SLJ Reviewer Chat Transcript from February 2018: Reviewing Visual Materials

sdiaz101 [3:14 PM]

hey all, see you in a bit for our reviewer chat at 4pm ET

jsimmons [3:21 PM]

Looking forward to it!

lvanauken [3:43 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat.

sdiaz101 [3:58 PM]

Hey everyone, this is Shelley Diaz, SLJ reviews manager. Please feel free to introduce yourself while wait to get started

I edit YA reviews and am based in NYC

jennie_rothschild [3:58 PM]

This is Jennie, a collection development librarian in Arlington, VA.

mahnaz [3:58 PM]

Hey! Mahnaz Dar here. I edit reference, professional reading, graphic novels, and some adult books 4 teens!

couillac [3:59 PM]

Hi, I’m Chelsea. I’m a materials selection librarian in Minneapolis, MN

carla_r [3:59 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat.

lvanauken [3:59 PM]

I am a PreK – 8 school librarian and I review picture books.

jsimmons [3:59 PM]

Hi everyone, I’m from South Carolina, went the same high school as Chadwick Boseman, and I review picture books for SLJ :slightly_smiling_face:

Kimberly Alberts [3:59 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat.

shelf-employed [3:59 PM]

Hi!  Lisa Taylor, Florida librarian and SLJ picture book reviewer.

daniellejones [3:59 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat along with msaccardo.

sdiaz101 [3:59 PM]

@jsimmons oh em gee

jsimmons [4:00 PM]


Kimberly Alberts [4:00 PM]

Hello! I’m Kim Alberts, Children’s Librarian from Ohio.

carla_r [4:00 PM]

Hi, I’m a middle school librarian in Oakland, CA

hwrittsljatsullivan [4:00 PM]

Hi. I’m Hilary. I’m an academic librarian in Lexington, KY, and I review fiction and nonfiction middle grade and YA titles.

msaccardo [4:00 PM]

Hello, I’m Marianne Saccardi from Cambridge, MA

daniellejones [4:00 PM]

Hi everyone, I am from Portland, OR

m_tidman [4:01 PM]

Hi, all — Misti here, a Collection Development Librarian in Ohio.

sstone [4:01 PM]

Hello! I’m a youth and teen librarian from San Francisco. *Waves across the bay @carla_r*

Abair5 [4:01 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat along with Mjbakaletz.

Abair5 [4:01 PM]


Mjbakaletz [4:02 PM]

Hi everyone!  I’m from Morris County NJ

daniellejones [4:02 PM]

Also, I am a youth librarian at a public library and currently working the services desk, so my attention is spotty :wink:

Abair5 [4:02 PM]

I am a substitute librarian from Ohio

carla_r [4:02 PM]

Waves back @sstone !

patricia [4:02 PM]

I’m a former world lit teacher at a prep school, now in NY (and taking care of my toddler granddaughter, so I might not be able to stay for the whole chat).

Jlpickens [4:02 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat by invitation from sdiaz101.

Abair5 [4:02 PM]

I am pregnant so I will do the best I can to pay attention

To the chat

heidirab [4:03 PM]

Hi, I’m a Judaica librarian, working for the PJ Library program in Agawam, MA.

shelf-employed [4:03 PM]

@Abair5 Congrats!

Abair5 [4:03 PM]

Thank you

sdiaz101 [4:03 PM]

congrats! No worries.

Jlpickens [4:03 PM]

I am a MIddle School Librarian outside DC in Alexandria, VA

sdiaz101 [4:03 PM]

this will be archived, so you can always come back and check

Abair5 [4:03 PM]

I just raised 2,000 dollars to start a special needs toy lending library for my work

francisca [4:03 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat.

jennie_rothschild [4:03 PM]

@heidirab my family is a HUGE fan of PJ Library!

Abair5 [4:04 PM]

I was a semi finalist for a pitch competition

mahnaz [4:04 PM]

Wow, that’s amazing @Abair5!

sdiaz101 [4:04 PM]


Abair5 [4:04 PM]


heidirab [4:04 PM]

@jennie_rothschild Yay! Where are you located?

sdiaz101 [4:04 PM]

Thanks everyone for joining us for this chat on evaluating illustrations

jennie_rothschild [4:04 PM]

@heidirab we’re in Arlington VA

Abair5 [4:04 PM]

uploaded this image: Image uploaded from iOS

Image uploaded from iOS

Abair5 [4:05 PM]

Awesome I can’t wait to hear about this

heidirab [4:05 PM]

@Abair5 Awesome!

sdiaz101 [4:05 PM]

For those of you who are new to SLJ reviews, please be sure to check out our reviewer website

aforrester [4:05 PM]

Hi there, Amy from the Denver Public Library here :slightly_smiling_face:

Abair5 [4:05 PM]

Ms. Diaz thank you for sharing

b3njamin [4:05 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat.

sdiaz101 [4:05 PM]

It has great resources like the article above :slightly_smiling_face:

it’s a nice place to start, with great links and resources :slightly_smiling_face:

Np! @Abair5

dgrabarek [4:06 PM]

Daryl Grabarek, editor of SLJ’s Curriculum Connections and a member of the team!

