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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s library: the graphic novel

by Chris Grabenstein
2023 / 250 pages

In this tween graphic novel (based on the tween novel of the same name), Mr. Lemoncello is a self-made billionaire whose company sells the world’s best board games. He’s used his money to build the world’s most intriguing library, and now he’s invited 12 of the town’s twelve-year-olds to spend a night there before its grand opening.

Mr. Lemoncello’s creativity and general quirkiness have some comparing him to Willy Wonka, from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I get the comparison – both are entrepreneurs, both make something that kids love, and both have kids touring their facility.

But Dahl’s book had a bit of a dark comic edge, with 4 bad kids on the tour alongside the one good one. And the bad kids get administered swift justice when they misbehave (after one girl, Violet Beauregarde, steals a piece of experimental gum, it turns her blue and round, and she is rolled away, forced to leave the tour).

Lemoncello’s Library has fewer bad kids and he treats them with a lot more patience. There are also more good kids, and the hero of our story, a boy named Kyle, ends up taking a leadership role in getting the other kids to cooperate together to figure out Mr. Lemoncello’s puzzles.

That’s what this is, a “puzzle book,” and more akin to Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society, than Roald Dahl’s work. There’s a team of brilliant kids working together to solve problems and puzzles. But the puzzles aren’t vernally the sort that reader will be able to solve themselves – most of the time we are just along for the ride, but there are a few that we get to puzzle through too.

The big puzzle here is, as the title says, to escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s library. They have a day to figure out a way out of the library, using all the resources of the library to find clues and win challenges. It’s like a mystery, but with no actual villain to fight, or crime to solve.


The book opens with Kyle breaking a window to win a game. Not the best example. But he does have to make it right.

I’ll also note that with the story taking place in a library, a lot of different book titles are mentioned, and not all of them will be books you’d want your son or daughter to check out. But they are mentioned just in passing. That’s more of a problem in the original, where it ends with a list of the books cited, which might encourage a kid to look them up. Maybe that’s related to the more significant warn for this book: it makes a library seem like a friendly, safe place. And it just isn’t. It probably wasn’t when I was a kid, but with Pride Month invading even the children’s section, it certainly isn’t now. So kids will need to be taught that you can’t just wander the aisles grabbing whatever book you want, as some of them are trash, and some are even dangerous.


The book’s bright colors will catch your tween’s attention, and the quickly moving story will keep them engaged. I though it just a tad jumpy, as often happens when a book is adapted to comic-book format, but it wasn’t too bad this time.

I’ve been reading the original book this is based on, and usually the original is better than the comic book adaption. I think, in this case, the comic might just be different, and just as good in its own way. The pictures let us see things a little more clearly than the book’s descriptions, but I do wonder if, in the book, kids might have more of a chance of solving some of the puzzles before Kyle does. That won’t happen in the comic (or, at least, I didn’t manage it). But that’s fine, as this is just meant to be a light, quick read. It’s on the fluffy side, but safe, and fun – I think most any 10 to 12 year olds will want to read it.

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Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Super Pancake

by Megan Wagner Lloyd illustrated by Abhi Alwar 2023 / 170 pages Have you ever thought your breakfast could be heroic? If you have, this book is for you, with every character coming from the most important meal of the day. Our humble hero is Peggy Pancake, who comes from a suburban family of pancakes. Our story starts with Peggy late for breakfast (which seems to be cereal and milk) and missing the school bus. Not the best start to a day. When she gets to Winfred Waffle Elementary, a new kid, a croissant, is getting picked on  by the “bacon bullies” and when Peggy stands up for him they become friends. Things take a dramatic turn when Dr. Egg, the town’s leading scientist, gives a lecture to the kids, and the bacon bullies snag a vial from his backpack and put it in Peggy’s lunch. What they meant for ill, ends up giving Peggy superpowers. But because she didn’t know what the bullies had done, she doesn’t know why she can suddenly fly. There’s the usual, learning about her powers section, and then she has to face off against the villain of the piece, Dr. Breakfast Sandwich and his henchtoast. Fortunately, she has a sidekick to help her, Luc, the croissant. Cautions would be a little breakfast food violence as Peggy beats back the bullies, and Peggy not being as forthcoming as she should be with her parents about her superhero identity. She does this to protect them but I don’t like the idea of kids keeping any secrets from their parents. Still, it is a minor element, as she did tell them right away when she first got her powers; they just didn’t believe her....