • “Butt” is mentioned several times.
  • “Suck-up” is used several times.
  • Mr. Lemoncello’s funny shoes “burp-squeaked” many times.
  • “Gosh” is used once.
  • “Brownnoser” is used once.
  • Charles calls Kyle a “loser” many times.
  • Charles calls a girl “airhead” and “dumb girl.”
  • “Dumb” is used once.
  • “Idiotic” is used once.
  • “Chumps” is used once.
  • Charles calls Andrew a “weenie” and a “wimp.”
  • “Stupid” is used once.
  • Charles thinks that Kyle is a “fool.”

Magic/Supernatural:

  • There’s a tongue-twister that mentions witches. “If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?”
  • A Harry Potter book is mentioned (Goblet of Fire).
  • The Lord of The Rings is mentioned, and there is a trivia question about a horse in the series.
  • Sekhmet, the Egyptian lion goddess and warrior is mentioned. (from Rick Riordan’s book, The Red Pyramid)
  • Star Wars is referenced twice.
  • There is a joke that the librarian hologram that is based on Mr. Lemoncello’s childhood librarian, Mrs. Gail Tobin, is her spirit that lives on.

Morality: None

Potentially Offensive Behavior:

  • Metallic is mentioned. There is a 3-D concert in the IMAX theater, where dead and living musicians play together. “The best part was Mozart jamming with Metallica.”

Romance/Sex:

  • It is mentioned that Sierra’s parents are divorced and that her dad moved away. Sierra doesn’t have friends and spends all her time reading until she makes friends with Kyle and his team during the game.

Scary Themes: None

Violence:

  • Kyle breaks a window to get into the basement ahead of his brothers. He is grounded for a week, and 50 cents is deducted from his allowance for the rest of the year.
  • A video game is described as shooting squirrels at fighter planes.
  • Mr. Lemoncello invented “smell-a-vision,” where you can “sack Rome with the Visigoths, you could smell the smoky scent of the burning city as well as the barbarian’s b.o.”
  • Kyle and Charles are fighting over the book that has the last clue. Charles “body-checked” Kyle. “Slammed into him with his shoulder. Sent him flying, the book tumbling…”

Book Review of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Gabenstein ~ What My Kids Read

From a ten-year-old’s perspective: “I enjoyed this book! It reminded me of Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums because of all of the puzzles. It was a very brain-bending read! Even if you don’t like to read, you will enjoy this book because it doesn’t seem like a book. It seems like it is actually happening.”

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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

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