Abair5 [4:07 PM]

Ms. Diaz in the future I would love to have a chat about reviewing cookbooks for kids.

sdiaz101 [4:07 PM]

There’s also this great article that we recently posted about graphic novels, written by editor and artist Wendy Xu

jennie_rothschild [4:07 PM]


Jmejensen [4:07 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat.

sdiaz101 [4:07 PM]

That’s a great suggestion @Abair5!

jennie_rothschild [4:07 PM]

*sorry–scanned that barcode to the chat not the ILS–hazards of multitasking

sdiaz101 [4:08 PM]

cookbooks have illustrations

mahnaz [4:08 PM]

No worries, @jennie_rothschild :slightly_smiling_face:

Abair5 [4:08 PM]

Awesome I was reviewing a cookbook this month and most of it was illustrations and photos

sdiaz101 [4:08 PM]

so that’s certainly we can touch upon now

dgrabarek [4:08 PM]

That can make or break the book

sljdvds [4:08 PM]

Hi everyone, I edit SLJ’s DVD reviews and middle grade/YA nonfiction

BTW, this is Kent

lvanauken [4:09 PM]

I have a question about when we receive ARCs that say “artwork not final.”  How do we handle that?

sdiaz101 [4:09 PM]

part of the reviewer’s task is to assess whether the illustrations, images, photos, are use to the right effect

are they enhancing the text?

is it helping the reader understand what the text is conveying

shelf-employed [4:10 PM]

If you’re taking questions, my question is – what art form?  If it is not specified in the book’s front or endpapers, it is often difficult to tell  – is it digitally enhanced, pencil, charcoal, pastels, watercolors?  It’s sometimes murky.

mkkuehner [4:11 PM]

Joining a little late – I’m Mary from Arapahoe Library District; Early Literacy Librarian; I review MG, Early Readers and PBs. Hi, @aforrester!

Abair5 [4:11 PM]

I had a strange experience reviewing illustrations the book had a crop map of the country but mentioned little information on the crops themselves or had pictures of seafood the country ate which wasn’t mentioned in the text. How do you handle that?

sljdvds [4:11 PM]

Often we wait for the bound to see what the final art looks like @lvanauken

Abair5 [4:12 PM]

The country harvested not ate sorry

sdiaz101 [4:12 PM]

@lvanauken if it’s not final, you can do your best to guess, but it’s best to consult with your editor if you’re not sure

dgrabarek [4:12 PM]

If the medium is not mentioned, I sometimes go to the publisher’s website, or author’s website

mahnaz [4:12 PM]

@shelf-employed That’s a very good question. If you don’t know, that’s OK. It’s often better to describe the illustrations than to get the medium right. So you can say painterly, impressionistic, expressionistic, etc.

dgrabarek [4:12 PM]

I think it is always fair to ask for the final copy if it is difficult to access the artwork,(or backmatter) .

Abair5 [4:13 PM]

I want to the illustrators site and couldn’t find anything about their style just lots of images of their work.

mahnaz [4:13 PM]

@shelf-employed It’s great when you know if it’s watercolor or pen and ink, but if you don’t know, it’s more important to give readers who haven’t seen the book a sense of what it looks like.

sdiaz101 [4:13 PM]

@Abair5 think about what you would like to know about a book if you were reading the review.

shelf-employed [4:13 PM]

Thanks @dgrabarek and @mahnaz I do usually check the artist and publisher’s website – sometimes to no avail

kdorfman [4:13 PM]

Yes, sometimes an ARC will not have final art but the art is integral to story. (I didn’t review it but I remember this in The First Rule of Punk)

Abair5 [4:13 PM]

@diaz ok

sdiaz101 [4:13 PM]

what would do you need to know to make a purchase decision

Grace Bazile [4:13 PM]

joined #slj-reviewer-chat.

aforrester [4:14 PM]

I usually add a note to my editor that says that I wasn’t able to see all artwork in my review

dgrabarek [4:14 PM]

Then Mahnaz’s suggestion, describing the art, tone, color, number, etc.

sdiaz101 [4:14 PM]

