|Print List Price:||$7.99|
Random House LLC
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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library Kindle Edition
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|Length: 306 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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|Age Level: 8 - 12|
|Grade Level: 3 - 7|
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I thought there was a lack of actual puzzles for a book that promises many. All of the characters in this book are severely underdeveloped (one just reads all the time, one's the bully, the main character "Kyle" is the nice guy, and then there is his friend that just says "yo" and "bro" all the time). Dialog between characters is weak, making it feel like the whole story is haphazardly put together and rushed. There is no step-by-step systematic way that characters collect their clues. They are just running around like chickens with their heads cut off. The library itself is unrealistic from its hologram librarian and white tiger to its hovercraft-style elevator. The famous game designer and library builder, Mr. Lemoncello, is just a clown of a man in banana shoes that squeak when he walks. If I were a nine year old again, I would think that was pretty dorky. Apart from the way he dressed and his annoying way of sporadically speaking in book titles, he had nothing else going for him. Also, the author makes references to TV shows from the 1960s, TV shows that most kids today have never heard of (ex: Hawaii 5-O Jack Lord and his famous "Book em' Danno", the game show Concentration, and Laugh-In) making for references that young readers can't relate to.
I feel strongly that the concept for this book came from copying the ideas and works of other authors (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sherlock Holmes and the Adventures of the Red-Headed League). A far more exceptional series of books that actually has puzzles for the reader to solve (some along with the story and some on their own) is the Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin. This three book series is far more realistic, fun and superior than that of this book. These books are a much better choice for a young reader's great Summer read. The Puzzling World of Winston Breen
However, the one thing I commend this author and book for is the underlying moral. That is that libraries are special places where you can learn and be entertained at the same time. Local libraries can be like homes-away-from-home. Every child deserves to grow-up and explore their library and the amazing worlds that books open for them. Kids today need to take a break from staring at screens (computer, TV, cell phone, etc.) and discover that books can be just as thrilling. And please consider keeping the tradition of books alive by purchasing actual books and not e-reader versions. Think of all of the jobs that would be lost if all books were to become electronic.
Alexandriaville has been without a public library for twelve years. An eccentric billionaire builds an elaborate library for his hometown. Not only are there plenty of books, but also fancy video games and lots of board games. Technology is state-of-the-art. A dozen twelve-year-old winners of an essay contest receive the right to stay in the library overnight and enjoy books, fun, and games. The next morning, the doors remain locked. Will they be able to figure out the clues and escape, thus winning the grand prize?
The town name is an obvious nod to the Library of Alexandria - a nice touch. Somewhat reminiscent of
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the premise promises fun and adventue. I wanted to love this. I was all set to be drawn into a fascinating and compelling journey. Unfortunately, this story, while it does have interesting elements, falls short of its potential.
The "kid lingo" and actions do not ring true. It feels like an adult lacking proper understanding of how kids actually talk and behave. Undoubtedly meant to seem "with it," the effect is the opposite. Yo, bro. [Insert fist bump, chest bump, and peace sign.] One kid even says he will "Twitter it." "Tweet" is the correct term. I also find it hard to believe that a twelve-year-old would have several thousand Twitter followers or Facebook friends.
Endless Literary References
Bogged down with endless literary references and name-dropping of book titles (which is repeated, more than once), I shudder to think what this would be like if listening to an audio version. While I certainly applaud the notion of interspersing titles of other books, if it arises organically within the story, the employed technique is overwhelming and tedious. The sheer volume of mentioned titles would be ridiculous even if they did not keep getting repeated throughout.
This story suffers from too many characters. They are all one-dimensional. There is almost no character development. The puzzles are multitudinous. The book is too long, considering the content and the way it was handled. The rhebus puzzles are somewhat interesting, but not always clear. There is ambiguity as to possible interpretations. I mostly find a rhebus to be tedious, much as I did even when I was the age of the kids in the story. Other aspects require knowledge of fictional games and events, thus complicating matters for the reader who is interested in trying to solve puzzles before or with the characters.
Unfavorable E-reader Remark Despite Lots of Technology
There is an unnecessary, nasty remark about e-readers. We see in the beginning where all the kids' electronic devices are confiscated for the duration. They are in one of the most advanced places in the world (a 500 million dollar library with the best computers, animatronic geese, and holographic librarians and animals), but we have to suffer through some sort of implication about children who have electronic devices. Potentially, since they might not have devices of equal quality, this could be in an effort to level the playing field; however, this is not explicitly stated. At another point, several copies of a book are left out for the group, with one of the copies being on an e-reader. The narrative makes a point of saying that "nobody went for the e-reader." - I read this on an e-reader, thanks. Incidentally, it was a digital copy from my local library.
Dewey Decimal System
There is an undue and prolonged emphasis on the Dewey Decimal system. The implication is that these kids have only been in their school library. While it is certainly conceivable that they could know about this, it would not be in such precise detail.
Endless Knowledge of Trivia
They also know an absurd amount of trivia - a completely unbelievable amount. One of the kids asks what happened on February 20, 1915. Another immediately states that was the day of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition opening in San Francisco. She claims to know this because she is a big fan of World Fairs. In another example, they had to name four books for each author in a long list. A very limited amount of time was provided.
A Little Goofy Around the Edges
Whimsical and, to borrow a phrase from the book, "a little goofy around the edges," the puzzles are often too complicated or require too many steps and there is not enough intrigue or suspense. Greater escalation of conflict would increase the interest. It lacks sufficient substance. Hard to follow at times, it's a pushy promotion of reading without the heart that ought to be included in such a story.
Pushed into Corners
Too much depends on luck and prior knowledge. Many things are determined by chance. The kids are often urged by the head adult to to try special challenges that are ridiculously difficult. If they fail, they lose immediately and must leave. They also have to return their library cards if this happens. How does that work? They no longer get to have a library card? They get it back later? We are never told.
"Knowledge not shared remains unknown."
This is not true. While I do like the idea of sharing knowledge, I dislike this assertion because I feel it negates the value of what an individual knows. - Perhaps the idea was knowledge that has been forgotten by everyone.
"A library doesn't need windows. We have books, which are windows into worlds we never dreamed possible."
My local library is quite nice and, while there are no holographic tigers or animatronic geese, we enjoy many windows and skylights. Books should get you excited about experiencing the world. It's not necessary to block out access to the outside world in order to do that. Where I live, the windows allow a nice view of the park, or of the parkling lot. You might be waiting on a ride or just enjoying the view on a nice day or seeing if it's raining. People watching. Many writers, and people in general, enjoy such things and get ideas this way - not to mention, you are not left in darkness should the power fail.
Random Bits of Interest
"If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?"
"Never bolt your door with a boiled carrot."
Sherlock to Watson: "You see, but you do not observe."
Sherlock to Watson: "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data."
I'd like to say the story was "funful and wondermous" - words from the book - and, in a way, it was; however, I must say I find this to be an example of a fascinating premise suffering from a less than stellar execution. I find the ending to be highly predictable and anticlimactic, though I would love to visit a place like Mr. Lemoncello's library. It would, no doubt, be splendiferous.
The author has a book, The Island of Dr. Libris, currently available for pre-order. It also has a fascinating premise. I plan to read it.