Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library - by Chris Grabenstein

The fictitious town of Alexandriaville, Ohio has been without a public library for twelve years. The old library had been "torn down to make room for an elevated parking garage...many said the Internet had rendered the 'old-fashioned' library obsolete." To celebrate the opening of the new town library (designed by famous game-maker, and most favorite native son, Mr. Luigi Lemoncello) all twelve-year olds are invited to enter a contest to be the first to get library cards and to spend the night at the library. Kyle Keeley along with eleven of his classmates win much more than they bargained for when they learn that getting out of the library will require them to use their library skills, game skills, and to cooperate with each other. 

Kyle and his friends learn that the library has a lot more to offer than shelves full of books. They archive local history, have community meeting spaces, games, and cool science-y stuff as well. They also have librarians who will help you find what you need (and in fact, I must point out that Grabenstein dedicated this book to "the late Jeanette P. Myers, and all the other librarians who help us find whatever we're looking for").

I loved that two of the characters (Miguel and Andrew) were aides in the school library, and I also liked that the team Kyle formed had more girls and than boys on it. So often in popular culture I notice that groups of friends have one token girl (think "Harry Potter") but this one had a nice mix, with everyone in the group able to contribute something, and everyone able to learn something as well. 

There were two cool librarians in this work: the town's new head librarian Dr. Yanina Zinchenko described as tall with a breathy voice "with just a hint of a Russian accent." The other is Mrs. Gail Tobin, librarian when young Luigi Lemoncello was a lad who "looked a little like Princess Leia...except she had an old-fashioned bubble-top hairdo, cat's-eye glasses, and a tweed jacket with patches on the elbows...she'd be a hundred and ten if she were still alive." She appears as a hologram to the winners of the contest and assists them in navigating the space.

The games conclude on Mr. Lemoncello's birthday who says "there's no place [he'd] rather be on [his] big day than inside a library, surrounded by books."

Rife with allusions to other books (both classic and more recent favorites) this work is a true celebration of everything that is fun about books, reading, libraries, and librarians. 

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