Friday, October 31, 2008

Reviewing Children's Books - part 1

The subject of reviewing children’s books (how, why, which, etc) has been popping up all over the blogs I read – little wonder, as those blogs tend to feature reviews of children’s books.

Betsy Bird of Fuse #8 ponders the questions posed by a reader who wondered how she chose to review the books she did. Did publisher clout have anything to do with it? Is Betsy reviewing more “buzzy” books than she used to, rather than little-known gems? See her post for some musings on how she selects books to review.

Liz B. of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy presents a wonderfully sensible discussion of blog reviews vs. journal reviews (SLJ, Kirkus et al) in this post. There’s room for them both, she says, and I heartily agree.

Roger Sutton of Read Roger brings up the sometimes awkward way reviewers mention (or fail to mention) the skin color/ethnicity of characters in their reviews. Read his post for a fictional but hilarious example.

And my beloved Kidlitosphere colleagues have been discussing every detail of blog reviewing, from the mundane to the sublime. Blog reviewing is alive, well, and in great hands if these folks are any indication.

I’ve reviewed for School Library Journal for lo these many years (more than 10, less than 20 – more specific I simply can’t get), and now I also blog-review as well. There are only two important differences between these two types of reviews:

1. I read and review every book SLJ sends me, whether I like it or not, and therefore I sometimes write bad reviews on books for SLJ. Because I only read and review what I want for my own blog, I tend to write mostly positive reviews on my blog – after all, I don’t want to waste my time reading a bad book if I don’t have to!

2. My SLJ reviews have to follow a certain format – they can’t be too long and they must be rather professional. They are meant to provide librarians with some crucial information that they can use when making selection decisions. My blog reviews, however, are for whomever reads my blog – all five of you! I can be as long-winded and personal as I want.

But my reviews are all the same in these two respects:

1. If I plan to review a book, I read it all the way through at least once. No exceptions. No stopping half-way through and writing a bad review! No skimming!

2. I take my review-writing very seriously. I think hard about not just my own personal and immediate reaction to the book but also about the writing style, plot, illustrations, mood, and so on. Also, I have been known to feel lukewarm about a book that went on to become quite popular with kids (Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer being a perfect example), which has taught me that while my own reaction is valid as far as it goes, there are other possible viewpoints to consider, most notable those of potential kid readers. Thank God I gave a starred review to Harry Potter in SLJ!!!

I’m a compulsive reader of School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, Hornbook, the book review sections of several major daily newspapers, and even the book review sections of Vogue and People. I also subscribe to dozens of review blogs. They all feed my addiction to books in essential and satisfying ways.

Now if only I could get paid for reviewing children’s books…!!!!!


  1. Thanks, Eva. This helps. Based on your well-versed post, I doubt you are writing a "bad review." I'm betting it is a great review ... it's the book that fell short. You've got 6 readers now! You're in my reader.

  2. Woo! Thanks, Terry (henceforth to be known as Reader #6).
    Good point - when written with care, it's not a "bad" review, but rather a review of a less-than-stellar book (and we know there are a few out there...)

  3. You should check out Discoverybox. They are great for Kids aged 9-12 and have a Turn your Parents Green competition on this month!