Chris Grabenstein has introduced a generation of readers to wonder of libraries, pushing the limits of imagination, and a famous, quirky gamemaker in his Young Adult book series focusing on one Luigi L. Lemoncello. Now he wants to let even more readers to discover that world, adapting his book Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library for the world of graphic novels. And this Tuesday, November 7, Random House Books for Young Readers will bring that world and vision to a whole new generation in Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library: The Graphic Novel.
I caught up with Mr. Grabenstein recently about the world of Luigi L. Lemoncello, the concept behind Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, adapting the Young Adult book to the graphic novel format, working with artist Douglas Holgate, and whether the world of Mr. Lemoncello will revisit the world of comics.
FreakSugar: For folks who aren’t familiar with your novel Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, what can you tell us about the book?
Chris Grabenstein: Twelve twelve-year-olds get a chance to be the first ones inside the incredible, futuristic, and hologram-filled library that the renowned (and slightly wacky) gamemaker Luigi L. Lemoncello has donated to his home town in Ohio. After they spend the night at a library lock-in having fun and playing games, they are all given a chance to play a new game with a fantabulous prize: Can they escape from the library only using what they find inside the library? If so, they will be the star of Mr. Lemoncello’s big holiday promotional push!
FS: What was the impetus from having the novel make the leap to graphic novel format?
CG: The story and action of the novel is extremely visual. Kids call it “a movie for the mind.” To celebrate the award-winning book’s 10th anniversary, we decided to “storyboard” that mental movie with a graphic novel. (And I’m glad we did!) The graphic novel also gave us a great chance to celebrate the diversity of the cast.
FS: When deciding on the look of the book, what have the conversations been like with artist Douglas Holgate?
CG: I am so lucky that Random House was able to sign on Douglas Holgate for this project. His work is amazing. He took my description of Mr. Lemoncello coming on stage like a “happy grasshopper” and created a brilliantly lanky and limber main character. He even took some of my ideas, like the holographic statues, and made them bigger and better. I’m glad that Douglas is now working on book two in the series, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics. That’s right. News flash. There will be another Lemoncello graphic novel coming soon.
FS: What do you hope new readers and those already familiar with the original novel take away from this new outing?
CG: I hope those who are familiar with the book will remember how much fun they had reading it the first time and have a blast thinking “That’s just how I pictured it!” What’s super cool is that a lot of those early readers are now in college and beyond.
For new readers, I hope they will be swept up by the action, adventure, and fun in the graphic novel and, then, be tempted to pick up the original novels (there are six in the series with one more to come) to experience even more of this wondermous world. (Mr. Lemoncello likes to make up words. A habit he might’ve picked up from me!)
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library: The Graphic Novel goes on sale this Tuesday, November 7, 2023 from Random House Books for Young Readers. Introduce yourself and the young readers in your life to the wonderful world of a library unlike any you’ll ever see.
From the official press release:
Award-winning children’s author Chris Grabenstein’s novel Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library has charmed kids, parents, teachers, and librarians alike for a decade with its colorful characters, pithy puns, and unforgettable, imagination-filled library. Now, just in time for the novel’s ten year anniversary, Grabenstein — the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mr. Lemoncello, Smartest Kid in the Universe, Dog Squad, and Welcome to Wonderland series — and Douglas Holgate — the #1 bestselling illustrator of The Last Kids on Earth graphic novels — are teaming up for Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library: The Graphic Novel, a full-color, action-packed adaptation of Grabenstein’s celebrated novel.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library has been widely acclaimed. Booklist even compared Mr. Lemoncello to Willy Wonka. The novel spent over 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was nominated for 44 state awards. All told, the six books in the Lemoncello series have sold over two million copies. When he isn’t touring schools and inspiring the next generation of readers and writers, Grabenstein is currently hard at work on a seventh and final book for the series.
“Kids always tell me I write ‘movies for the mind,’” says Grabenstein. “So it was fun to translate this story into a graphic novel. It reminded me of the storyboards we used to create when I worked in advertising. I was very fortunate to have Douglas Holgate along for the ride. His artwork brings wonderfully vivid life to all the figments of my imagination.”
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library invites readers to find out if game-loving Kyle Keeley can escape from what James Patterson calls “the coolest library in all the world.” In the story, Kyle learns that the world’s most famous game maker, one Luigi Lemoncello, has designed the town’s new library and is having an invitation-only lock-in on opening night. Kyle’s determined to be there, but the tricky part isn’t getting into the library—it’s getting out. Because when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route.
“Featuring fast pacing, lots of action, puzzles and codes the reader can solve, strong boy and girl characters, and a touch of mystery, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is packed to the rafters with kid appeal,” said Shana Corey, Editorial Director, Random House Graphic. “It’s also perfect for librarians and teachers looking for graphic novels with positive messages and great themes for discussion.”Working alongside colorist Marta Todeschini and designer and letterer Juliet Goodman, Grabenstein and Holgate are ready to charm a new generation. Random House Books for Young Readers will publish Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library: The Graphic Novel on November 7, 2023.