SLJ Reviewer Chat Transcript from November 2016: Writing Critical Reviews

kparrott [3:26 PM]

Hi everyone, welcome to the chat! We’ll officially begin in a few minutes. In the meantime, feel free to introduce yourself and say where you’re chatting from. I’m Kiera, reviews director of SLJ/LJ and I’m here in our offices in lower Manhattan.

knappm [3:26 PM]

Maggie Knapp, from Fort Worth, TX

hollyanneboyer [3:26 PM]

Hi I’m Holly from Reston, VA

lilhecker [3:27 PM]

I’m  Lilly. I want to know how to write a review on a book that disappoints without being too negative.

jpaladino [3:27 PM]

Hi from Southport, NC – I’m Julie Paladino

imtanner [3:27 PM]

Hi!  I’m Debbie and I’m in Delray Beach, FL

abbyrhargreaves [3:27 PM]

Hello! I’m Abby from Arlington, VA.

lilhecker [3:28 PM]

Oh, I’m from Pelham NY, a westchester town.

bak8382 [3:28 PM]

Elizabeth in Aurora, IL

jsimmons [3:29 PM]

Jennifer, near Clemson, South Carolina.

dsalvacruz [3:29 PM]

Hi! I’m Darla from Bellport, NY, on Long Island

hollyanneboyer [3:29 PM]

@abbyrhargreaves *waves* Hi neighbor

abbyrhargreaves [3:30 PM]

@hollyanneboyer Hey there. I’m in DC at the moment and it’s gray and rainy. Same out there?

kparrott [3:30 PM]

So for any newbies, we try to host these sort of informal chats every month or so—or as often as we can! The editors choose a topic for each chat and we try to provide some tips and advice and answer your questions. Today’s topic is on writing critical reviews.

hollyanneboyer [3:30 PM]

@abbyrhargreaves It sure is.

kkpiehl [3:30 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat. Also, @hwebb joined.

m_tidman [3:30 PM]

Misti, writing from Mansfield, Ohio

hwebb [3:30 PM]

Heather in Worthington, Ohio

patricia [3:30 PM]

I’m Patricia, in Bellmore, NY (NYC suburb). Here until the baby wakes up . . .

gillian [3:31 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat

mahnaz [3:31 PM]

Hi! This is Mahnaz Dar. I’m assistant managing editor at SLJ, and I handle graphic novel, pro reading, Adult Books 4 Teens, and reference titles! :slightly_smiling_face:

lilhecker [3:31 PM]

Big rain drops!

dfarrell [3:31 PM]

Hey  all! Della Farrell here. I assign and edit the nonfiction section.

abbyrhargreaves [3:31 PM]

@hollyanneboyer That’s too bad. It’s nice to “meet” another VA librarian. :slightly_smiling_face:

laura.simeon [3:31 PM]

Hi! This is Laura Simeon in Bellevue, WA (near Seattle)

swilsman [3:31 PM]

Sarah in Bainbridge OH

mkozikowski [3:31 PM]

Hi, Marybeth Kozikowski checking in from rain-soaked New York

ilovespicturebooks [3:31 PM]

Hi Everyone! I’m Luann Toth and I assign all of the picture books!

sljdvds [3:31 PM]

Hello, This is Kent Turner, SLJ’s DVD editor

kparrott [3:32 PM]

When we say critical reviews, it doesn’t necessarily mean a “bad” review. Though it can. What I’d love to talk about today is the critical aspect of your review—the real MEAT of the review that provides the evaluation.

