Award-winning author Chris Grabenstein was inspired to write “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” after visiting a new school library in New York that just didn’t fit in with the architecture with the rest of the building.
When asked about the difference, Grabenstein found out the library had been donated by a “generous benefactor.” This got him to thinking – what if said benefactor was a “little eccentric” and had made billions making games?
“Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” explores that scenario when billionaire Luigi Lemoncello constructs a futuristic library full of puzzles and games. Readers follow Kyle and 11 other sixth-grade contestants as they use clues to find their way out of the library and win Lemoncello’s ultimate prize.
The children’s book has won the Agatha Award for Best Children’s Mystery, is a New York Times bestseller, and has now been named winner of the 2015 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award. Students in grades three to six throughout the state vote for their favorite book out of 20 nominees, and Grabenstein won for 2015.
Grabenstein, who visited Edgewood Highland School last Friday to accept the award, said, “These awards, chosen by kids, are the ones that mean the most to me.”
His book was also chosen as the book for Read Across Rhode Island in 2014.
For his visit to Edgewood Highland, librarian Katherine Tanner and 11 sixth-grade students created a 10-minute skit of the book. The whole school helped in various ways to create the set for the skit and make their own puzzles to decorate the school library.
The youngsters who performed for Grabenstein were Seth Berube, Trinity Saab, Narida Meas, Judd Lazarda, Bradly Lopez, Lizmer Medina, Damian Torres, Jaelyn Lefort, Maral Zobian, Dariel Marizan and Arybella Theul.
“We wanted to celebrate Grabenstein. We felt a performance would be the best way to pay tribute to him and help students learn more about the book,” Tanner said.
Grabenstein was enthralled with the performance, saying it is “no easy feat” to turn a 300-page book into a 10-minute skit.
Tanner said after reading “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library,” her students love the book and always ask for more books about puzzles they can read.
“This book challenges the imagination and gets kids excited about solving problems,” she said.
Grabenstein, who loves playing games himself, said he wanted kids to see the fun in research.
“Research is just like a scavenger hunt for facts and information,” Grabenstein said. “I find it best to ‘gamify’ things. It makes education more immersive and fun. Kids are having a blast and learning at the same time.”
Susan Rose, library program supervisor for Cranston Public Schools, said the book is very popular in Rhode Island because the “silly and subversive” text engages students without them knowing they are learning how to organize information.
“The whole book is just an adventure. Kids get hooked right away,” she said. “The best thing about this book is that kids who normally don’t like to read love this book.”
Grabenstein said that is his favorite thing to hear.
The sequel to “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library,” titled “Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics,” is scheduled for release in January 2016. There are even talks with Nickelodeon about making the first book a movie.
For more information on Grabenstein or any of his books, visit www.chrisgrabenstein.com.