General Review Guidelines

The following guidelines are designed to help SLJ reviewers craft their reviews. If you haven’t already, please also see Anatomy of a (Typical) SLJ Review for further details. Should you have questions or concerns at any time about reviewing or writing, please don’t hesitate to contact an editor.

General SLJ Reviewing Guidelines

  • No more than half of the review should focus on a summary or pure description of the book; the rest should be evaluative and critical in nature.


  • Reviews should be no longer than 250 words.


  • Please include a Grade Level recommendation at the very beginning of your review. Grade ranges can go from “Baby” up through “Gr. 12”. You can indicate as wide or narrow range for a title as you deem appropriate. (ex: PreS to Gr 4; Gr 3 to 5; Gr 5 & Up; etc…) We do not suggest you use the publisher recommendation for this; we want your professional opinion. Keep in mind that the audience for most books span several grades.
    • Take into account vocabulary and sentence structure, sophistication of themes and/or mature content (please read our point below 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.


  • What constitutes “Mature Content” will be different for every reader and likely differ from community to community.  Keep in mind that our reviews are read by a diverse and international readership. Here are some basic guidelines to help you determine what to look for and what to point out (or not) in your review:
    • There is a distinct difference between sexual content (scenes of sex “on the page” or descriptions of sexual acts) and sexual orientation or gender identity. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not, in and of themselves, mature content. If a character is LGBTQA and it is important to mention that fact in your review, please do so. However, it should be stated as a point of fact, a description of the character, not as a content or grade level warning. For more information on the difference between sexual content and identity, please read Suggested LGBTQIA+ Sensitivity Guidelines for Reviewers of Young Adult and Children’s Literature and People Are Not Mature Content, both created by Saundra Mitchell.
    • If there are “on the page” descriptions of sexual acts–regardless of the sexual or gender identity of the characters engaging in such acts–that may indeed merit mentioning in your review and would likely lead to a high school grade level recommendation.
    • Explicit or gratuitous violence “on the page” may also merit recommendation for more mature audiences.
    • If you’re not sure whether something might be too mature or if it should be included in your review, please feel free to detail your thoughts in the Notes section and/or contact an editor–we are here to help! The more information we have about the book, the better able we’ll be to help you craft a fair and factual review.
    • See also: Inclusive Language


  • The evaluation/critique part of your review should focus on the overall merits (or concerns) with the text, the artwork, the design, the character development, plot, pacing, etc. and how those qualities ultimately combine for the intended audience. See also: Evaluating Picture Books, Evaluating Fiction, Evaluating Nonfiction.
  • Be thoughtful about spoilers. We generally don’t like to include major plot spoilers in our reviews (our reviews are licensed out to consumer markets after they run in the print issue.) If a spoiler is needed in the content of the review as essential information for purchasing decisions, we suggest that you include a note to the editors in the Notes field.
  • Include a VERDICT at the end of your review. The verdict statement answers the question, “Should librarians buy this book? Why or why not? If so, for whom?” See also: The Verdict.
  • As a reviewer, you can make a recommendation for an SLJ Star. You do this by clicking the Star button–located above the review field in the Review Center. You may also wish to include a short explanation/rationale in the Notes field. The editors have final say on all Stars, but we seriously consider every recommendation made by one of our reviewers.
    • If you are considering nominating a title that you review for a Star, consider the following criteria (which are adapted from the ALSC Notables guidelines):
  1. literary quality;
  2. originality of text and illustration;
  3. clarity and style of language;
  4. excellence of illustration;
  5. excellence of design and format;
  6. subject matter of interest and value to children;
  7. appeal to intended audience.


  • Please note that the SLJ editors will edit your review content. This may mean that your original review is shortened, edited for clarity, or adjusted for overall style and grammar. We do not, however, change the spirit of your review. We may adjust adjectives or sentence structure to fit within our overall style and voice for the publication.
    • In the event that our editorial opinion differs significantly from your own about a particular title, we will contact you directly to discuss the work on a case-by-case basis.


  • We ask that you not share the content of your review with publishers, authors, or illustrators until it has been published by SLJ. Similarly, we ask that you not post your review content on social media until it has been published. Once it is published in print and online, you may feel free to share as you like. We also ask that if a publisher, author, or illustrator contacts you directly concerning a review, to let us know immediately.