[3:32]

You may recall the Anatomy of an SLJ Review document (http://contributors.slj.com/2015/04/anatomy-of-a-typical-slj-review/) which advises that no more than half of your review (about 125 words of so) should focus on a summary or description of the book. The other half should be the critical part—the evaluation.

sjsites [3:33 PM]

Hey, Sara-Jo from central NY state here…

kparrott [3:33 PM]

So what is it we’re looking for in terms of a critique? An articulation of *why* the book is good, great, excellent, so-so, terrible, or even horribly problematic.

m_tidman [3:34 PM]

I have no problem finding things to say about the terrible or excellent ones — it’s the so-so ones that get you.

kparrott [3:34 PM]

We’ve got some sample questions to help guide you in this process, but before I get into that, I’d like to know what questions you have about evaluation and critical review?

patricia [3:34 PM]

My question is, how much evidence to cite? One example (e.g.)? Direct quotation (with p. #)? Or is the specific criticism enough?

kparrott [3:35 PM]

@m_tidman I feel you. I tend to use keywords like “fair” “passable” “solid” “supplementary” “additional”

knappm [3:35 PM]

Is it fair to say (as someone who reads a lot of YA) that this is just average? I think the word “solid” sort of works, but what else?

mkozikowski [3:35 PM]

I often have trouble with mentioning read-alikes, as in “give this to fans of…”. I feel like I’m generalizing about both the book I’m reviewing and the book I’m connecting it to.

kparrott [3:35 PM]

@m_tidman Or verdicts that get at the point that it’s NOT a must-buy. “An additional purchase for large collections.”– that kind of thing

jsimmons [3:35 PM]

For picture books, we used to have a “Picture Book Checklist.”  Now I understand that this is outdated.  I just reviewed my first juvenile fiction book, Calico Girl, and hated it.  A “Checklist” may have been helpful.

hollyanneboyer [3:36 PM]

The read alikes get me too

imtanner [3:36 PM]

If there is a book that a reviewer hates, does it ever get a second chance?

lilhecker [3:36 PM]

the last book I reviewed piled up the  kid’s problems until they became overwhelming for both the reading and the protagonist. I somehow don’t feel comfortable panning a book solely on my perception of it.

laura.simeon [3:36 PM]

I’m curious about how much context to provide to support assertions about quality (or lack thereof). Sometimes it feels like you’d need a whole essay. As a reader of reviews, if I don’t know a lot about the topic or culture, it’s helpful to have context, but you have to trust the reviewer’s expertise.

dgrabarek [3:36 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat

kparrott [3:36 PM]

@patricia Great question. For submitting your review, the more details you give to your editor, the better. That said, we may edit out some of the specifics, like page numbers, to save space. Since we can’t read every book we assign from cover to cover, knowing the specifics from you is very helpful.

knappm [3:37 PM]

My issue with “readalikes” is sometimes they are basically the exact same plot. What the reader might want is a book alike in “tone”– the same level of thrill, or romanace. I think if it is just a second book about mermaids (for example) that doesn’t necessarily help.

laura.simeon [3:37 PM]

@knappm That’s interesting – to me “solid” sounds like high praise! I wonder if I’ve been misinterpreting a lot of reviews that contain that word!

lilhecker [3:38 PM]

are there specifics we should be looking for?

thorn [3:38 PM]

I struggle with saying everything succinctly, with a limited word count

m_tidman [3:38 PM]

@imtanner I once sent back a book that I knew I was not the right reviewer for (it was a teen horro novel, and I just don’t handle horror well)

kparrott [3:38 PM]

@imtanner Good question. We tend to not do this very often, but if the editors really disagree with a reviewer’s assessment, we sometimes get a “second opinion” and give the work to another reviewer. But only if we really think it’s warranted.

mahnaz [3:38 PM]

That’s a good point, Maggie. That’s why sometimes I tend to suggest authors rather than specific books.

knappm [3:38 PM]

@laura.simeon. Yeah, solid to me means “serviceable but not remarkable.” :slightly_smiling_face:

heidirab [3:38 PM]

Hi, Heidi Rabinowitz from South Florida here.

imtanner [3:39 PM]

I try to get someone else’s point of view of I really hate one…

[3:39]

Hi Heidi!  I’m in S. Florida too!

mkazan [3:39 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat

mahnaz [3:39 PM]

And I know a lot of reviewers might read, say, a picture book aloud to kids to get a second opinion from the little ones.

lilhecker [3:39 PM]

should reviewers read the book more than once?

jsimmons [3:40 PM]

