Reviews

Get out while you can! Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Grabenstein, Chris. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Random House, 2013. 291 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-375-87089-7; Tr. $4.55, ISBN 978-0-307-93147-4; 2013 PLB $19.99, ISBN  978-0-375-97089-4; 2014 PLB $12.13, ISBN 978-1-48983-367-9

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? YES!

Genre: Mystery/Game

Part of a series? Yes — Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series

Plot Summary:

Kyle Keeley finds out from his best friend Akimi Hughes that there’s an extra credit essay due that morning — and the winners not only receive extra credit, but they also get to spend the night locked into the brand new, high-tech, super fabulous library opening the next week. Kyle is desperate to have the chance once he finds out that Luigi L. Lemoncello, game maker extraordinaire and donor who helped make the new library happen is one of the essay judges and is hosting the lock-in. Kyle, Akimi, and ten other students from the seventh grade are chosen for the lock-in which becomes an “Escape” game. Will Kyle and his friends solve the clues and win the game?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a fun book for those readers who like puzzles in their books. There is a lot of information, plenty of red herrings and helpful clues, and clever puzzles hidden throughout the text in addition to the ones the students must solve. The only downside is, as many Goodreads reviewers have noted, that the characters feel a little flat. Charles isn’t sufficiently evil. Akimi and Kyle and one-note. Hayley’s change of alliances isn’t handled in an interesting way. For these reasons, I can’t say that this is a fantastic book, but it’s a great one for your reader who enjoys puzzles.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a great start-of-the-year book club pick. Readers can then do their own real-life Dewey Decimal scavenger hunt in the library and play an Escape puzzle per Heather Booth’s instructions from Teen Librarian Toolbox, linked above (those are popular in my lesson plans, apparently!) (Idea from myself)

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2014

Booklist starred 6/1/13

Kirkus Reviews starred 5/1/13

Reviews · Uncategorized

Bones, Boats, and Books: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Podehl, Nick and Black, Holly. Doll Bones. Digital file. Listening Library/Findaway World, 2013. 5 hours 11 minutes, 23 seconds. $39.00 ISBN 978-0-8041-2293-1

This is a wonderful unabridged audiobook. The book alone would definitely be creepy, but hearing this ghost story aloud is chilling. Poppy, Alice, and Zach are engrossed in a game involving pirates, thieves, and an imprisoned Queen. The Queen, an expensive bone china doll locked in Poppy’s mother’s living room case, is the focal point of their adventures. While they have been barred from ever opening the case (let alone touching the doll), the children use the Queen as the driving force behind all of their characters’ action. When Zach’s father throws away Zach’s action figures in an effort to force him to grow up, Zach is so upset that he can’t bear to tell his friends what happened. Instead, Zach lies and says that he doesn’t want to play anymore. In an attempt to draw Zach back into the game, Poppy opens her mother’s cabinet and takes out the Queen. Immediately, Poppy claims that the ghost of Eleanor Kirtchner appeared to her in the night, telling her story and claiming to be the ghost of the dead girl used to make the Queen. The china that makes up the Queen’s body? According to Poppy, it came from Eleanor’s bones. Poppy claims that the only way to put Eleanor’s spirit to rest is to bury the Queen in Eleanor’s own (empty) grave … all the way in East Liverpool, one state over and a long bus ride away.

Black can transition from game to ghost story in an instant, leaving the exploits of William and Lady J in the dust as she jumps to a frightening description of the Queen and her (perhaps malign) intentions. Poppy, Alice, and Zach have clearly differentiated voices in Podehl’s reading, and Zach is a fun narrator to walk alongside as we try to ensure that the Queen is properly buried. Is the Queen really haunted by Eleanor’s ghost, or did Poppy just make it all up as one last, grand Game? It’s a creepy, delightful, “unputdownable” story, perfect for a student who enjoys ghost stories, Neil Gaiman, or other scary reads.

Tweens who reviewed the book on Common Sense Media were split. Of the three reviews, one tween loved the book, one was very disappointed and wished that it was up to par with Black’s other books, and the third thought that it was too scary. Despite these mixed reviews, if there was interest in my patron base, I would like to use this book with students for a fun read. School Library Journal also selected this audiobook as a “Pick of the Day” in 2013.

 

Programming Ideas: This would be a fantastic alternate to a library read-aloud for older students. At five hours it’s a bit of a commitment, but perhaps a group of interested students could gather at their lunch breaks to listen. Doing half an hour a day only took me about a week and a half, so it’s definitely a doable listen as a pre-Halloween scary read! (Idea from myself).

 

Reviews read:

Common Sense Media. (n. d.). All teen and kid member reviews for Doll Bones.    Common Sense Media. Retrieved from             https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/doll-bones/user-reviews/child

School Library Journal. (2013, Aug. 2). Pick of the day: Doll bones (audio) (Review of      the audiobook Doll Bones). School Library Journal. Retrieved from    http://www.slj.com/2013/08/industry-news/pick-of-the-day-doll-bones-audio/

Stewart, D. (n. d.). Doll bones (Review of the book Doll Bones). Common Sense Media.   Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/doll-bones