A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Lots of elevated vocabulary words, easily decipherable in context. Also, British words: "chap," "mate," "brolly," "chuffed." Exposure to crisp, clean writing sprinkled with literary elements; e.g., startlingly fresh similes and metaphors.
Life is full of unexpected adventures. "Step boldly!" If your family doesn't love and appreciate you, there are others who will; they are your family, and your home is with them. Family, belonging, and friendship are worthy values. Scapegoating others is wrong-headed and harmful. Deportation is wrenching for undocumented immigrants.
Positive Role Models
Morrigan is a girl with gumption. Though she has fears, self-doubt, and emotional residue from early rejection, she's open to new experiences and worlds. Jupiter North is a caring and supportive parent figure who truly "sees" Morrigan. Morrigan saves Candace from being trampled, even though it decreases her own chances of winning, and Candace has been mean to her. Hawthorne's a loyal friend.
Violence & Scariness
Morrigan is pursued by scary hounds and horses who'd deliver death. When she's studying Nevermoor history, in one "blood and guts" passage, earlier clans "chop off torsos, hang their enemies upside down, and shake 'em until their guts fall out." In a competition trial involving scary witches, dead bodies crawl from graves, zombies pursue her, she pulls off a "disembodied hand," and kicks one's head, sending "its skull flying."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mentions of adults drinking recreationally scattered throughout story: hotel offers a happy hour, has a champagne fountain at a celebration, adults drink peach sangria, brandy, and eggnog.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is the masterful first volume in a fantasy series by Australian newcomer Jessica Townsend. Morrigan Crow is an outcast, plucked from the petty, provincial family that scapegoats her, and delivered to a magical realm where she competes for a highly contested slot at an elite school and society. While this treads familiar territory (think Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson series, and The Mysterious Benedict Society), Townsend confidently claims it as her own with this strong, highly imaginative debut. Morrigan battles self-doubt but is plucky and resourceful. The stakes are high -- she narrowly escapes death -- and the action's swift-paced. But Townsend also delivers convincing emotional moments with wit, not syrup, including the reassuring message that life brings unexpected adventures, and this book very happily counts as one of them.
Is It Any Good?
Kids will hide under the covers with a flashlight long after bedtime -- one more page! -- to read this highly satisfying and engrossing new fantasy. With its page-turning plot, offbeat humor, quirkily colorful characters, and richly imagined fantasy world, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow has all the earmarks of a classic. The writing's stylish, with just enough Britishisms ("brolly," "chuffed") to make readers feel they've been transported. Since Morrigan comes to Nevermoor without papers and risks deportation, author Jessica Townsend invites kids to think about issues related to immigration. And though Morrigan and her patron, Jupiter North, are white, other significant characters are people of color.
The messages embedded in the story are delivered meaningfully, in ways that feel psychologically smart. While Morrigan continues to feel the rejection from her family, Jupiter is the supportive parent figure every kid would want, and his own magical gift enables him to truly see her. In one exquisitely touching scene, he takes her face in his hands and does not break gaze as he staunchly reassures her. With fast-paced action and heart, Townsend's fantastical world feels truly "Wundrous."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.