@imtanner :  I asked my daughter to read the first two chapters and she was just as confused about the characters and their genealogy as I was.

laura.simeon [3:40 PM]

Good to know! I will stop using “solid” as a compliment in my reviews!

knappm

@laura.simeon. Yeah, solid to me means “serviceable but not remarkable.” :slightly_smiling_face:

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 3:38 PM

kparrott [3:40 PM]

And it’s important to consider *why* you may hate it. I don’t like animal fantasy. It’s just not my bag. But I can separate out that personal preference to evaluate if the book is still well-written, engaging for the intended audience, etc.

jsimmons [3:40 PM]

I always read the book more than once

mkozikowski [3:40 PM]

For any of the editors here: how do you decide what books don’t get reviewed? That must be challenging.

imtanner [3:40 PM]

I had one I read today that I just kept thinking about… so I took it to school and read it to the kids and even had some of the bigger kids read it.  It’s a complicated story but we agreed we really liked it.

mahnaz [3:41 PM]

I think that depends on how much time you have. For picture books or very short novels, folks might read more than once. If it’s a longer novel, sometimes you might go back and read passages as you write your review.

lilhecker

should reviewers read the book more than once?

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 3:39 PM

jsimmons [3:41 PM]

@imtanner : That wasn’t Calico Girl by Jerdine Nolen was it?  Complcated story.

mkozikowski [3:41 PM]

I always read a book twice. Once to get the feel/flow, once to read critically and delve into it.

imtanner [3:42 PM]

No it’s a picture book called Du ist tak?

kparrott [3:42 PM]

@mkozikowski Ooo. Tough question. Each editor has an area of expertise and we look on a weekly–sometimes daily–basis at what books are arriving. We consider timeliness, reputation of the author/illustrator, relevance to library collections, and subject. We try to assign almost everything that we think librarians would want to have reviewed.

mkozikowski [3:42 PM]

Thanks, Kiera.

kparrott [3:42 PM]

@mkozikowski Though there’s only so many reviewers and so many editors. So we sometimes have to skip titles.

ilovespicturebooks [3:43 PM]

To be honest, if I can’t think of a person to send it to, it usually goes to the bottom of the enormous pile.

m_tidman [3:43 PM]

@imtanner That one is one of those love-it-or-hate-it titles, I think.  It engendered a lot of conversation among my fellow staff here when it came in.

imtanner [3:43 PM]

Right?  I keep going back to it… like that spot where a tooth is missing!

kparrott [3:43 PM]

In terms of critical reviews, there are questions you’ll want to keep in the back of your mind as you read and sit down to write your review. And those questions to differ depending on the type of book, format, or subject.

lilhecker [3:44 PM]

i find the more serious subjects, whether in picture books or full-length books, do not circ well.

jpaladino [3:45 PM]

do you have a list of those questions for us?

ilovespicturebooks [3:46 PM]

I think there are some excellent books that address serious topics that are important to have in any collection even if they require special readers or will only garner a few circs a year.

kparrott [3:46 PM]

@lilhecker I think it depends on your community, but I hear you. Potential appeal, circulation, and overall usefulness in the library, classroom, or home are certainly things you can address in a review. As long as you’re also considering that different communities may embrace different topics more strongly than others. For example, my old library patrons LOVED British adventures from the 1950s and 1960s. Not the case in all places. But I always kept my eye out for reissues.

[3:47]

@jpaladino Yes! Here’s some to get you started…..

[3:47]

For fiction, you will likely want to think about plot, pacing, character development, setting, and theme(s). Will you need to critique every one of these things in your review? Probably not. But if they are noteworthy for being really good (excellent, taut pacing that keeps the pages turning) or really bad (stilted and inauthentic dialogue) then it’s worth mentioning.

mahnaz [3:47 PM]

I find that the more negative a review is, the better it is to be specific about criticisms. Our review earlier this year of A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON was very negative, but we had examples to back up our criticisms: http://www.slj.com/2016/01/books-media/a-birthday-cake-for-george-washington-slj-review/#_

abbyrhargreaves [3:47 PM]