Yes, when that art is integral to understanding the story, the editors can reach out to the publisher for a finished PDF

mahnaz [4:14 PM]

Yes, we editors are always happy to track down finished copies/PDFs!

shelf-employed [4:14 PM]

Are easy readers always lumped in with picture books?  I thought they had their own category.  I just received an easy reader to review.

sdiaz101 [4:15 PM]

Important thing to know, is that as an SLJ reviewer, you must not contact author/publisher directly

mahnaz [4:15 PM]

Sometimes graphic novels will include a little snippet of what final art will look like and then the rest of the book will be in black and white–so if you see a book where it seems to “turn” black and white, keep that in mind!

sdiaz101 [4:15 PM]

We, the editors should be the go-between. Trying to protect your privacy, etc. :slightly_smiling_face:

shelf-employed [4:15 PM]

@sdiaz101 I only meant that I check the publisher’s website to see if there is additional info re: the art

aforrester [4:15 PM]

@shelf-employed As someone passionate about beginning readers, I’d love to see them reviewed as their own format, not as picture books.

sdiaz101 [4:16 PM]

@shelf-employed of course, no worries!

that’s certainly something we would consider for the future!

Of course picture books and Graphic novels are not the only materials that have visuals

Nonfiction as well! :slightly_smiling_face:

Abair5 [4:17 PM]

@diaz what do you do if an author contacts you to give you free stuff to promote their book?

And you are not reviewing their book

mahnaz [4:17 PM]

Oh yes, nonfiction!

Abair5 [4:17 PM]

I had a few instances of this happening

sdiaz101 [4:17 PM]

accuracy of photos, captions, maps, illustrations are all important when evaluating NF

mahnaz [4:18 PM]

Layout, too–does the book’s design make it harder to parse the information? or does it all flow naturally?

sdiaz101 [4:18 PM]

@Abair5 that should be totally fine. Our guidelines aren’t as strict as committees that you might have or are currently serving on

Abair5 [4:18 PM]

I haven’t responded to the requests except one because the author was doing a book talk at my work.

And I sent the info to the teen librarian

mahnaz [4:18 PM]

Do the images portray what’s happening in the text? Or extend the text, even? or are they just filling space, so to speak

Abair5 [4:19 PM]

What about the gutter, endpapers?

kdorfman [4:19 PM]

Sometimes I find NF books have an excess of photographs

sdiaz101 [4:19 PM]

yes, layout super important. Are the sidebars distracting?

jsimmons [4:19 PM]

I’m about to finish a review of a picture book for SLJ.  How important is it that we mention the race of the family in the book?  I always feel a little uncomfortable about this. Mention of the race to me makes the review seem stilted. Thoughts?

kdorfman [4:19 PM]

I wonder if that is a detriment or not depending on the age or topic

Abair5 [4:19 PM]

Kdorfman I agree

shelf-employed [4:19 PM]

I just reviewed a GREAT book – even if there were no words, the story was understandable.

Abair5 [4:19 PM]

What do you do if book runs out of pages and uses the endpapers for the index

shelf-employed [4:20 PM]

same questions as @jsimmons

Abair5 [4:20 PM]

And glossary for nf

sljdvds [4:20 PM]

It’s also may be helpful to describe photos in NF and how much of a role they play in the overall book (do they enhance it, for example, and in what way)

hwrittsljatsullivan [4:20 PM]

I remember reviewing a upper MG fiction book a while back that had illustrations too. Some of the illustrations were really clear and appropriate, but a couple of them were too fuzzy to be of any use. I mentioned that in my review. Is it still okay to use the notes fields for questions when we submit our review?

sdiaz101 [4:20 PM]

great point @jsimmons ! I think that if it makes sense to include the race and it’s important to the narrative, race should definitely be included

heidirab [4:20 PM]

IMHO it’s really helpful to mention the race. I always want to know that about a book, even if it’s nothing to do with the plot.

mahnaz [4:20 PM]

@Abair5 re: a book running out of pages, can you clarify that question? I know sometimes ARCs don’t include an index or back matter, but they might have it in the finished version; is that what you mean?

And yes @hwrittsljatsullivan it’s always appropriate to use the notes field if you have a question!

sdiaz101 [4:21 PM]

Also, librarians are looking more and more for books with more inclusive representation

sljdvds [4:21 PM]

Yes, field notes are helpful @hwrittsljatsullivan

Abair5 [4:21 PM]

The author put the index and glossary on the endpages

On the hard cover

m_tidman [4:21 PM]

@Abair5 If important material is on the endpapers, it can get covered up with normal library processing (covering and taping the book jacket) so I’d think that might be worth mentioning.

