“The Island of Dr. Libris” by Chris Grabenstein

The Plot In 5 Sentences Or Less:  Billy’s parents are having difficulties in their marriage, so he is spending the summer with his mother in a lakeside cabin while his father stays working in New York City.  But this isn’t any normal cabin; it’s one built by the eccentric Dr. Libris, a scientist/professor who has installed security cameras all over the property.   Even more strange, when Billy begins reading some of the classic books from Dr. Libris’s ornate bookshelf, the books actually come to life on an island out in the lake.  Billy soon finds himself talking to Robin Hood and crossing swords with the 3 Musketeers.   As he unleashes so many classic book characters, Billy must find a way to put a stop to the madness.

My Take:  Having greatly enjoyed Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, I was looking forward to this book.  While I didn’t find it as engrossing Lemoncello’s, I appreciated it for its own merits.  Grabenstein kept the plot moving and at no point did I ever feel that the book slowed down.  I think that kids will enjoy the imaginary dangers on the island as well as getting to know some classic book characters.

One Interesting Note About the Author:   According to his website, Chris co-wrote the movie “The Christmas Gift” starring John Denver which premiered in 1986.  It often still played around Christmas time.

“Capture the Flag” by Kate Messner

The Plot In Five Sentences Or Less:  Anna, José, and Henry are three young strangers who find themselves snowed in together at a Washington D.C. airport.  As they begin to get to know each other, an important news flash is broadcast: the Star Spangled Banner has been stolen from the Smithsonian Institute.  The three realize that all of their parents are members of the Silver Jaguar Society, which has the mission to protect the most valuable treasures of the world.  Unfortunately, most of their parents are unavailable to help and the kids soon discover clues that lead them to believe that the Star Spangled Banner may be at the airport.  Can the kids figure out who stole the flag and bring them to justice?

My Take:  I felt that this book had a good premise in that one of the nation’s most valuable treasures has been stolen and only a group of kids can track down the thief.  However, as the novel progressed, it began to feel a little redundant to me.  Messner chose to have all of the action take place in an airport.  This was a good choice for “Die Hard 2,” but not perhaps for this book.  After the third or fourth scene in the baggage terminal, I was getting a little distracted.  Still, it is a mystery to recommend to grades 3+

One Interesting Thing About the Author:  According to her website, Kate Messner lives on Lake Champlain and enjoys kayaking.