I’ve also struggled with similar titles. On the one hand, I want to list something familiar because I feel listing something obscure isn’t helpful, but I also don’t want to just assign The Hunger Games as something similar for every YA dystopian I come across. (Plus, I’ll echo @knappm with the various layers making it harder to find a good match.)

kparrott [3:47 PM]

Questions to ask when evaluating fiction: http://contributors.slj.com/2015/04/evaluating-fiction/ (edited)

dgrabarek [3:47 PM]

The question I have often been asked is how to state the negatives. I always suggest sitting down and first writing the “facts.” For example, “primarily stock photos are used” or the “book lacks a glossary,” or  the “diaglog is somewhat flat,” and work from there. Somehow it makes the writing easier for me.

m_tidman [3:47 PM]

@lilhecker I justify buying the more serious ones because, though they may not circ as much, they can be critically important when they are needed by a particular patron.

knappm [3:48 PM]

I like the LJ model, too,  where you could put what library/readers it might benefit. “Consider where xx is popular.” The unspoken (to me) is

“and don’t consider where it’s not popular.”

dfarrell [3:49 PM]

Usually for nonfiction it comes down to the level of research and the effectiveness of overall  presentation. But there are a lot of nonfiction works that get all the facts right but overall just don’t hold up to other titles, don’t hesitate to acknowledge this. Take this VERDICT, for example, VERDICT Despite the promising premise and the introduction of many little-known tragic events, the flat narrative and the brevity in detail make this a secondary purchase.

knappm [3:49 PM]

@dgrabarek – a list is a great idea!

mahnaz [3:49 PM]

Yes, and now that SLJ does verdicts, we actually do the same thing. We try to be as specific as possible with our reviews. Is it for anyone? If so, who? Is it only for larger collections with big budgets, or is it such a great book that every library needs to own it?

knappm

I like the LJ model, too,  where you could put what library/readers it might benefit. “Consider where xx is popular.” The unspoken (to me) is

“and don’t consider where it’s not popular.”

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 3:48 PM

dfarrell [3:49 PM]

yes @mahnaz. keep in mind in what condition would a particular title flounder or flourish

jpaladino [3:50 PM]

I review YA audiobooks. I usually focus on the narrator and the production. Do you have specific questions for audiobook reviews I should consider?

m_tidman [3:50 PM]

@dgrabarek  Yes, that’s also how I write my reviews — I put specific points to mention on individual lines, then adjust them and string them together.

kparrott [3:50 PM]

Adding to what @dfarrell says about nonfiction, you’ll also want to consider authority (Who wrote the book/are experts consulted?), organization (Does the information flow logically? Is there an index, backmatter, etc.?), documentation (What sources are cited?), and overall style and design. Again—you’ll likely not mention every one of these things in a single review. But you’ll want to think about them and note what’s relevant or stands out—for good or ill.

swilsman [3:51 PM]

dinner break time…will check back later, thanks all

kparrott [3:52 PM]

And I second @dgrabarek’s advice to “state the facts.” Sometimes just describing what is lacking is damning enough.

mkazan [3:52 PM]

If I write a negative review, I often have doubts about whether it was justified. I try to be honest and feel better when I see later that other publications have reviewed it negatively, too.

kparrott [3:52 PM]

@jpaladino I just pinged our audio editor, Stephanie Klose, to see if she has a set of questions or guidelines to share.

dfarrell [3:52 PM]

And always know there will be a gray area…Allie Jane Bruce’s post “A Deep Conversation About Binary Thinking” over @ Reading While White

http://readingwhilewhite.blogspot.com/2016/11/a-deep-conversation-about-binary.html

is a really thoughtful exploration of how important it is to have conversations about titles regardless of their status as a yes or no book, especially when it comes to books that might contain problematic elements.

kparrott [3:54 PM]

@mkazan You’re not alone. We do that , too. It may help you to know that you do have an editor who often reads part, though not all, of the book you’re reviewing. And we often confer with each other. But we stand behind our reviews and our reviewers. We have sometimes been the only negative journal review, but that’s ok. If it’s honest and backed up with evidence, it’s important that that perspective is out there.

