Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reviewing Picture Books..Rambling Thoughts from an Inconsistent Reviewer

I had a realization yesterday. Not during the writing of that post. But several hours later. See. Already something good has come from this! (The first task for the Blog Improvement Project.)

I love reading board books, picture books, chapter books.
I do.
But I don't *love* writing reviews.
Here's why...

I think that picture books are so very subjective.

You can love the text, but hate the pictures.
You can love the pictures, but hate the text.
You can love both the pictures and the text.
You can hate both the pictures and the text.
In addition to the love/hate options...you've got so many other responses:

best book ever,
too cute,
too glittery,
just okay,
nothing special,
very dinky,
extremely awful,
so what?,
who is this for?,
why was it published?
never again!

What one person loves, another person will see as a waste of paper altogether. Trying to find words to justify why you feel the way you do about a book--loved it, hated it, whatever--can be difficult in some cases. It's more of an instinct. You either have a taste for something, or you don't. If we happen to have similar tastes in books, then you might find we agree and that you can "trust" my thoughts on these books.

While I feel comfortable talking about the text of picture books--quality, style, rhyming and rhythm or lack thereof, I feel completely intimidated when it comes to talking art and illustrations. I just know "I like it." "I love it." "So pretty!" "Look at the details!" Those being if my response is positive. Some books I hate the art. But I won't go there.

On top of all that, as if that wasn't enough, there is the undeniable fact that adults read picture books differently from kids. Sometimes adults love a book kids just hate. And sometimes kids love a picture book that adults hate. So while mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, could just think a book was divine, the kid involved could think it was seriously-bad.

So I'm considering changing up some of my policies. It has always been my policy that I review every book I read. But I don't think I can do that for this blog. Not anymore.

I'll either

a) only post reviews of books I really love and enjoy
b) only post reviews of books that I have something to say good or bad (but not post about the ones where I had a "so what?" "who cares?" "why was this published again?" "what's up with this?" response)
c) post mini-reviews of books I read but don't have that much to say enough to justify their own posts. Like having one post about multiple books I've read, but only a few sentences (extremely short) "reviews."
d) combination a and c.

If feeling obligated to write a post on every book I read is making me feel burned-out and sluggish. Then I've got to do what I can do to make this work for me.

I may also try to come up with some general questions to ask about every book or some standard or format to get me started thinking (and writing) for when I'm stumped.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers


  1. Becky,

    With picture books I use my "Picture Book Saturday" post to do what you suggested in letter C up there. A few short sentences to describe a book I enjoy. I will do an entirely separate post if I really loved a picture book, that way I can give it the review it really deserves. Finally, if I don't enjoy a book, I won't review it. I have too many other reviews to do to worry about every single picture book, being that I read several hundred a year. Maybe that will help...?

  2. I vote for only reviewing the picture books you love. Your readers of this particular blog will come to use you as a guidepost for when they want something they're sure to enjoy. Just my two cents!

  3. I don't really find that reviewing picture books is harder than other books. I don't have a problem talking about the illustrations with the exception that sometimes I don't know what a certain medium is called so it's hard to describe. So I guess I don't understand your POV.

    However, I do agree that you shouldn't be forced to review books you don't want to or for ones you don't know what to say. I say don't commit to reviewing all you receive and if you feel like giving a few words here and there on some, go ahead. A little mention of a book is better than none at all.

  4. I would love to hear what you have to say about the books you read! Maybe there is a way that you could post a list of all books that you read and then just highlight the few that you feel deserve an honorable mention? Just a suggestion! Either way, I love that you have this site dedicated to just kids' books! It's great to hear another mom's perspective besides my own! Thank you!

  5. I love reading your reviews. I hate that you're getting burnt out. But maybe like you said you could just do a post of mini reviews. Did you like it and why? You really don't need to say much more than that. That way you can get a pile of say 5-10 children's books that you've read and then go thru and say why you liked or didn't like them in one post. that way it's quick and you don't have to do it very often. Hopefully that gives you some rest and relaxation. Always keep it fun!

  6. Your reviews are always so helpful, but I completely understand about picture books. I like your idea for mini reviews. They would give us a short-and-sweet lead on books worth checking out (and why). Could you tell us whether you'd buy the book or just check it out at the library?