Some times it is helpful to know how to read and interpret printed reviews of children’s books. I’m sure you’re going to gain skill in this as you read more and more reviews of children’s books in the media. Some, you’ll discover, merely retell the plot of a book. You’ll know that’s only the beginning. You’ll want to know what age the book is intended for, whether it’s illustrated and what the reviewer thinks of the illustrations. You will certainly want to know the qualifications of the reviewer – is it someone who’s taste is apt to be similar to your own? Is it someone who is really looking at the book, or merely showing off his expertise?
Then too there is a whole secret code that you will soon become familiar with. “Mediocre” means poor, not average. “Instructive” does not necessarily mean good or beautiful, and if that’s all a reviewer can say about a book I’d stay away.
You’ll eventually find reviewers with whom you can count on agreeing or disagreeing. When one of your favorites says, “This is the best book I’ve seen all year”, put your name on the waiting list.
Peter Neumeyer is a professor of English at San Diego State University and highly recognized in the field of children’s literature. He is the author, editor, or translator of 10 books and over 100 articles. His articles and reviews appear regularly in Mother and Parents’ Choice. In 1994, he published The Annotated Charlotte’s Web, and he is currently assembling his second collection of poetry.