The Island of Dr. Libris

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Island of Dr. Libris Book Poster Image
Kids, book characters, mad scientist in wacky, upbeat tale.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Heavily populated with characters from classic and modern kids' books, The Island of Dr. Libris is a fairly transparent but still engaging Read More Books campaign -- with a helpful appendix listing all the cited books in the order of their appearance. In a book that features unlikely interactions among the likes of Robin Hood, Tom Sawyer, Pollyanna, and the Space Lizard from an Xbox game, young readers are almost sure to find something intriguing for future explorations. Also, the more books they already know, the more time they'll spend ROTFL'ing at the in-jokes. Along the way, they'll pick up other interesting bits, such as a discussion of M.C. Escher's artwork.

Positive Messages

One for all and all for one! (Yes, the Three Musketeers get involved, too.) Also, strong messages about friendship, working together, using your talents and skills -- and loving your family more than power and money.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Billy is bright, determined, and creative in his quest to get his parents back together, and he learns a lot about friendship and teamwork from the neighbor kids and assorted book characters. Neighbor boy Walter, in particular, is a good friend who overcomes his own fears to help out. Literary characters including Hercules, Robin Hood, and the Three Musketeers display their noted qualities here.

Violence & Scariness

With swordplay galore, as well as monsters from Verne to Xbox, characters including Jack and the Beanstalk and his giant, and some plain old-fashioned neighborhood bullies, there are many scenes in which something terrible might happen, but it's all cartoonish and actual harm almost never results. Maid Marian wounds the Sheriff of Nottingham with a dagger to save Billy.


The Sheriff frequently exclaims, "Curses and foul language!" Occasional "butt" references.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJayde Q. February 28, 2017

Imagination becomes reality

A boy named Billy finds an island of an old scientist and realizes his imagination become a life their. Billy struggles against his parents. Billy wants his par... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old August 30, 2016


Its a great book and cool because the characters from books come alive. I recommend you to read it.

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure and science fiction

Themes & Topics

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