Thursday, January 2, 2014

What we can learn from kids’ book reviews.

If you want to read about why I make my kids write book reviews, and learn about the principles and process involved, please see this post over at my homeschooling blog.

As a children’s writer, are you always asking yourself “will kids like my book?”  It’s a simple question, but one I suspect many amateur writers forget.

Think:  “Are they going to love it?  Would they recommend it if they have a chance?”  And the most important question…

“What one thing will they remember best?”

With reasimageonable prompting, a child of the right age and reading level should be able to summarize your book in one sentence.  For example, when I asked my 8-year-old daughter what The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo was about, she said, “It’s about a mouse who has adventures.”

Here are 4 book reviews my own kids wrote (I post them to indicating that it’s a child’s review, along with the child’s age).

The Giver, by Lois Lowry, review by YM, age 11

image[9]I think that The Giver is an amazing book. I like the way it helps us understand how the characters feel at all times. For example, when Jonas is trying to transfer the memory of red to Asher, we can understand how hopeless he feels, and sympathize with him. This is an excellent book by an excellent author, and I hope we will be seeing more from her soon, maybe even a sequel to The Giver. I sure hope so!

(The one thing he remembered best:  “Jonas trying to transfer the memory of red to Asher” (we don’t even need to know what this means to know it was memorable for the child reading the book).)

True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi, review by EC, age 100545477115

I have just recently read the book "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" and I think it is a great book. It tells the story of a girl named Charlotte Doyle who is coming on a ship from her boarding school to visit her family. On the ship she met Captain Jaggery that at first she thought was a gentleman but then he killed someone on deck for no reason. I especially like the part of the book where Charlotte climbed up the main mast that was over 50 feet high so she could become part of the crew. I would recommend this book because I love action and the book is full of it.

(The one thing she remembered best:  “Captain Jaggery killed someone on deck for no reason”.)

The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynn Reid Banks, review by EC, age 100375847537

I would recommend this book because it has a nice story of friendship.People might think from the title that the book is racist but it is just the opposite. In the story the indian named Little Bear becomes friends with a cowboy named Boone.Both were dolls turned to life by a magic cupboard. I would also recommend other books written by Lynne Reid Banks because she is a great author.

(The one thing she remembered best:  dolls were turned to life by a magic cupboard, which is also a very basic summary of the story itself.)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney, review by NRM, age 8.50810993139

The book I just read is AMAZING!!!  I recommend this book because I think it is really funny!!!!  For example, Greg’s mom has glasses, but in the pictures you can’t see her eyes!!  I think Greg is jealous because his parents are all for Manny!!!!!  And it seems Manny gets whatever he wants!!!!!  [Manny is Greg’s little brother, and Rodrick is Greg’s big brother!]  So the big brother, Rodrick is always pulling pranks on Greg + Manny.  There is a girl at Greg’s school and class called Holly Hills, who Greg has a crush on, so he thinks humour is best to make an impression on her.  I don’t think this book is for a specific age, like 4,5,6,7,8,9,10, but it is simply for people who like humour, because there is a lot of humour in this silly book, and for people who like to read!  I liked this book and now I read more “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books by Jeff Kinney!!!!!!!!  I also recommend THIS BOOK and OTHER BOOKS by the author JEFF KINNEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Hope you like this great book!!!

(The one thing she remembered best:  either “Manny gets whatever he wants” or “Rodrick is always pulling pranks.”)

What one thing will kids remember best from YOUR book?

If children remember more than one thing after reading your book, that’s fantastic.  In fact, while it’s fresh in their mind, they may remember lots and lots and lots.

(Sometimes even too much to write a good review.  When I was reviewing books, I used to read the book, then set it aside for a while to let it “steep” in my mind.  Only after a few days when it wasn’t so fresh would I begin to write the actual review, because that’s when the truly outstanding parts of the book begin to bubble up in your memory.)

But once that short-term memory has faded, you probably still want your book to be one kids will remember not just weeks and months, but years later.  Okay, let’s really dream big:  I bet you REALLY want it to be one they’ll pull off the shelves decades from now, eager to share it with their own children.

How’s that for lofty ambitions?


  1. Lovely take on book reviews and what children remember/ like best in a book. All that enthusiasm as well with the exclamation marks!!!!! Thanks for sharing a little on your process on writing a book review from an adult perspective as well.

  2. My 10 year old reviewed a book under my profile because I really enjoyed her enthusiasm when she read The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell because I could not do it justice in my own words. Her review is all her own words, minus spelling errors.

    "BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, December 23, 2013

    This review is from: The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell (Kindle Edition)
    My name is S I am 10 years old. I loved the book The Land of Story's the Wishing Spell because it is very interesting. A set of twins Alex and Connor get a book from their grandma for their Birthday. Connor and Alex travel through the book and into the Land of Stories. They meet all different sorts of fairy tale characters such as the Evil Queen, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty,the Huntsman and more. Alex and Conner are looking for the items to the Wishing Spell so they can get back home. The Wishing Spell is a spell that if you find the items needed you are granted 1 wish.They need to find Sleeping Beauty' s spindle that she pricked her finger on, or a tear from a fairy, or one of Cinderella' s Glass Slippers, and 5 other items. This book is AMAZING and you should read it. I guarantee you will enjoy this book."

  3. What a great review. I see she shares my 8-year-old's love of the exclamation mark. :-)


As always, I love to hear from you.