A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Island of Dr. Libris, by bestselling author and frequent James Patterson collaborator Chris Grabenstein, pays homage to dozens of beloved books, whose characters escape their pages to (mostly) help the 12-year-old protagonist. There's some swordplay and swashbuckling, as well as neighborhood bullies, but despite many opportunities to get crushed, stabbed, devoured, or suffer other dire fates, little real harm befalls anyone. In-jokes galore will have kids who know the relevant books in stitches (the scene in which Dr. Seuss changes Tom Sawyer and Robin Hood's luck at the fishing hole is a showstopper), as will the incongruous pairings, such as when Pollyanna tries to get the Space Lizard to play the Glad Game. The nonstop wackiness is a counterpoint to protagonist Billy's worry about his parents' disintegrating marriage -- and inspires his efforts to make things better, which are straight out of The Parent Trap.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Twelve-year-old Billy Gillfoyle isn't happy; instead of spending the summer with his parents in New York City as usual, he and his mom are off to a lakeside cabin in the middle of nowhere, mostly because she and his dad aren't getting along, which is freaking Billy out. Things get even worse as soon as they arrive: He breaks his iPhone. Which means there's no entertainment in the place except for the huge book collection of the cabin's owner, Dr. Libris. There he discovers many stories -- and finds that the characters are coming to life, although only he can see them. It's all part of an experiment by Dr. Libris, but Billy doesn't know that. Soon he and the neighbor kids, along with a growing cast of fictional characters, are having adventures, dodging villains and monsters, and trying to solve the mystery of what's going on. Also, they're trying to get Billy's parents back together.
Is it any good?
Not unlike Escape from Mr. Limoncello's Library, THE ISLAND OF DR. LIBRIS is an extended promo for the joys of reading, with a barrage of wacky humor, nonstop literary references, unlikely interactions, and wordplay galore (starting with the title character, whose first name is Xiang, making him X. Libris, as in the Latin term "ex libris," meaning "from or out of books"). Kids who thrive on this mix will be in heaven as they jump from one zany development to the next.
The Island of Dr Libris takes a magical approach to the issue of estranged parents, which may or may not be a good fit if you're trying to broach the subject with your own kid.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories where book characters come to life in new places, especially in today's world. Which other ones do you know?
Do you think it makes the story more interesting that the characters come from all different kinds of stories, or is that too silly for you?
How would you feel if you found out you were being secretly observed as part of an experiment? Would you do anything about it?
- Author: Chris Grabenstein
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: March 24, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 13, 2020
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