gillian [3:55 PM]

From Stephanie Klose re: audiobooks: “The narrator is going to make or break the audiobook. So a good question to ask is: Does the narrator seem truly engaged with the character or does it seem as if the narrator is just reading aloud. So, in other words, is there a successful performance aspect?

ilovespicturebooks [3:55 PM]

I also think people get hung up on endings. They go in thinking that kids need a happy ending or at least a clear resolution. Even if things don’t turn out as one might like, the reviewer needs to decide if it is an honest ending that serves the story well and respects the emotional intelligence of its audience.

kparrott [3:55 PM]

Here are some specific questions to ask when thinking critically about nonfiction: http://contributors.slj.com/2015/04/evaluating-nonfiction/

laura.simeon [3:55 PM]

Sorry, need to go – maker project with 4th grade! Thanks for the helpful links and thoughtful suggestions, everyone!

knappm [3:55 PM]

@kparrott  @mdar I do feel your support and that you’ve got our backs. Thank you!

kparrott [3:56 PM]

For picture books, graphic novels, and other highly illustrated works, you’ll add on some questions about the artwork. Think about the medium (What media is used? Paint? Drawings? Photoshop?), technique (Even if it’s not your favorite kind of artwork, can you appreciate the skill that is employed?). How does the text and the art work together? Do they complement one another? Do the pictures support the text and therefore a child’s understanding? Do the pictures go beyond the text and extend the narrative?

jsimmons [3:57 PM]

I haven’t submitted my review yet.  It’s due tomorrow.  The last line says, “Nolen (Eliza’s Freedom Road, Simon & Schuster, 2011) provides a thorough bibliography and afterword, but unfortunately, they make better reading than this disjointed novel. Verdict: an additional purchase.  (Review of uncorrected proof copy). If I provide facts to back that up, I can say that, right?  Unfortunately, I can’t quote the book because it’s a galley that hasn’t been corrected yet…

heidirab [3:57 PM]

Is there an online resource to help us identify the medium used in illustrations? Sometimes it’s in the CIP data, sometimes not.

hope [3:57 PM]

Hope here, from Indiana – Adult Books for Teens reviewer.

ellenlnorton [3:57 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat

mahnaz [3:57 PM]

And sometimes illustrations can be wonderful but the text can be a little lackluster…or vice versa! It’s totally OK to point that out in a picture book review, too. Very much recommended, in fact!

c.a.fehmel [3:58 PM]

I review AV and am wondering how much space to devote to the production values in my reviews.

bethredford [3:58 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat

sjsites [3:59 PM]

Yes, I often need some help identifying the medium of illustrations. If I can’t be 100% sure, I hesitate to name one in error.

jsimmons [3:59 PM]

@kparrott Feel free to ping your audiobook editor again.  I’d love to review audio juvenile fiction as well if needed :slightly_smiling_face:

m_tidman [3:59 PM]

@heidirab I sometimes check the illustrator’s website, or google any interviews theyy may have done where they talk about their process.

kparrott [3:59 PM]

@jsimmons If there are specific lines of dialogue that are problematic, you can quote them in the Notes field, that way we can take a look on our end. If it’s more about a failure of character development or plotting, or topics inappropriate for the intended audience, I’d include a description in the review that gets at what failed and why.

jsimmons [4:00 PM]

Thank you!

mkazan [4:00 PM]

One trick I’ve learned is not to look at the author’s photo or read their bio before I review the book. That way I don’t “humanize” the person I may be reviewing negatively.

mahnaz [4:00 PM]

Often if you can’t find the exact medium, it’s fine just to describe it. Words like painterly or expressionistic, for instance, are great!

sjsites

Yes, I often need some help identifying the medium of illustrations. If I can’t be 100% sure, I hesitate to name one in error.

