Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein

In a town with no library for the past 12 years, popular game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, builds a magnificent new facility and holds a competition for 12 twelve-year-old children to be the first to experience all its wonder in an overnight lock-in.

Escape from Mr Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein, read by Jesse BernsteinGame-loving Kyle Keeley is Lemoncello’s biggest fan and can’t believe his luck when he and some of his friends secure a place in the exclusive preview. Lemoncello has created an adventure land that is not just full of books, but filled with games and other adventures to help library-goers to open the mind. As the night ends, however, Kyle and Co find the library doors still locked. Lemoncello has secretly met with their parents and, with their agreement, he has trapped the children inside to solve a string of crafty puzzles to compete for an ultimate prize.

Agatha Award winning author Chris Grabenstein is imaginative and clearly genuine in his love of children and libraries. With fallible but enjoyable characters, he populates the high-tech library with a cast of kids that need to learn to work together in order to pass Lemoncello’s tests. The puzzles are clever and often educational, bringing stuffy libraries of the past into the modern era, as we are now seeing happen in real life.

Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library is an exciting and fast-paced adventure, even knowing that the kids are never in any real danger. The race to the finish line is just as engaging as any competition.

Jesse Bernstein is a good narrator, respectfully expressing the tantrums, enthusiasm and wisdom of the kids as they learn from the library and each other. This is not an educational story per se, but there is a significant component that teaches everything from history and literature to teamwork and life’s lessons, all craftily placed within the action. Bernstein has a youthful voice that echoes the enthusiasm and competitive natures of the young characters.

A story of this kind will always be compared to classics like Roald Dahl’s 1960’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and, while there are similarities in the setup, Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library is a very different beast. It’s about kids being responsible for their own actions and learning to get along with their peers. Where it is similar however, is in the imagination, comedy and family-orientation of the story, which can be enjoyed by young and old.

Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library is the first of three books set around Lemoncello’s Library although, at the time of writing, only the first two are available as audiobooks. The audiobook of Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library runs for approximately 6 hours and 19 minutes. It was released by Listening Library in January 2014 and is available through Audible.

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