How To Write Better Book Reviews

 

Book reviews are shorter than book reports: often only 3 or 4 sentences. They tell people your opinion of what you read. A review doesn't have to tell the whole story, but it should help someone decide whether they would want to read the book. Sometimes the answer is no! That's okay -- it's not your job to make someone read what you want them to. Your job -- or mine, at least, as a librarian -- is to give them enough information to make a good choice. 

When I visit schools to read aloud, I might ask students to tell me how they felt about a book with a thumbs-up (I liked it!) or thumbs-down (Not my favorite) -- which is a quick way to find out what most people in the class think. It doesn't tell me the important stuff, though, like "I don't understand why the author tried to rhyme so much," or "My best friend read this and then told me to read it and we love all the same books," or "If this had been a story about a pony who gets lost in outer space, I would have liked it, but this book had too many monkeys and not enough ponies." Those pieces of information are very helpful. No one else has exactly the same taste in reading that you do, so "Omigosh I loved this book!" is just not good enough.

How can you move beyond that simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down? Try asking yourself questions, such as:

  • What is the story about (not just what happens, but what it means)? What would the author want you to remember?
  • What happens in the first chapter? What does the reader know by then? What might they want to find out?
  • Who do you think might like it? What other things would they like to read, listen to, or do?
  • What other books does this one remind you of? How would you compare it to a popular book or series that lots of people have read?
  • Was it easy or hard to read? Why?
  • What did it make you think about?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • What surprised you? (Don't give away surprise endings!)
  • What three words would you use to describe the type of book this is?

Examples of book reviews:

  • I liked reading Snowflake Bentley because it is about Vermont, where there is much more snow than in California! I learned a lot about how snow is formed and what it looks like under a microscope. If you are curious about science, this picture book biography of "the snowflake man" is for you.
  • Do you know about Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol?  Best buddies Desmond and Andres are like Scooby Doo's friends: they solve spooky mysteries. And their latest case is The Sleepwalking Snowman! Is this scary creature a zombie or a robot or something haunted? Why is it chasing kids? What happens if it catches one?? This chapter book is not as scary as Goosebumps but more exciting than Geronimo Stilton.
  • The Mutts is good for kids who like funny comics like Calvin and Hobbes. There are lots of volumes in the graphic novel series, but The Winter Diaries is what I picked for a "cold winter's night". Earl (a dog) and Mooch (a cat) are friends who like to play together, but snow isn't their favorite weather. Mooch talks kind of funny (especially when he gets a cold), so you might not like reading words like "shweater" and "shurvival".

If you're looking for something new to read, try these recommendations from your librarians: Kids' Books We Love. If you feel like writing and submitting one of your own, you can do that here. Remember that we don't all love the same books. It can be hard to choose what to read next! If you can tell someone why you do or don't like a book, you can help them by making their choice easier. Plus, "Tell a librarian what to read" is one of the squares on the Winter Bingo card!

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