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Chris Grabenstein Meets Us at The Lamp-Post

Author Chris Grabenstein is pictured beside his quote, "give yourself permission to write a really bad, terrible, no good, stinky first draft."

This month, at The Lamp-Post, we are going off on an adventure to celebrate Read Aloud to a Child Week (October 23-29, 2022). To explore how reading aloud can take you on an adventure, we are highlighting five chapter books, paired with five picture books, that can take families on a quest, romp, or journey.  

Chapter Books Picture Books 
Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Geneva B Raising Dragons by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Elise Primavera 
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins Chirri & Chirra Underground by Kaya Doi (translated from Japanese by David Boyd) 
The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Harry Bliss 
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein The Night Library by David Zeltser, illustrated by Raul Colón 
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (available in Spanish) Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (available in Spanish) 
The Wanderer by Sharon Creech The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, illustrated by The Fan Brothers 
Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson The World Belonged to Us by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Leo Espinosa 

As part of the Read Aloud to a Child Week 2022 celebration, Bruce and Sara interviewed Chris Grabenstein, author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, the first of his Mr. Lemoncello series. Even though all of the action takes place in a library, the book takes readers on a rollicking ride filled with puzzles, riddles, strategy, and teamwork.  

In the interview, Chris talks about his background in improv and advertising and how they inform his writing – especially in appealing to what he calls “super-critical readers.” He also discusses what he gains from collaboration, and how he found his way back to reading after college. (Hint: It might involve a pipe and a deerstalker hat…) 

Here are some highlights: 

Writing adventures for “super-critical readers” [4:28-4:46] 

“A lot of my stories I think are structured on that what you might call a Golden Fleece kind of story where there’s something that you have to get and you have to go through all these adventures to get there. But, in most Golden Fleece stories, the object – the fleece that you’re going for – really isn’t the object of the story.  It’s all the lessons that we learn along the way.”  

Chris reads an excerpt from Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library [13:52-16:43] 

How his experience in improv informs his writing [17:44-20:12] 

“You’ll never get writer’s block if you give yourself permission to write a really bad, terrible, no good, stinky first draft. You just keep going and you say, ‘Yes, and….’” 

Sherlock Holmes as a gateway back to reading, and to a favorite scene in Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library [23:25-24:53] 

“…the only thing left for Kyle and his teammates to do is read. And the books that they read are a Sherlock Holmes story.” 

How Chris developed the lists of books included in the Mr. Lemoncello series [31:00-35:39] 

“I tell kids, you guys are living in the Golden Age of books written specifically for the 8-12 generation.” 

The universal appeal of being read aloud to [40:00-42:43] 

“I’ll do these events…where parents will come with their kids and the parents are hanging on every word, too.” 

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