Friday, June 19, 2015

If Wonka Owned A Library

I was at the bookstore the other day getting a birthday present for a friend when I randomly found a book called Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.  The cover is awesome and colorful and the premise (a bunch of kids stuck in a fantastic library) sounded right up my ally.  How did it turn out?  As always SPOILERS AHEAD.
Kyle Keeley is in constant competition with his older brothers, and their favorite games are the ones by the eccentric Mr. Lemoncello.  Turns out that Mr. Lemoncello has donated the money to build a new public library and it is going to spectacular.  The local school holds an essay contest open to all 12 year olds that will be judged by the one and only Mr. Lemoncello.  Kyle decides to do a last minute essay, saying only "Balloons.  There might be balloons." as his reason for wanting to go to the grand opening.  Oddly enough Kyle, along with his friends Akimi, Miguel, the school suckup Charles, the dreamy bookworm Sierra, the underperforming Andrew, the popular Haley and five others all win a night in the library.  The kids all arrive at the library and are given library cards, all with two different books on them and are told that these are the "keys" to the library.  The kids are awed at what they see in the library.  There are 10 dewey decimal rooms, based on the dewey decimal system , various rooms dedicated to reading, genre's, high tech simulations, education and other various things.  The children play some games and win some prizes.  The next morning they are informed that if they choose, they may stay and play an epic game of escape the library.  5 kids decide to leave, leaving the seven remaining children to play the game.  The kids team up in various ways and find clues and puzzles to try and figure out the solution.  After either breaking rules, or losing Extreme Challanges it comes down to the final team of Kyle, Akimi, Miguel, Sierra and Haley.  The kids work together and find the solution, winning the grand prize of appearing in commercials for Mr. Lemoncello.  The kids learn that reading, kindness and teamwork are what it takes and they all live happily ever after for at least the year.
This was a pretty typical MG book.  It had all the various types of kids, the leader, the suck-up, the hanger on, the bookworm, the smarty, the popular girl, and the best friend.  We had choices to make of a moral nature, with good decisions being rewarded and bad behavior being punished.  Like I said pretty typical.  I'm not really sure what to say about the book.  It was a good idea, and was successful in some ways with the cool modern library combining the classic books with newer technology.  The puzzles were ok, though I wanted more of them and for them to be more concise.  I thought the characters were a little one note, and Mr. Lemoncello was a bit over the top for me.  The comparisons to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were inevitable and over all I think I like the chocolate factory a bit more for it's sheer craziness.  It was a good book, not a great book and I think I would enjoy it a lot more if I were a 12 year old.  The author did manage to stuff the story full of great book references both classic and modern and rally tried to show the merits of reading, while still acknowledging technology and it's appeal.  I give this book 6 out of 10 trivia cards and recommend it to middle grades everywhere.  Happy Reading Everybody?
What is your favorite game/puzzle based book?  What crazy Mr. Lemoncello game do you want to play?  How cool would it be to be able to sleep in a library?

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