Abair5 [4:21 PM]

Had a world map on the introductory endpapers

carla_r [4:21 PM]

@jsimmons I think it’s important, especially for making purchase decisions as we diversify our collections. It’s useful information!

mahnaz [4:21 PM]

@Abair5 Yes, that’s a good point that @m_tidman brings up!

sdiaz101 [4:22 PM]

A librarian may not pause at just another new sibling book, thinking “I have 20 of those!”

Abair5 [4:22 PM]

The endpapers index didn’t fit the gutter the photos were half their

Example half a plate of food

jsimmons [4:22 PM]

Thanks, @carla_r

Abair5 [4:22 PM]

The other half was in the gutter

hwrittsljatsullivan [4:22 PM]

Thank you @mahnaz and @sljdvds!

sdiaz101 [4:22 PM]

but if it’s a book with two moms or an interracial couple, that might make someone decide to purchase it

carla_r [4:22 PM]

NP @jsimmons

mahnaz [4:23 PM]

@Abair5 Yes, that sounds like it’s a design flaw and the kind of thing that should be mentioned–if we think it’s just an issue specific to the ARC and won’t be in the final, we (your editor!) can contact the publisher and check.

Abair5 [4:23 PM]

Okay I need to contact them thank you

mldrucker17 [4:24 PM]

For many of the “nature” non-fiction books I’ve been reviewing, I have checked to see if the photos are stock or taken just for the book. And I’ve noted so in my reviews. Too much info?

shelf-employed [4:24 PM]

Re: race/ethnicity – sometimes the illustrator is purposefully vague in details so that the book is more appealing to a wide variety of people … it’s not always possible to tell an exact race and I would not like to make an error.  I will sometimes say mixed race family or children of color, Asian, etc., rather than try to pin down an exact ethnicity – even if it’s implied.  Thoughts?

Abair5 [4:24 PM]

The cookbook i reviewed had all the continents pretty much with 14 counties except Australia I wondered why that country was left out as well.

sdiaz101 [4:24 PM]

@Abair5 do you mean you’re going to contact your SLJ editor?

Abair5 [4:24 PM]

The ethnicity was diverse for the characters



mahnaz [4:25 PM]

@mldrucker17 no, that’s good info. If a photo is original to the book, that’s a good thing and should be noted.

Abair5 [4:25 PM]


sljdvds [4:25 PM]

No, that’s good info to know @mldrucker17

sdiaz101 [4:25 PM]

@shelf-employed that’s why we don’t want to make a hard and fast rule, because it might actually cause more errors

heidirab [4:25 PM]

@shelf-employed If the illos are vague it makes sense to say so in the review. You can accurately say that the family in the book appears to be non-white or something like that.

dgrabarek [4:25 PM]

I want to know about stock photos! They can be good, but often generic.

sdiaz101 [4:25 PM]

and reviewers can make assumptions

so i agree with @review855 “appears to be non-white” sounds like a good alternative

heidirab [4:26 PM]

Or maybe “people of color” sounds better than “non-white”

dgrabarek [4:26 PM]

We should demand quality illustrations.

Abair5 [4:26 PM]

How do you know what the book is when it’s a cookbook but then it talks about culinary traditions with each country. I wasn’t sure if I was reviewing a cookbook or a study on culinary traditions from 14 counties.

sdiaz101 [4:26 PM]

and if you’re ever not sure on how to phrase, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your editor

we have these conversations all of the time

carla_r [4:27 PM]

@shelf-employed Your approach makes sense – it’s still good info even if the exact race or ethnicity isn’t specified.

mldrucker17 [4:27 PM]

I find it almost a bit of a minus to have a book about scientists studying, say, snowy owls, and to use only stock photos.

mahnaz [4:27 PM]

Yes, @mldrucker17 — it’s great when the photos can be specific and really extend what kids are reading in the text

Abair5 [4:28 PM]

Is it a good idea to see if the illustrator is knowledgeable about the subject they are designing for a book?

carla_r [4:28 PM]

@heidirab I agree, why define people by what they *aren’t?*

sdiaz101 [4:29 PM]

we have to remember that when we’re reviewing, we’re reviewing the book in front of us

dgrabarek [4:29 PM]

Not the one we want!

mahnaz [4:29 PM]

So true!

sdiaz101 [4:29 PM]

so be sure to look for author’s notes and illustrator’s notes

heidirab [4:30 PM]

@carla_r Right, that’s why I amended that it might be better to say “people of color”. “Non-white” makes white the default. I was just letting my brain spill out and hadn’t thought it through before I typed.