Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

I went into a convenience store this morning and there on a stool was an African Gray Parrot bobbing in circles as it waited for its owner to check out at the counter. I live in Taiwan where it is common seeing dogs in grocery stores, restaurants, or pushed in baby strollers dolled up with bows and human clothes, but I've never seen a parrot. I found myself sitting on the stool next to it asking the gorgeous creature if it knew English, then feeling silly. It probably isn't a talking parrot. It strutted about whistling and clicking before stopping to poop on the stool. "Not the answer I expected," I laughed. The owner made a scolding noise and came to clean it up. In Mr. Lemoncello's high tech library there are robot geese that can imitate "Walter the Farting Dog." These six mechanical geese with a showcased Mother Goose tell other stories but Walter's unique sound effects make him the most memorable. From holograms to automatons, this is  one Disney-like library that would get any kid excited about reading. Kids would get excited about the unpredictability and beauty of an African Gray pooping parrot too.

A new 500 million dollar library is opening in Alexandriaville by a billionaire maker of cardboard and video games, Mr. Lemoncello. Twelve students at the local school can write an essay to spend a free night locked in the library. Kyle decides at the last minute to write his essay and doesn't seem to know what a special library this is going to be. I didn't understand how Kyle completely missed the importance of the essay because there would have been quite a bit of media hoopla and his best friends all wrote essays - but no matter. It's just one of many questions I had regarding the characters and plot. Kyle quickly writes an essay and emails it to Mr. Lemoncello shortly after the deadline. This allows the author to send the message of not giving up even when the situation looks hopeless.

Kyle gets chosen as one of the twelve students who gets to spend the night in the library playing video games, reading books, and playing games. His best friends are with him and once the night is over, Mr. Lemoncello introduces a new game where the students have to figure out how to escape the library. This winner will be a spokesperson for his company. The race is on to win the game and this is the fun of this book; the mystery of solving different games. The characters don't change internally and the tension comes mainly from one boy, Charles, who is one-dimensional and manipulates others in order to win the game. Charles has no code of honor and is willing to cheat, betray, and steal to win.

People who are competitive want to win games and while Charles wanted to win-at-all-costs, Kyle's team knew how to honor the game and learn from their mistakes. Mr. Lemoncello gave bonus points when the players chose character, such as being responsible or helpful, over winning the game. Characters were also kicked out when they tried to cheat. Kyle's team chose effort over outcome, whereas Charles only thought of winning at the expense of those around him. The ending might have been more powerful if something happened to Charles and Kyle's team let him win in order to show character is more important. Sports and games are about life lessons and how to be a better person and what it means to lose. Once Charles was out of the picture I thought the tension dropped too many notches. The story was still fun, but it lost momentum for me at that point. 

3 Smileys

No comments:

Post a Comment