The book opens with Kyle Keeley, a 12-year-old boy, playing a game with his two older brothers. The game is a neighborhood scavenger hunt made by game tycoon Luigi Lemoncello, better known as Mr. Lemoncello. Kyle is used to losing to his oldest, athletic Brother, Mike, and his intelligent middle Brother, Curtis. Today, however, he realizes he can win. The last two items he needs for the game are coins that can be found in his father’s coin collection. So, he takes a short cut to the basement and breaks a window to beat out Mike. Kyle wins the game, but is grounded from playing video games for a week after his dad finds out about the window.
Across town, world-famous librarian Dr. Yanina Zinchenko supervises the finishing touches on the new public library in Kyle’s hometown, Alexandriaville, OH. The library has taken five years to complete and has been built under the utmost security, with no two construction crew working on the same part of the library, and no crews working on the library for longer than 6 weeks. Funded by a zany billionaire, the library includes such features as a troupe of robotic geese that tell children’s stories and a visually-amazing feature called the “Wonder Dome” that, among other things, can make you feel like you are rocketing off into outer space. Dr. Zinchenko tests all the library’s new features in anticipation of opening day.
On the way to school the next day, Kyle’s friend Akimi asks him if he finished his extra credit essay for first period. Kyle is initially confused until Akimi explains the essay topic– “Why I am excited about the new library,” and the 12 winners get to spend the night in the new library that Friday night. Kyle doesn’t care at first, but then realizes that attending the lock-in would allow him to play video games despite his grounding. Kyle scratches a short essay on a piece of paper, which his homeroom teacher fails to accept. While the teacher is talking to Kyle, Kyle sees a vehicle shaped like big red boot pull into the parking lot. Much to his excitement and horror, Kyle sees Mr. Lemoncello get out of vehicle and learns he’ll be judging the essay contest.
Kyle realizes that any library built by the zany Mr. Lemoncello is going to be amazing, and he really screwed up by not writing the extra credit essay. Not willing to give up, he spends his lunch writing a new essay to turn in to his teacher, Mrs. Cameron. Mrs. Cameron appreciates his effort, but tells his that she cannot accept the late essay because “rules are rules.” Kyle, however, isn’t going to give up that easily. He remembers a time that his mother wrote to Mr. Lemoncello’s Imagination Factory for a new set of clue cards for their Indoor-Outdoor Scavenger Hunt game. He hops on his mother’s computer and finds an e-mail address for Mr. Lemoncello, sends the essay to the e-mail, and goes to bed.
The next day, the 7th graders gather for the assembly to announce the essay winners. Dr. Zinchenko speaks first and talks about the library, then tells the students that the essay winners will need to take a sleeping bag, a toothbrush, a change of clothes, and two pairs of underwear. Then, she also reveals that the essay winners will receive a $500 gift card for Mr. Lemoncello’s Imagination Factory games. Mr. Lemoncello steps up to the podium and talks about the impact that his childhood librarian, Mrs. Tobin, had on his life. Then, he announces the twelve winners: Kyle’s two friends, Miguel and Akimi, Andrew, Bridgette, Sierra, Yasmeen, Sean, Haley, Rose, Kayla, and the town’s rich kid who will do anything to get ahead, Charles Chiltington. Kyle is in disbelief when Mr. Lemoncello calls his name last. Mr. Lemoncello tells Kyle that he was “The boy who proved what I’ve always known to be true: The game is never over ’till it’s over.” Kyle noticed that there are two books on the back of his library card: “I Love You, Stinky Face” and “The Napping House.”
That night, Kyle takes his whole family to the store and allows each of them to use $100 of his $500 gift card to pick out the games they want. Kyle’s parents gush over him, telling him how proud they are. His family LOVES their new games. Kyle runs into Charles Chiltington, who is obviously on a shopping spree with his own gift card. When Kyle tells him he divided up his gift card among his family, Chiltington tells him that was a mistake and mutters “loser” under his breath.
Finally, Friday has arrived, and all of the winners and their families are at a fancy gala that precedes the lock-in. Kyle and his friends are busy eating the trays of fancy, delicious food, but he notices fellow contest winner Sierra in the corner reading a book. Her mom didn’t come with her to the gala, and he’s amazed that Sierra is reading during the gala when she’s going to be in a library full of books soon. Fellow contest winner Haley loves having her picture taken by the local photographers, and her mom uses the opportunity to sneak fancy food into her purse. Charles Chiltington and his family are dressed up in pleated khakis and blazers– their normal, everyday wear, despite the lock-in guidelines telling the winners to wear comfortable clothes. Akimi and Kyle are talking and noticed that the books on Akimi’s card are different from Kyle’s– she has “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” by Dr. Seuss and “Nine Stories” by J.D. Salinger. Kyle shrugs and figures that the library cards will be like baseball cards– you won’t know what random books will be on yours. Then, Mr. Lemoncello tells the contestants that it is time to walk across the street to the new library.
- Mr. Lemoncello opened up his essay contest to 12-year-olds because they were the first kids in Alexandriaville to grow up without a library (the town public library closed the year before they were born). Do you think having or not having a library would affect how much you like to read?
- Kyle wasn’t a big reader, but he loved games. Which do you prefer— reading, video games, or board games?
- Kyle realized how big of a mistake he made by ignoring the extra credit essay when he found out that Mr. Lemoncello has built the new library. Have you ever made a mistake you wish you could take back? What was it?
- What would you add to your dream library?
- Kyle had two moments when he could have given up on the essay— when he realized on the bus that it was due first period, and when he realized it was too late to turn it in to the teacher. Instead, he tried to write a quick essay, and then when he found out the teacher wouldn’t accept the essay, he went home, put in more work, and wrote a good essay. Then, he found Mr. Lemoncello’s email address online and sent it to him. Would you have given up when you found out your essay was due, or would you have gone home and tried to find another way to enter the contest like Kyle did?
- Kyle decided to share his $500 gift card with his family and took joy in seeing his family pick out games. However, Charles Chitlington thought sharing the card was a “mistake.” Why did he think it was a mistake, would you have shared your card or kept it to yourself?
- If you were creating a board game for Mr. Lemoncello, what would your game be about? Do you like quiet board games, like “Mr. Lemoncello’s Bewildering Baffling Bibliomania,” or do you like active board games, like the “Indoor-Outdoor Scavenger Hunt” board game?
- Why do you think Sierra was reading at the opening gala party?
- Possible Answers: Her mom wasn’t with her, and she obviously loves books. Maybe she was used to being alone, and reading was a way for her to cope.
- Each contestant’s library card has different books on it. Do you think this is a coincidence, like Kyle did, or do you think there is a meaning behind each card?