Tag Archives: Simon & Schuster

Morse Pond is Buzzing about “The Next Big Thing!”

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.IMG_5995*

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. IMG_6039Mrs. 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!

~ Sara




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.

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“Stories carry things”

I recently finished an advanced reader copy of Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger (Simon & Schuster, March 2013). It’s a rather interesting book about how things spread, focusing mostly on why people talk about ideas, brands, etc, basically what people take the time to share. The concept of sharing has become inseparable from social media, but Berger is more interested in offline sharing: the stories we tell, the items we recommend, and the ideas we discuss verbally. Although it’s usually easy to look backwards and explain why something goes ‘viral’, Berger argues that there are ways to predict what will become important. I’m still debating internally whether I think he’s right. I don’t think things are just random, but I’m not convinced virality is predictable according to 6 easy steps.

In one chapter, Berger has a sentence that made me pause. He writes, “stories carry things” (156). As someone who loves literature, I appreciate this sentiment, but what I liked even more was it’s simplicity and ambiguity. Stories carry things. It’s hard to argue with that statement and yet it’s so revealing. Stories are ephemeral. They are transient and constantly changing. Stories are also found across almost every medium. They are in books, of course, but also music, dance, art, movies, radio, television. Furthermore you can find stories on pottery, toys, food packaging, billboards. Forget stories carrying things; things carry stories. Almost everything carries a story. And yet stories exist outside of things. Stories exist in intangible forms: in the space between speaker and listener, and in our memories. So are the things they carry also intangible — limited to things like humor, advice, sorrow, empathy, romance, history? Or do stories have the capacity to carry solid, material things? I like the idea that stories, in all their ambiguity, can carry some tangible thing. Finally, I like Berger’s verb : carry. The word choice is a reminder that stories are vessels and that they move. They need to be filled up in order to fulfill their function. But the word carry also implies that stories are supportive. They move things that might not be able to move on their own. I liked Berger’s sentence. It is so simple and yet it invokes so much. Even so, I’d still like to suggest an alternative, or at least a companion. Stories carry people.

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