We don't do stars...
We don't do thumbs...
We read children's books and grade them in 10 categories:
literary quality
plot
voice
originality
descriptive ability
humor (if attempted)
illustrations (if present)
believability of characters
believability of situations
overall reading enjoyment

There is no grading curve. There are no points for classroom participation. There is no extra credit.
If you disagree, come speak to us after class.

The Grading System

A+.....this means (guess what) we think it's great. So great it surprised even us.
A.....this means it's pretty darn good. A book we'd recommend to just about everyone we know.
B.....better than most. Not exactly Shakespeare for kids, though, if you get our drift.
C.....mediocre. Like the color beige, it didn't stand out.
D.....we didn't like it. There were more bad aspects than good ones.
F.....it reeked of badness. We read it over and over when we are in dire need of hysterical laughter.
F-.....We're pretty sure Dante had a circle of hell for the people who wrote these...and a lower circle for those who published them.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Special Topic: What About the Bad Reviews?

Considering that the large majority of books reviewed here receive pretty good reviews, you'd think either we're not very critical or the publishing world has reached a veritable golden age... While I can't vouch for the latter one way or the other, I wanted to clarify that there are many many books which I begin to read which never end up on my "to review" shelf.
Believe it or not, I have a system. When I start any, and I mean any, new book, I will always read it at least half-way through, whether I find that difficult or not. Some great books just take a while to get started (for example, last year's A Curse Dark as Gold, reviewed here:http://thechildrensbookreporter.blogspot.com/2008/06/reporters-review-curse-dark-as-gold-by.html) and are worth the wait.
But, sad as it is (since many of these books are fair, to give them credit), I simply don't have time to read every book that comes out if it can't hold my interest. There are so many wonderful books being released that I want to turn my attention to them and give them the recognition they deserve. Even a "B" review here means the book was great in one aspect: it was interesting and entertaining, and should be lauded for being so...which is why I'm addressing this issue now.
I don't really enjoy writing negative reviews, quite frankly. Maybe in the future I'll actually review a book I wasn't impressed with...but, to be honest, that will probably only happen if the book is getting recognition it doesn't deserve and is truly poorly crafted--enough to really annoy me. I'm sure we can all think of a couple that fit that category...but I try to avoid them.
For now, though, enjoy the optimism. And enjoy reading these books numbered among the outstanding few!

5 comments:

Arya said...

I know! My thing is I usually know what I like. If I order a whole list of books, they are most likely going to be to my liking, but if someone gives me a book then ya never know. I just usually read "good" books.

Anonymous said...

"I don't really enjoy writing negative reviews, quite frankly. Maybe in the future I'll actually review a book I wasn't impressed with...but, to be honest, that will probably only happen if the book is getting recognition it doesn't deserve and is truly poorly crafted--enough to really annoy me."

Yeah, nobody likes negative reviews. But I'm puzzled: why wait until a book annoys you? Doesn't that make it less of a review (in the classical sense of literary criticism) and more of an opinion?

One reason I've begun to follow your blog is because you're at least starting to talk about structure and orginality and such---issues that can be talked about without devolving into subjective emotional calls to arms about books and authors.


Here's where I think the deluge of reviews (and the tendency for the great big world of kiddie lit to become smaller and smaller, with authors commenting cheerfully in bookseller's blogs and editors going out on the circuit with authors and just generally everybody being such great friends and buddies and great pals and such) is really watering down the quality of literary criticsm.

There's hardly anyone out there to read anymore!

We've become our own lowest common denomiator.

Because we're afraid to hurt anyone's feelings. Hell, we *know* them---we can't point out the flaws in their book, they'd take it personal, they worked so hard, it'd be a shame to point out that the structure is a muddle, plot thin, the characters unaffecting...and anyway, a book is a personal thing; a baby, a child, and we don't go around saying "man, that's one ugly baby?" to a mom, right? Or anywhere a mom can read it, right?

And so, we end up being, sort of....wishy washy (except those sarcasm R us blogs that just spray-gun everything in their way! Yikes!).

Especially in the blogosphere like this. Because that poor mommy-of-the-child-book-writer is going to come by and be so HURT by your COMMENTS and (send legions of friends over to express hurt and disappointment) that the blogger treads much much (much) more carefully in the future.

So, I'm wondering:

"Even a "B" review here means the book was great in one aspect: it was interesting and entertaining, and should be lauded for being so."

Really? Is interesting and entertaining enough for a book to be above average? Or are we dealing with a gentle form of grade inflation, and the average book that's averagely interesting and entertaining is really a C?

"I simply don't have time to read every book that comes out if it can't hold my interest."

Yeah---but why not once in a while include a review of a book you started but didn't finish? Sure, you couldn't comment on its overall quality, but you sure could make some observations on why you put it down. Done correctly (ie. not mean-spirited, no potshots,) don't you think that'd be instructive as well?

Whew! It's Monday morning and time for unloading, I guess. I really like your blog. I think it has real potential. Sort of like Fuse 8 before she went all upbeat and squishy on SLJ.

Linda

Anonymous said...

Dear Book Report and readers:

I humbly apologize for doing exactly the sarcasm R us spray-gun approach vis a vis Fuse 8 that I complain about...that last sentence which reads ..."she went all upbeat and squishy" OUGHT to read "her COMMENTS went all upbeat and squishy".

A huge difference, and a very careless mistake on my part. I hope you will either correct it before you post my comment, or include my mea culpa here.

Fuse 8 is a wonderful woman! There's not a thing squishy about her! I know! I've met her! I like her tons! and she's very svelte and appealing! and I in no way meant to imply anything at all about her person or her character!

Linda

The Book Reporter said...

Linda,
Thanks for your comments and providing a lot to think about.
I used to the word "annoy" to refer to the recognition a poorly-crafted book is getting, not the book itself; you're quite right that to review a book negatively simply becaus it's not to my taste would be severely unfair.
In regards to your later remark on whether a book is genuinely interesting... You will notice, if you look through the reviews that most of the books I review receive an "A" or close to it for "Overall Reading Enjoyment"; the overall grade at the top of the review is the averaged grade of all aspects--it is possible for a book with an average plot or average descriptive ability (thus earning it an overall B in my book), to still be considered outstanding in terms of enjoyability.
This holds true for some of my all-time favorite books, as well... I don't consider the plot of Anne of Green Gables to be exceptional--yet I find myself re-reading it every year! And The Phantom Tollbooth doesn't have the best character development, but it will never fail to keep my interest.
Thank you, though, for suggesting giving a partial review of a book I didn't finish...I may do that in the future to be able to accurately point out the ways in which the beginning of a book wasn't working.

Anonymous said...

"Thank you, though, for suggesting giving a partial review of a book I didn't finish...I may do that in the future to be able to accurately point out the ways in which the beginning of a book wasn't working."

I really hope you'll do this---and more, I hope you'll consider reviewing some books (that you finish) whose average grade was a C---it would be very interesting to compare and contrast a C mid-grade fantasy (for instance) with an A mid-grade fantasy....a lot of food for thought....and writing!

Linda