Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's library

A couple of months ago a member of the library Board of Trustees told me I should read “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein.

Since this was one of my bosses telling me to read this book, what else could I do? I put myself on the holds list for it.

Although it’s written for 8-12 year olds, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It is also a nominee title for the Missouri Mark Twain Book Award (a children’s choice award sponsored by the Missouri Association of School Librarians).

Alexandriaville, Ohio, has not had a public library for 12 years. Its library had been torn down to make room for a downtown elevated parking garage.

Enter bazillionaire Luigi Lemoncello. Eccentric in an extreme Willy Wonka-ish sort of way, Lemoncello has made his bazillions of dollars by creating games and puzzles as oddly creative as their maker.

The public library made a difference in Lemoncello’s life, especially the year he was 12 years old. So, he has built Alexandriaville a new public library. It is not just any library. We are talking state-of-the-art fancy with many current and only imagined library technologies.

This library features a large domed room where The Wonder Dome has sections of high-definition video screens lining the dome like orange wedges. The Dome can become the constellations of the night sky, or make viewers feel the whole building is lifting off the ground, or even represent the different sections of the Dewey Decimal System.

The library contains holograms, audio-animatronic characters, hover ladders that float patrons directly to the book they want, an IMAX theater, an electronic learning center and interactive dioramas.

The library even has an automated book sorter (finally, something the new Joplin Public Library will have!) that checks in and sorts books after they have been returned. There are computer labs, and gaming labs, and anything and everything that can be fathomed. Smell-a-vision? Yep, it’s here.

Kyle Keeley, 12 years old, loves games of all sorts. He also likes winning games. He doesn’t particularly like to read, however, unless it is an instruction or hint guide to a video game.

There is an essay contest for 12 year olds. Twelve will be selected as winners to attend a library lock-in before the grand opening. They will get to experience all the goodies that Lemoncello has put in the new library.

As one of the essay winners, Kyle joins a cast of varied characters, including the requisite villain, the nerd, the cheerleader and others.

Little do these 12 year olds know that the lock-in isn’t the real purpose of the event. The real purpose is a game that is a weird twist between “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Hunger Games,” but “with lots of food and no bows and arrows.” The true game of the weekend is to find the secret exit, a way to get OUT of the library.

The children must figure out a puzzle that tells them where to find the secret exit. They have to figure out what are clues to the puzzle, and then solve what these clues mean. The book integrates information on library use (online catalogs, the Dewey Decimal System, the helpfulness of librarians), along with puzzles and word games to solve.

The author weaves in references to around 100 different books, both for children and adults.

It is a wild and wacky ride through the library. Some adults who’ve read the book haven’t enjoyed it, but this one certainly did. I listened to the audio book, yet found when I checked out the print copy that I missed out on some of the visual puzzle clues.

Joplin Public Library has this book in print, audio and download. Grabenstein has a new Mr. Lemoncello library book that just came out, “Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics.” It will be available soon.

Joplin’s own new library is scheduled to begin its general construction this week. There will be a construction camera on site where you can watch the progress of your new library building, fabulous in its own right, but not as wacky as Mr. Lemoncello’s. Watch the website ( for the camera link.