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 3:59 PM

kparrott [4:00 PM]

More advice from Stephanie Klose on evaluating audiobooks: if the narration or the production is jarring or distracting, that’s a problem

does the narrator change the pacing depending on what’s going on in the story?

do they convey emotions in a believable way?

are character voices consistent throughout? especially important when juggling a large cast

if there are multiple narrators, is it easy to tell the difference between/among them?

dgrabarek [4:00 PM]

I often go to the publisher’s site (or even LOC) to see if there more info on the illustrations, but it is not  always there. I then try to describe the artwork as best I can without naming the medium …. colors, style, etc.

lilhecker [4:00 PM]

in some ways it’s clearer to figure out whether a nonfiction book makes it because it needs to be factual, accurate, clearly written, etc. Fiction can be almost anything and therefore not always obvious to the reviewer.

ilovespicturebooks [4:01 PM]

Almost all of the art that we see these days is a combination of various mediums. If it isn’t specifically spelled out, you are almost always safe in saying mixed media. I know that I love to have a definitive word but it is more and more impossible . I also agree with Daryl here. Well said.

kparrott [4:01 PM]

If you need some pointers on describing picture book art: http://contributors.slj.com/2015/04/understanding-art-in-picture-book-art/

sjsites [4:01 PM]

Yup, mixed media is my fall back!

bethredford [4:02 PM]

Loved this one! So did my kindergartners. They said it was “weird but good”

imtanner

No it’s a picture book called Du ist tak?

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 3:42 PM

kparrott [4:02 PM]

In addition to the above advice, looking to the criteria for various major awards can be a great guide. Take, for example, the Printz award criteria. The handbook advises committee members to consider: Story, Voice, Style, Setting, Accuracy, Characters, Theme, Illustrations, and Design (including format, organization, etc.).

mahnaz [4:02 PM]

K.T. Horning’s FROM COVER TO COVER is a great reviewing resource–available in paperback! She covers those great descriptive words and goes over the process of how to write a review (which can be so daunting!).

kparrott [4:03 PM]

Seconded on From Cover to Cover. It is one of those resources I go back to again and again. It’s useful not just for reviewing, but for book discussion groups, mock award programs, etc.

dgrabarek [4:04 PM]

I agree….for those of you who haven’t tried reviewing nonfic, give it a try! It is not that difficult. We all have our nonfic passions (dare I say, expertise?) …a sport, gardening, an artist, an animal…. now where did this thread go?

m_tidman [4:04 PM]

Yes!  One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about blogging on Guessing Geisel is how much the structure of the award criteria facilitates writing reviews.

kparrott

In addition to the above advice, looking to the criteria for various major awards can be a great guide. Take, for example, the Printz award criteria. The handbook advises committee members to consider: Story, Voice, Style, Setting, Accuracy, Characters, Theme, Illustrations, and Design (including format, organization, etc.).

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 4:02 PM

mkozikowski [4:04 PM]

Chapter 6 in FROM COVER TO COVER  gives amazing insight into early readers and how emerging readers learn to read. Highly recommended (sp?)

kparrott [4:05 PM]

Looking to some of the other award committees for inspiration on what to consider when critiquing a work…Caldecott committee members look at:  execution in the artistic technique employed; pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept; Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept; Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures; and presentation in recognition of a child audience.

hope [4:06 PM]

My first library employer gave me a copy of FROM COVER TO COVER as a welcome gift. I loved it!  And should re-read it since that was many years ago.

jsimmons [4:07 PM]

I just put in on hold from my consortium.  Out of 20 counties, only 1 copy in the system (Cover to Cover)

kparrott [4:07 PM]

Fancy words, but they an be broken down into some simple questions–is the story original and engaging? Does the art support or extend the text? Are the characters distinct and authentic? Is the setting memorable?

bethredford [4:07 PM]

Beth Redford joining from Vermont

[4:07]

I own a copy because I refer to it so often. Actually I own two because there is an updated edition now. Well worth the cost

jsimmons

I just put in on hold from my consortium.  Out of 20 counties, only 1 copy in the system (Cover to Cover)

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 4:07 PM

mkozikowski [4:08 PM]

Question about the “Verdict”: should it make a different statement (adding additional info)  than what’s been said in the review or recap/support what’s been said?

imtanner [4:08 PM]

I just ordered it on Amazon it’s under $10.

mahnaz [4:08 PM]

Nice!

kparrott [4:09 PM]

@mkozikowski I tend to think of it as a conclusion that follows logically from the review. The review evaluation should have the evidence that supports that final statement. Like a lawyer’s closing statement.

