Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. Grades 4-7. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2013. 289 pages. Review copy provided by my local library (of course!).
How would you like to spend the night in the library? Well, if it's Luigi Lemoncello's fantastic, state-of-the-art public library, I bet you would. Complete with holographic librarians, a room full of educational video games, and animatronic animals, Mr. Lemoncello has used his fortune to build the most amazing library the world has ever seen.
Kyle Keeley loves games and he's great at them. Video games, scavenger hunts, board games, puzzles... Books? Not so much. So Kyle blows off the essay contest that will award a handful of lucky kids an invitation to a lock-in at the new library. But when Kyle discovers that his favorite game maker, Mr. Lemoncello, designed the library, he's determined to be there. And it turns out that getting in is the easy part. After a night full of games and prizes and fabulous snacks, Mr. Lemoncello challenges the kids with one final game: use what's in the library to get out of the library. They can't get out the way they got in (through the front door) and the winner will get fame and fortune beyond his imagination. But the clock is ticking... Can Kyle find a way to beat the ultimate game-maker's ultimate game?
This one is so, so fun. Melissa of Book Nut called it Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Westing Game for book lovers and I couldn't agree more. There are puzzles to figure out, motives to uncover, an amazing library to explore, and (maybe best of all) references to kids' books scattered throughout. This is the ultimate treat for book lovers and I just really wanted the book to be longer so that I didn't have to stop reading it. (And that is a big compliment because I love finishing a book and logging it in my GoodReads.)
Also, I guess the Escape part of the title lead me to believe that the book would be a little scary, but it's not. It's nice, clean fun and it would make a great family readaloud, especially for a family of bookworms.
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. Wendy Mass's imaginative story of kids spending the night at a candy factory in a contest to design the perfect sweet has a similar storyline. The cast of characters, each with his or her different motivations to win the contest, is also an appeal factor.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. This is another story about kids getting invitations to romp through a magical place. Willy Wonka shares many similarities with Mr. Lemoncello, both eccentric millionaires who have designed amazing spaces.
The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin is a mystery story with tons of puzzles to solve throughout the book. Kids who enjoyed the games-playing and puzzle aspects of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library may like this one, as well.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. This mystery story features a large, diverse cast of characters having to find many clues to puzzle out the Westing will. Again, for kids who like to collect clues and try to figure things out, this may be a good choice.