Anatomy of a (typical) SLJ review

The following is a rough guide to the basic format of an SLJ review. Please note that no review need follow a cookie-cutter formula, and we encourage our reviewers to bring their own voice and style to their reviews. This guide will, we hope, provide a basic skeleton on which you can build your own reviews; it is a starting place. As always, if you are having any difficulty crafting your review, please reach out to an editor for help at any time.

Sample review:

Gr 4-6-Smith’s latest novel offers readers a plot-driven, high-octane sports tale. Soft-spoken and shy Jared, 12, has trouble fitting in at his new middle school. But when basketball tryouts begin, he discovers he’s the best slam-dunker in his grade. Soon he’s the star player, spending all of this time at practice and hanging with the popular crowd. Jared begins to lose touch with his family and old friends and must grapple with achieving a healthy balance and remaining true to himself. A relationship with an elderly neighbor helps him along the way. Readers will find Jared authentic and likable. Family scenes are warm and inviting, while dialogue with teammates feels authentically kidlike. A diverse array of secondary characters, such as Jared’s former best friend and a kindly neighbor, Mr. Owens, are fleshed out and add to the emotional impact of Jared’s journey. Though the ending is a bit too pat and convenient, fans of the author’s previous sports fiction titles or works by Tim Green will cheer. Unfortunately, the text contains several minor typos (for example, page 98). VERDICT A feel-good story about sports, family, and friendship; this will circulate well in libraries where Smith’s books are already popular.

Grade level recommendation

  • Be as specific as possible, while keeping in mind that most books span multiple grade levels. Take into account vocabulary and sentence structure, sophistication of themes and/or mature content (please see our Reviewer Guidelines section on what constitutes “mature content”), protagonist(s) age(s), and overall appeal. Keep in mind that you are making a recommendation for readers all across the country, perhaps even around the world—not just in your local community or school.

Gr 4-6

Intro Nugget

  • The opening sentence that contains the “gist” of the review and makes it clear what kind of book we’re looking at. Akin to a topic sentence.

Smith’s latest novel offers readers a plot-driven, high-octane sports tale.

Summary

  • 2-4 sentences of basic plot summary. Avoid major plot spoilers. If you’re reviewing a picture book, graphic novel, or other illustrated work, don’t forget to describe the artwork. Note that the summary should be brief and to-the-point. You want to give enough information so someone who hasn’t read the book gets the relevant information needed, but you really want to spend the larger part of your review word count on the Evaluation part, which comes next.

Soft-spoken and shy Jared, 12, has trouble fitting in at his new middle school. But when basketball tryouts begin, he discovers he’s the best slam-dunker in his grade. Soon he’s the star player, spending all of this time at practice and hanging with the popular crowd. Jared begins to lose touch with his family and old friends and must grapple with achieving a healthy balance and remaining true to himself. A relationship with an elderly neighbor helps him along the way.

Evaluation

  • This is the real “meat” of the review. It should include an evaluation and critique of the work in question and should answer the question: Is this book good, great, terrible, so-so, problematic? And WHY?  Picture book and graphic novel reviews should also include descriptions/critique of the artwork, the medium(s) used, and technique.

Readers will find Jared authentic and likable. Family scenes are warm and inviting, while dialogue with teammates feels authentically kidlike. A diverse array of secondary characters, such as Jared’s former best friend and a kindly neighbor, Mr. Owens, are fleshed out and add to the emotional impact of Jared’s journey. Though the ending is a bit too pat and convenient, fans of the author’s previous sports fiction titles or works by Tim Green will cheer.

Note: When citing errors or major flaws in the book, use examples and page numbers when possible. We won’t always leave them in the final copy of the review, as errors are often corrected between the galley and final printing, but the inclusion of page numbers will help the editors fact-check. You can put those in the Notes field if they are too clunky to include in the review text.

Unfortunately, the text contains several minor typos (for example, page 98). 

The Verdict

  • This is the last word, the bottom line on this book; your Verdict statement should strive to answer the question, “Should librarians buy this book or not? If so, for what types of readers/what types of collections?” Specific “read-alike” comparison titles or authors are also hugely helpful.

VERDICT A feel-good story about sports, family, and friendship; this will circulate well in libraries where Smith’s books are already popular.

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