[4:10]

One of the most helpful and detailed list of questions comes from the criteria for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/awards-process.php  Scroll down a bit to see the questions related to Style, Format, Visual Experience, Characterization, etc.

mkozikowski [4:10 PM]

Thank you, Kiera. With limited words, I didn’t want the verdict to be repetitive yet didn’t want to come out of left field, either.

jpaladino [4:10 PM]

is it true that we should avoid the word “recommended” in the verdict?

ilovespicturebooks [4:10 PM]

As readers and reviewers, how much credence do you place on our VERDICTS?

bethredford [4:11 PM]

I know that librarians are busy when they read reviews, so I try to make my Verdicts useful as purchasing recommendations just in case readers skip all the rest of the review. “All elementary libraries”…”additional purchase for large teen horror collections…”

kparrott

@mkozikowski I tend to think of it as a conclusion that follows logically from the review. The review evaluation should have the evidence that supports that final statement. Like a lawyer’s closing statement.

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 4:09 PM

hope [4:11 PM]

As a book BUYER, I like the Verdicts very much.

imtanner [4:12 PM]

As a reader and a book purchaser I often use the verdicts to help me figure out what new books I’m going to buy.  I read a lot but I can’t read everything and I figure the SLJ reviewers can help me out with the things I can’t read before I buy them

m_tidman [4:12 PM]

@ilovespicturebooks When making purchasing decisions, I find the verdicts extremely helpful!

sjsites [4:12 PM]

I love the VERDICTS and rely a lot on them as a reader/buyer.

 

mkozikowski [4:12 PM]

Should the verdict always refer to buy/not buy and for what collections?

hope [4:12 PM]

Although I confess that if a Verdict says, “Skip this!” that makes me want to read the whole review. (lol)

ilovespicturebooks [4:12 PM]

That’s excellent!

mahnaz [4:12 PM]

Agreed!

abbyrhargreaves [4:14 PM]

If I didn’t feel too much power with the verdict before, I do now. Recommending a pass on a book could ruin a writer’s dreams! (I’m only half-serious here, but I do feel a little twinge of regret when I can’t recommend purchase for something.)

bethredford [4:14 PM]

A lot! I have to trust the Verdicts because there is no way I am going to get to preview most titles before buying (I live and work in a small place) And I have found the Verdicts trustworthy. They are a great feature.

ilovespicturebooks

As readers and reviewers, how much credence do you place on our VERDICTS?

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 4:10 PM

lilhecker [4:14 PM]

the overwhelming number of reviews in SLJ are positive. It’s rare to encounter a negative one.

kparrott [4:14 PM]

@mkozikowski I think it depends on the book. Some of them scream “for X kind of library” or “for x kind of readers who like y.” In that case, the specific recommendation is useful. But a simply buy/don’t buy is often hard–unless it’s a must-have or a total disaster.

hope [4:14 PM]

I haven’t been an SLJ reviewer very long but so far I like composing Verdicts, too.  I tell myself, “Cut to the chase, Hopie.” And then I re-read my whole review to make sure my Verdict didn’t come out of left field.  (Lots of sports analogies from me today for some reason.)

mahnaz [4:15 PM]

Yes, it’s kind of like backing up your thesis statement, as I’m sure many of you tell your students! :slightly_smiling_face:

hope

I haven’t been an SLJ reviewer very long but so far I like composing Verdicts, too.  I tell myself, “Cut to the chase, Hopie.” And then I re-read my whole review to make sure my Verdict didn’t come out of left field.  (Lots of sports analogies from me today for some reason.)

