Review: ‘Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow’

I know everyone compares everything to Harry Potter, but this really does have the same sort of readability and charm. It’s the story of Morrigan Crow, born a cursed child and hated in her hometown (her father is mayor). Morrigan gets blamed for everything, from bad weather to upset stomachs to lost pets. Good thing that cursed children are all killed the night before their 11th birthday, and for Morrigan Crow, that is tomorrow.

Just before Morrigan is to die, a mysterious stranger whisks her away to Nevermoor, a realm she didn’t know existed, where she finds herself being groomed to compete for a spot in the illustrious Wundrous Society, a school for the gifted. The magically gifted, that is. Morrigan has to compete in a series of trials to earn her place among the future leaders of the country. The only problem is, she has no magic talent to speak of.

Living in an enchanted, clever and ever-changing hotel overseen by a large talking cat, Morrigan comes to love her life in this new world. But as with all good Harry-Potter-esque novels, there is something sinister afoot. And if she doesn’t pass her trials and make it into the Wundrous Society, she’ll be thrown back to her hometown to face certain death. I can’t wait for the second installment, due out in October 2018.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (Little Brown Books for Young Readers | 9780316508889 | October 31, 2017)

Review (Plus): ‘I Sleep In a Big Bed’

Ms. America’s Review:

I have found there are three mega times of transition in my children’s lives—becoming a ‘kid’ from a toddler, entering middle school (hormones, name-brands, pressure) and the junior year of high school (leaving the nest, learning to drive, college apps and what am I going to do with my life?). Now, I haven’t found a series of books for the last two, but Maria van Lieshout has offered help with the first transitional period—BIG*KID Power books. Her fourth book in this series comes out in March, I Sleep in a Big Bed.

As with her other books in this series, this little book offers relatable pictures for children to see themselves as a baby transitioning to a toddler. One of my favorite aspects in these books is the read-aloud quality van Lieshout offers. Her use of onomatopoeia is super fun! I love making the noises and making the youngster giggle as I read!

There are so many nights of parenting when we just WANT THEM TO SLEEP IN THEIR OWN BEDS! This book helps a parent with a teachable moment during the day without frustration or anger as they are often sleep deprived when the little one insists on sleeping with the parent, or comes crawling in to the parent bed in the middle of the night. It is often easier to let the child crawl into bed with them. But this book provides the idea of a lovey for their comfort verse the parent. This is also a book that can be read multiple times and used as an example throughout the days, months or years when your little one needs/insists/begs to be in your bed.

Vibrant pictures, fun sounds, and an easy to understand message is presented. The use of black and blue colors also helps give the book a ‘night time’ feel. The darkness of night is scary for little people, but with a lovey and some reassurance, a big kid can learn to sleep by themselves.

In the classroom:

Usually I offer a guide to an assignment or a lesson plan idea. This book should be used in the home instead of the classroom. It is a personal parenting decision whether you want your little person to co-sleep with you. If you are ready for the little person to sleep on their own and have tried every tactic you can think of, I highly recommend a lovey and this book. If you are having issues with potty training, binky addictions or awful tantrums there are BIG*KID Power books for these life issues, too.

I Sleep in a Big Bed by Maria van Lieshout (Chronicle Books | 9781452162904 | March 13, 2018)

300 Seconds: In-House Communication

When communicating information about events planned for the store, it’s easy to remember to use Facebook, Twitter, the store website, newsletters, community calendars and news releases to achieve the best reach. But the most important communication is sometimes forgotten: communication to the staff.

Even if you broadcast event information through all of the platforms I’ve mentioned, chances are someone will call the store for more information, or with a specific question or request. If your staff isn’t equipped with the know-how to handle the call, or that the event exists at all, you’ve just made a bad first impression.

But if your staff knows about the event, they can not only answer questions that arise but can also help spread the message and their own excitement through their personal social media accounts.

So if you only have 5 minutes to spend on marketing today, market to your staff and make sure they are aware of your programs and upcoming events. Not only will this help spread your message, it will be amplified.

Year-End Video: And the winners are…

Thanks to all who entered for a chance to win a produced year-end video for your store. The three winning stores are:

If you’re interested in producing your own video to showcase 2018 at your store, remember that the first step is to take photos. Snap more pictures than you think you’ll need. It’s easier to cull through many photos to find the right shot than it is to recreate the moment!

It’s not too late to start a challenge.

I tend to pull for the underdogs, for the ponderers, and for the procrastinators. Which is why I’m stating, mid-February, that it’s not too late for your bookstore to start a reading challenge for 2018. If you thought about launching one in January but just didn’t get around to it, I’ll tell you that there are readers out there with the same mindset.

I didn’t realize the benefit of a reading challenge until I was publicly shamed to participate in one on December 30, 2016. Suzanne Tobias, a reporter for my local newspaper shared the digital version of her reading challenge story on Facebook and tagged me, our local independent bookstore owner, and a gentleman she knew who always had a book in his hands. We all accepted and I thought, “This is going to be easy.”

Well, it was a true challenge because of the categories Suzanne selected. I had to keep reading new releases for my Marginalia podcast interviews, but I also had to read “a book you’ve owned forever but have never read” and “a book that was published before you were born” and “a book you should have read in school” and “a favorite book from childhood.” I have 20 items on my what-I’ve-read list from 2016. In 2017, that improved to 72. (And it took until December 31, 2017 for me to check off the last of 24 categories.)

One of the best things to come out of this challenge was how it got the community talking about books. The newspaper started a Facebook group and participants would post a image of the book they’d just finished along with the category they were checking off their list. Whenever Watermark Books would schedule another author visit, someone would post that information so participants could knock “a book by an author who is slated to visit Wichita in 2017” off their list. The 2017 Wichita Eagle Reading Challenge turned into a community affair. So much so that the Wichita Public Library partnered with the newspaper for the 2018 challenge. Both entities benefit from more readers.

Which is why I’m telling you that a procrastinator’s or second-chance reading challenge is worthwhile. Here’s how to get started:

  • Select 10 reading categories. If you launch on March 1, there are 10 months left in the year for 10 books. There are so many reading challenges out there from which you can “borrow” some categories. Suzanne shared this Master List of Reading Challenges which was pulled together by Or borrow from fellow bookstores already doing challenges. One of my favorites from Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario, is “a book with non-human characters.” That will be a challenge for me.
  • Publish the categories… on your website, on a downloadable PDF, on a bookmark. And then share where to find the categories through your social media outlets.
  • Come up with a hashtag, and use it. 
  • Start and promote a Facebook group. When participants ask to join, let them. When participants post what they’ve read, “like” and comment on it. When participants ask for recommendations for a specific category, offer some. There are currently 872 members of the #ReadICT Challenge posting about books several times throughout the day. I’m sure you could join and hang out in this group for a few days if you’re still on the fence.
  • Start talking about the challenge in the store and encouraging readers. Most challenge accepters participate in multiple challenges, so a 10-book challenge shouldn’t be daunting. Some readers might be hesitant because they don’t read much. Encourage them to try just one of the categories and call that a victory.

If you have a category suggestion, please share it on this Facebook post.

It’s up to you whether or not you offer a reward. Maybe an end-of-year celebration? Suzanne let the first one to complete the challenge choose one of the next year’s categories. But I think one of the greatest rewards is the sense of community. Oh, and checking off the boxes. That’s huge for me.

My next challenge is deciding which book to read that was published the year I was born. One Hundred Years of Solitude or The Master and Margarita. Suggestions?