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Mr. Lemoncello's All-Star Breakout Game: Mr. Lemoncello's Library, Book 4

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Mr. Lemoncello's All-Star Breakout Game: Mr. Lemoncello's Library, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Loony library game is all about fiction -- and empathy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Plenty of puzzles, codes, problem-solving, also a deep plunge into kid fiction, with genre adventures (e.g., landing in the comic book world, or the rainbows and unicorns world...) and a complete list of the dozens of books mentioned included at the end. Historical fiction is big. Kyle reads The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 and gets a new understanding of the civil rights era: "Kyle wasn't an African American. He wasn't from Flint, Michigan. He wasn't even born in 1963. But because the story was so good, while he read it he felt as if he were Byron. Maybe that was why Mr. Lemoncello always called fiction 'the greatest role-playing game ever invented.'"

Positive Messages

Strong messages of friendship, teamwork, empathy -- and how getting outside your comfort zone can lead to great experiences (and clever solutions).

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cutting detention to audition for a game show, as Kyle does early on, is perhaps not normally a good choice. But aside from the fun part, the family honor is at stake. Kyle and his teammates show a lot of creative cooperation, as one of them tends to have the particular skill that's called for in each situation. Other teams start strong but quickly run aground on ego, bad leadership, other issues. Arch-nemesis Charles does a lot of cheating.

Violence & Scariness

Some comic run-ins with fictional monsters, such as Frankenstein's, who is foiled by playing disco music on a boom box. Or blasting space aliens with ray guns. A fairy-tale villain plots the death of one of the kids, but they're too clever for him.

Language

A bit of butt, poop, fart, booger, etc., humor. With Smell-o-Vision! Frequent pop-culture references -- e.g., describing someone as like "that lady on Wheel of Fortune."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mr. Lemoncello's All-Star Breakout Game is the latest installment in Chris Grabenstein's best-selling library-themed series, with a steady bombardment of book and pop culture references, wild imagination, loony humor, and more. This time it's all about fiction -- and incidentally, the empathy you get from putting yourself in a character's place. Once again there's a bit of butt, fart, poop, etc., humor -- with Smell-o-Vision in the story (but fortunately not in the actual book). Once again regular kid Kyle Keeley and his fellow seventh-graders face long odds but are well served by interesting teamwork. The game involves scenes and characters from many kid-fiction classics, which is part of the fun for those who've read them already and a great source of recommendations for those who haven't.

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What's the story?

Kyle Keeley and his fellow seventh-graders (aka the Lemon Heads) have been waiting months for the premiere of  MR. LEMONCELLO'S ALL-STAR BREAKOUT GAME. Their zeal is rewarded when the next epic library adventure is announced, and the Lemon Heads' combined skills help them make the cut. They soon realize, though, that they're in a lot of trouble (and not just because Kyle has ditched detention for the contest). For one thing, rich kid Lemoncello hater Charles Chillington is back, bent on revenge for past slights and humiliations, and fielding a team of eighth grade bookworms-for-hire. Also back: former cheerleader-classmate/current TV star Haley Daley, with a team of preening, backbiting Kidzapalooza stars. This time it's all about fiction. And surprises. The prize is awesome. Let the games begin ...

Is it any good?

Chris Grabenstein returns with more loony library fun, brain-teasing puzzles, and a brand-new game that plunges the intrepid Lemon Heads into fictional worlds as they seek fun, fame, and prizes. The category is fiction, and this time Mr. Lemoncello's All-Star Breakout Game has his contestants on a fast-paced, plot-twisty solve-a-thon through the horror room, the comic book room, the fairytale room, and more.  Engaging and cheer-worthy as ever, Kyle, Sierra, Akimi, and Miguel bring teamwork and talents in the face of strong opponents and never-a-dull-moment developments (you never know when those paper-rock-scissors skills are going to come in really handy).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fiction -- and how it's different from fact-based research, writing, and storytelling. Can you learn anything from fictional stories (and imagination-based worlds)? Can you learn the same thing from studying facts, or is it different?

  • Kyle has a warm, loving, rambunctious family, while other characters aren't so fortunate. One has a smothering mother and a demanding, uncaring  father, while another is still living down her dad's bad behavior in a previous installment. How do you think their various family backgrounds and support structures (or lack thereof) influence their choices as the plot develops?

  • Sometimes you expect a new movie or book to be completely awesome, and you find you don't like it so much. Other times you're not expecting it to be good and it really surprises you. Has this happened to you? What surprised you?

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