For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with Mrs. Abbott, who is the amazing and passionate librarian at Morse Pond Middle School in Falmouth, MA. Mrs. Abbott coordinates two book clubs, one for the 5th grade and one for the 6th grade. Thanks to many generous sales reps and publicity people at publishing houses, I have been able to bring ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of books for the kids to read and review. In the spring of 2013, our Random House rep highly recommended Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. I read it, loved it, and handed my copy to Mrs. Abbott. She read it, loved it, and passed it on to one of the 6th graders in the book club who read it, loved it, and reviewed it. That review kicked off a series of events that none of us could have anticipated, culminating a Mr. Lemoncello Weekend, where Chris Grabenstein visited Morse Pond AND we had an after hours event for 12 kids at the Falmouth Public Library.*
In preparation for this school year, Mrs. Abbott and I had a conversation about how many amazing things happened because of a seemingly small gesture: handing someone a book and telling them they have to read it. However, word-of-mouth recommendations are one of the most important factors in publishing. So we decided we wanted to see what books would capture the attention and imagination of Morse Pond’s book clubs this year.
We don’t know what will happen, but here are the steps so far . . . I asked people from various publishing houses to make recommendations of what books they think could be “The Next Big Thing.” Kate (Random House), Bernie (HarperCollins), Debra (Candlewick), Barbara (Simon & Schuster), Eileen (Algonquin Young Readers), Lisa, (Little, Brown) all kindly sent a few contenders. I also picked up ARCs from Abrams, Macmillan, Scholastic, and Penguin at a recent conference (see the full list of books here). Mrs. Abbott and I talked about each book and let the kids decide which ones they want to read. We’ve explained to the kids that buzzing — both via word of mouth and in written reviews — is crucial to this project. Mrs. Abbott put this awesome board up in the library and kids can post their comments about the books for their peers. Kids are talking to each other, their families, and teachers about some of their favorites. Mrs. Abbott can’t stop talking about Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai! Reviews are starting to arrive and will be posted here on the Eight Cousins blog — readers are, of course, free to read and review books not on the list. Although we don’t know what *will* happen, Mrs. Abbott and I already seeing a lot of middle school kids getting really excited about books, reading, and buzzing!
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a favorite at Eight Cousins, Morse Pond, and the Falmouth Public Library. It was one of the Eight Cousins 2013 Picks of the Year, was one of Jill Erikson’s (Head Reference Librarian at the Falmouth Public Library) Summer Reading Picks, is currently listed on the Morse Pond Battle of the Books, and continues to get rave reviews from everyone who reads it.