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August 10, 2016

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Every month, TAB editor Kristin will be sharing her thoughts on five titles from our… Read More

June 1, 2016

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I Will Write a Picture Book Review!

A good picture-book review is hard to come by. Roger Sutton at The Horn Book Magazine once told me that he thought picture-book reviews were the hardest to write; and, I would add, they are also some of the hardest to find (outside of book review publications). Everyone wants to write a review of the latest YA sensation, but when it comes to picture books most people don’t take the time. I completely understand. Reading a novel is a commitment. When you’re finished, your brain is so filled with characters and plot twists it’s all you can do not to stand up on the subway and yell, “Has anyone read this book? I need to talk about it right now!” A picture book, on the other hand, can be read in a matter of minutes. It seems so simple, but when I start to think about why I like a certain book or what I think a child will like…I’m flummoxed. Which I suspect is why picture-book reviews on places like Goodreads are mostly glowing reminiscences of the classics mixed in with a few “my kid loves,” “my class loves,” “my neighbor loves,” etc.

It is impossible as an adult to really understand what makes a book magical for a kid. In children’s book publishing we like to think we’re in the know, but we’re really guessing. Reviewing a picture book is deceptively hard. Not only do you have to predict what kids will think (Would a kid find this funny? How about beautiful?), but you also have to talk about art. I’m a book person. I like words and want to talk about words. I have a million ways I can wax on about the metaphorical importance of a certain passage or about the psychological journey of a character, but what can I say about Go, Dog, Go!? It’s cartoony? Or how about the interplay between two-dimensional and three-dimensional images—oh, I have to stop there. I’ve just described a soap box and completely missed what makes P. D. Eastman’s books wonderful.

For my job I read hundreds of picture books, and I find myself using the same words over and over again: funny, cute, sweet, stunning. This is in no way representative of the incredible variety of picture books that cross my desk. That is why I’m making it my Reading Resolution to write more picture-book reviews. If nothing else, I will have to learn some new ways to describe the wonderful books I’m reading.


 

 

About the Author: Darcy is the assistant manager for the SeeSaw and Firefly Reading Club catalogs. Most days Darcy can be found poring over a stack of picture books, drinking a cup of hot tea, and blatantly ignoring her resolutions.

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January 27, 2015