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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Mr. Lemoncello is a billionaire, who made his fortune from the creation of whacky and creative games, and he couldn’t have done any of it without his local library. When the library is turned into a parking garage, he funds a new library, which takes 12 years to build. Former Disney animatronics specialists design the goslings in the children’s section, the holograms are interactive and the video games have the latest features, such as actual scents.

Kyle is obsessed with Mr. Lemoncello’s games. He breaks a window in his haste to beat his older brothers in a scavenger hunt, getting himself grounded for a week from video games. On the bus ride to school, Kyle discovers an extra-credit essay due that morning is actually the entry to a contest. The prize is getting to spend the night in the library before it opens to the public. With limited time, he writes only one line, which expresses his enthusiasm for balloons.

The more Kyle learns about the contest, library and judge, the more he regrets not spending more time on his essay. He works hard on a rewrite for the rest of the day and tries to hand it in late, but he is not allowed to.

Mr. Lemoncello reads the essays and chooses 12 12-year-olds, since those children have gone their entire lives without a public library. Kyle is chosen.

The lock-in is packed full of games and prizes. The children enjoy their evening, but in the morning, they discover a twist. They are invited to play a game. Whoever finds the secret escape from the library will star in Mr. Lemoncello’s commercials and be paid generously.

Eventually the players divide into two teams, one led by Kyle and one led by Charles Chiltington. Kyle and his team follow a twisted path of clues. Kyle has played nearly all of Mr. Lemoncello’s board games, giving him insight into finding clues and adjusting to the twists. But he soon regrets that he spent so little time reading. Thankfully his team members have spent a lot more time reading. The group tries to do the right thing by each other, helping a classmate when her hand gets stuck in the book return, and they work together to solve the mystery.

Charles and his teammates do not trust each other. Charles bullies one of his teammates into stealing to get ahead. The teammate is removed from the game. Charles’ remaining teammate jumps ship and joins Kyle’s team when she sees how quickly Charles turns against their other teammate.

Eventually Mr. Lemoncello discovers video surveillance that proves Charles was the mastermind behind the theft. He is also eliminated from the game. The remaining players work together and unravel the clues to win the prize, fame and fortune, but also the bonus of friendship.

Christian Beliefs

The Gutenberg Bible is mentioned. One of the Ten Commandments is a clue in the game, “Thou shalt not steal.”

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Mr. Lemoncello is a silly and successful adult, who does not tolerate theft or cheating in his games. The parents and teachers mentioned deal with the students in a fair manner.





Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Literary references: The Dr. Seuss books were frequently referenced, and several minor plot points involved the “Anne of Green Gables” series. The Gutenberg Bible was referenced several times, two Roald Dahl books were discussed (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator) and Sherlock Holmes was used in a minor plot point. Some of the other titles that were in Mr. Lemoncello’s library or that were mentioned by him were: Al Capone Does My Shirts, All-of-a-Kind Family, Anna to the Infinite Power, Anne of Avonlea, Around the World in Eighty Days, Because of Winn-Dixie, Bridge to Terabithia, The Brothers Karamazov, The Cask of Amontillado, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Coming Up for Air, Crime and Punishment, Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh, My!, Dead End in Norvelt, Death on the Nile, The Egypt Game, Eight Cousins, The Elevator Family, Ella Enchanted, Even the Stars Look Lonesome, Falling Up, For Your Eyes Only, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Giver, Goodnight Moon, Great Expectations, The Great Gilly Hopkins, “Harry Potter” series, The Heart of a Samuri, Huckleberry Finn, The Hunger Games, I Love You, Stinky Face, If I Grow Up, In the Pocket: Johnny Unitas and Me, Incident at Hawk’s Hill, Joey Pigza Loses Control, The Jungle Book, The King James Bible, Little House on the Prairie, “Lord of the Rings” series, Maniac Magees, The Masque of the Red Death, The Mousetrap, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Murder on the Orient Express, My Side of the Mountain, Nancy Drew: The Mystery at Lilac Inn, The Napping House, No, David!, Olivia, The Phantom Tollbooth, Tuck Everlasting, The Purloined Letter, The Red Pyramid, Scat, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Six Days of the Condor, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Ten Little Indians, Through the Looking-Glass, Treasure Island, Turtle in Paradise, The Umpire Strikes Back, Up from Slavery, The Westing Game, When You Reach Me, Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Wind in the Willows, A Wrinkle in Time, The Yak Who Yelled Yuck

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 to 14


Chris Grabenstein






Record Label



Random House


On Video

Year Published



Agatha Awards, Best Children's/Young Adult, 2013; Nerdie Winner, 2013; and others


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