Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's LibraryInformation

Goodreads: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: June 25, 2013

Official Summary

Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library has a clear audience: anyone who likes books.  So it should be a great choice for anyone reading this blog (You like books, right?  And libraries?). Grabenstein works to grab potentially more reluctant readers, as well, by combining this topic with the fun of board games and the cleverness of puzzles and puns.  He brings readers not just into a library, but into Mr. Lemoncello’s library, which is filled not only with the latest technology (holograms, touchscreens, smartboards, etc.) but also with secrets.

The plot centers on a group of children who have been “trapped” in Mr. Lemoncello’s library and must follow a series of hidden clues in order to escape.  All kinds of fun ensues as the children battle with wits and literary knowledge to be the first one out the door.  In many cases, however, the puzzles are not ones that readers can figure out along with the characters.  Kyle and his friends often use their knowledge of Mr. Lemoncello’s board games to solve their way through clues.  While many of these games are clearly based on real versions (modified Trivial Pursuit, for example), they remain fictional and readers cannot be as immediately familiar with them, their rules, and their secret shortcuts as the characters.  However, there are a few straight-up puzzles, like rebuses, and plenty of trivia questions that occasionally allow readers to get in on the game.

The plot is generally interesting, particularly if one likes books and enjoys literary allusions and puns.  Things briefly slow in the middle of the novel, as the children spend several chapters tracking down a series of Dewey Decimal numbers and their corresponding books.  Eventually, even the characters seem to realize they could have completed this task much more quickly, if they had formed a more efficient plan of action.  After that is settled, however, the pace picks up again and the race is back on through the world’s most surprising library.

As a bonus, the game the children play is not as cut-throat as many of the reality games readers may be used to.  Mr. Lemoncello’s contestants are rewarded for good sportsmanship and penalized or even disqualified for breaking the rules (or people, or things).  It is immensely refreshing and encouraging to find a game that is truly based on and won with brainpower, not sneakiness or force.  Young readers will be reminded of the positive impact their kindness and honesty can have in their lives, while readers of any age will smile to see a situation where all good deeds go rewarded.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is not quite as quirky or clever as other middle grade novels striving for the same effect (The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart and The Name of the Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch come to mind), but it is a fun and slightly wacky read. Recommended for readers of all ages, both those looking to revel in their love of books and those seeking to discover what makes books exciting.

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8 thoughts on “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

  1. DoingDewey says:

    It’s too bad the reader can’t get in on all of the puzzles, but I agree with you that it’s refreshing to see a book in which intelligence is rewarded. It also just sounds like a really fun premise 🙂


    • Briana says:

      It’s a problem I have with a lot of mysteries: not being given the information to solve the mystery. I would think trying to figure it out along with the characters is the fun part, but so often the information needed is something only the characters can know.

      Despite that, however, the book is fun, and, as I said, there are a few puzzles and trivia questions that readers can join in on!


        • Briana says:

          I’m always reminded of one Sherlock Holmes story where Holmes literally walks off and finds evidence and interviews people while the readers are stuck with Watson. Then Holmes comes back and explains how he solved the case. How do I have any chance of solving the mystery like that???


    • Briana says:

      I never did anything at our library besides the summer reading program. They’re being a lot more active in planning children’s and teen activities now that I’m too old to participate, though.

      Mr. Lemoncello’s library is interesting, though, because it’s really built to be a “media center” or whatever we’re “upgrading” libraries into. The characters who designed it do seem interested in promoting books, but the biggest attractions of the library really seem to be things like the immersive (supposedly educational) video games/


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