Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tips on How to Write a Great Book Review

With the boom in book publishing, the availability of diverse kid lit, and the soaring popularity of reading devices like the Kindle, the average parent is often spoilt for choice when it comes to buying quality books for their children. A well-written book review is key to helping someone make a decision on whether they want to buy a book or not. So naturally, it is critical to cover all the important points while writing one. Here are some tips on how to write a good book review.

Don’t summarize the story
This seems to be the most common mistake people make while writing reviews. Very often, especially in children’s books, the stories are so short that summarizing them tends to give away the entire story. The element of surprise still needs to be there for the reader once they buy the book – also, people may not want to buy a book if they know the what happens in the end! Instead, mention in a line or two the premise of the story.  For instance, if you were to review the book Monkeys on a Fast, you would say something along the lines of, “A determined monkey chieftain tries to get his tribe of monkeys to diet in this hilarious story – this story is as much a children’s book as it is a glimpse into the common grown-up preoccupation with resisting carbs”.

Mention other key aspects
Write about other aspects of the book that stood out to you that a reader would not be able to tell just by looking at the thumbnail image of the book’s cover on an online retail store. Did you like the illustrations? Were they done realistically, or does the artist exaggerate the characters for comic effect? What was the typography like? Was it easily readable or a font that looked fancy but was not legible?  Does the font change colour depending on what is being said, and does this help or hinder the reading experience? And is it done with a specific pattern or does it appear to be random? For example, in a review of our book Farmer Falgu Goes to The Market, Kirkus Reviews writes, “…the concise onomatopoeic sounds are in bigger and colour-coded type, which provides additional emphasis and is perfect for read-alouds.”
What is the price point like? Is it too expensive or good value for money? Is it the author or illustrator's debut book? If so, it is worth mentioning that.
If the book is a part of a series, it would be a good idea to mention this as well.

What sets the book apart?
What does this book have that most other books out in today’s market do not? Is there a disabled character in it? Is he or she portrayed with sensitivity yet without being patronizing? Is there a character from a minority community that is not usually represented in children’s literature? Does the story deal with any topics that are taboo in society?

Talk about the book’s cover
Was it eye-catching enough to make you want to pick it up and read it? Yes, like mentioned in the above paragraph, a book’s cover would be visible to anyone who sees the book in an online retail shop. But you have the added benefit of having read the story, so you can judge the cover based on that. Does it give you an idea about the tone or mood of the story? Is it a fitting cover or does it give a skewed idea about what the book is about? Is it a hardback or a paperback? In rare cases some books have two covers if it is a two-way book. Mention this and how the covers differ from each other. 

The writing
Naturally, one of the most important parts of any book. But rather than describe the writing as ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘marvellous’, elaborate on what you enjoyed about the writing. Does the story flow well or does it have random jumps to different scenes? Is it written in prose or in verse? Does the level match the age group it is targeted at or is it far too simple or far too advanced?

Avoid superlatives
And lastly, try to avoid saying things like ‘this is my favourite book’. A person reading your review would not know what kinds of books you like or what your taste in books is for it to be your favourite book. Describe what you like about the book instead. For instance, “…the watercolours that are mostly in pastel shades lend the illustrations a gentle, peaceful quality.” If it is your favourite story, you can make it a starred review, or give it 5 stars on 5, rather than explicitly say so.