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 4:14 PM

imtanner [4:15 PM]

I find that I usually purchase the starred review books…

kparrott [4:16 PM]

@lilhecker We do want to make sure we aren’t being overly kind just to spare authors the truth. Some books really are just ho-hum–not terrible, not great. I like reviews that are honest about that fact. That don’t sugarcoat it, but don’t eviscerate a midlist title either.

c.a.fehmel [4:16 PM]

As a buyer for my library, I read the whole review and the verdict and make my decision from that, but I do appreciate other reviewers taking the time to point out the pros and cons of each title.

kparrott [4:17 PM]

We’ve all just decided that “Cut to the chase, Hopie” is going to be our new mantra here at the SLJ offices. :slightly_smiling_face:

hope [4:17 PM]

Rather than “buy” or “skip” I prefer to read things like “this is good if you need more that” or “imperfect but fills a need in the publishing world” or something.

m_tidman [4:17 PM]

@kparrott And, speaking as a buyer, I will often buy a so-so midlist title, especially if there were some good points highlighted in the review.

hope [4:17 PM]

Excellent! (lol) I’m honored. :slightly_smiling_face:

kparrott

We’ve all just decided that “Cut to the chase, Hopie” is going to be our new mantra here at the SLJ offices. :slightly_smiling_face:

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday

jpaladino

is it true that we should avoid the word “recommended” in the verdict?

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 4:10 PM

lilhecker [4:18 PM]

as adults, we don’t all read Anna Karenina for a sweet read. Midlists are fine and fill an important niche.

mahnaz [4:18 PM]

Yes, and a book might not be the most groundbreaking of all time…but for a middle grader or teen, it just might be the book that really speaks to them. Not every book that a patron picks up has to be a literary award winner or starred title.

m_tidman

@kparrott And, speaking as a buyer, I will often buy a so-so midlist title, especially if there were some good points highlighted in the review.

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 4:17 PM

kparrott [4:18 PM]

@m_tidman That’s why we think the so-so reviews are still important. We know that they may not be stars, but some communities may need or want them for specific topic coverage.

dfarrell [4:19 PM]

Or it could fill a need for report material

mkozikowski [4:20 PM]

I see the phrase “recommend as a general purchase” in some verdicts and find it confusing. Recommended sounds a lot more positive than “general purchase”.

bethredford [4:21 PM]

So true. My students will be happy to read ANY book with unicorns in it, so an it’s-decent review is very helpful for me.

kparrott

@m_tidman That’s why we think the so-so reviews are still important. We know that they may not be stars, but some communities may need or want them for specific topic coverage.

Posted in #slj-reviewer-chatYesterday at 4:18 PM

lilhecker [4:21 PM]

what is a “general purchase”?

m_tidman [4:23 PM]

I think the terms “general purchase/first purchase/additional purchase” are holdovers from the old review checklist that we used to use, aren’t they?  Good reminder that not everybody knows what we mean by them.

ilovespicturebooks [4:23 PM]

To me, recommended for general purchase means that it would be perfectly at home in just about any sized collections.

dgrabarek [4:24 PM]

“General” implies budget, size, type of collection, &  need to me. A title worth purchasing….if you need it and can afford it…or in some cases, are the go-to central or regional library that wants to ensure a broad collection.

kparrott [4:24 PM]

I’m  not a big fan of “General purchase” either. It think it needs to be qualified with more specifics. For example, “A general purchase for collections serving middle school researchers.” Or “A general purchase for collections with a strong early learning focus.”

[4:25]

But yes, general usually clues me into the budget.

dgrabarek [4:25 PM]

Agreed! Qualifiers always better!

kparrott [4:28 PM]

We are almost out of time! Yowza–that hour flew by

mkozikowski [4:28 PM]

Gotta sign off, thank you for a very helpful discussion. Have a great afternoon, all!

lilhecker [4:28 PM]

thanks for the tips. I know I’ve learned some good review techniques that i plan to use immediately.

 

kparrott [4:29 PM]

Thanks so much for coming! We will archive this chat and let you  know when the next one is planned.

 

 

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