105 Ways to Give a Book


Is there a coziness in the kid-lit blog world that affects reviewing? Probably.

Is there a chumminess in the kid-lit publishing world that affects reviewing? Probably.

We have blog tours, shout-outs, and round-ups. They have publisher lunches, book launches, and award ceremonies. We know some authors. They know some authors. We might get free books. They definitely get free books. We don’t get paid. They do. Other than the fact that we do this for free, what’s the difference that would make bloggers more likely to be soft on authors?

Roger suggests that here we’re all one community, and it’s tricky to knock someone you know. Well, maybe that’s true.

I’ll take that chance.

Because what is gained here outweighs the hazards of mixing authors and reviewers in one big blog party. Maybe sometimes an author gets a softer review than deserved, but I can live with that for the opportunity to have a book dialogue that involves librarians, teachers, authors, mothers, editors, poets, and book lovers. We don’t just have book reviews, we have an opening for discussion. It’s a new paradigm that even involves a type of cross-promotion and targeted marketing.

In a way, it all comes down to marketing. Publishers’ lunches, book launches, blog tours, author interviews, ads in Horn Book, ALA exhibits, book signings, book awards, etc. Down at the base, we’re all promoting what we love, whether that’s our magazine, our new book, our own blog, or even just reading in general. Maybe even just being in love with our own voice. Talk about influence. I would say that we are influenced by all of the above, including our own angle.

For more influence, look to the baggage we bring to any review. Do I like cats or dogs? Do I hate abstract imagery? Does it matter if I have a good relationship with my parents or my kids? If I love the South? Or dislike the books where the mother is dead? The influence of a free book or an interview seems silly when you look at all the ways we are influenced before we’ve even seen the book.

Here, I want to embrace the subjective review. Know me, know my kind of books. Like me, like my kind of books. My blog peeps are the closest I get to having a friend to share her favorite titles. In fact, I don’t want to do book reviewing. I want to do book sharing. I want to be able to say, “Hey this is what I thought about this book. Me, with my two school-age children and my love of summer and corn. Me, with my propensity for humor and aversion to china rabbits. Me, with my disorganized house and my reformed hippie parents. This is what I thought about this book. What about you?”

Now, how cozy is that?


Emily said...

Oh yeah. I am down with this 300%.

Unknown said...

I love it, MR!

Saints and Spinners said...

With all of the alleged millions of blogs in the world, we need cozy spots.

ElsKushner said...

This is all a little too timely for me right now, as I'm sitting on a book-- the very first one sent to me as a blogger by an author--and haven't written about it yet, and have been thinking hard about all these very issues.

So far your post, out of the 3 or 4 or 5 I've read on this particular can of worms, comes closest to my own take on it. Once again. So, thanks, MR.

Jone said...

I like cozy. It is what drew me to this blog community.

Anonymous said...

I think you summed up my feelings on this, MR.

But my leaving comments also begs the question: should I even be adding to the discussion? After all, I am part of the problem--the author/artist/ or whatever who is the one who should be viewed/reviewed with total objectivity.

I then respond: total objectivity is NOT possible. No matter how much any reviewer, paid or not, established or not, claims it is. Everyone brings some predisposition to the table when asked to form an opinion. Everyone. And as someone who has been the object of reviews in one form or another for one medium or another for about 35 years, I can tell you that with absolute conviction. I've had glowing and I've had harsh. And sometimes both for the very same work. And in almost every case there is some reason for either view, that has nothing to do with the art itself.

Naturally I would lean towards thinking it is a better world when we err on the side of cozy, and choosing to not blast, but rather to applaud. Or, that sometimes it is better choosing to say nothing. And not only because it is in my and my fellow authors' best interests. It is because that at 55 years of age, I have learned that subjectivity is pervasive and that winds blow different ways in different decades. Opinions are simply that: opinions.

There is no absoute truth to reviews, whether they cheer or damn. Many reviewers do not like to hear that. The important thing should be to encourage dialogue. And if only a few read or watch or see the object of review because a few say "it stinks, don't bother" then there is no dialogue.

MotherReader said...

Now, let me make it clear, that I still intend to do negative reviews. I still reserve the right not to review a book at all. I'm just saying that I think all reviews are almost by definition, subjective, and knowing the author is one part of that equation, along with 48 other influences.

I won't say that I loved a book that I didn't love, but I might point out the good points of a book I didn't love because I know that someone else out there will love it.

I hope that by knowing me and knowing my taste, my readers will get a sense if the book is a good fit for them. If not, that's fine too.

Anonymous said...

Here's why you might not be soft on a book by an author you like - we, the moms seaching for guidance, wouldn't trust you anymore if you steered us wrong. Your credibility is on the line.

Here's why I come back to blogs - I love the books they recommend.

And I'm so grateful for finding this community. It is so hard to guide your children in choosing books. Have you seen the Scholastic Book order forms? Tucked in a corner beneath video games, tv/movie tie in books and toys is a really good book. Chance of it appealing to a child after all that junk? zero.

Thank you and don't stop what you are doing.


Andromeda Jazmon said...

YAY sharing!!! That is what I love about bloggging. I never really wanted anything else. This is my book club.

Melissa said...

Book sharing. Nicely put. And very accurate. :)

Emily said...

I blog for fun. Reviews, as they have been definied the last few days, are not my cup-of-tea. But when I read a book I'm excited about, I want to share. I absolutely love that you called it book sharing. That's what I like to do.

tanita✿davis said...

I LIKE the idea of book sharing. I've felt an irrational fear, since this whole brouhaha(I do love that word), to remove the word "review" from my other site, and from my vocabulary. I don't review books. I have conversations about books -- with random people who may or may not see things from my many-siblings, former teacher, also-had-hippie-parents weirdly unique point of view.

Incidentally, I LIKE your pov very much.

Little Willow said...

I love corn. I like cozy. I like MR bloggity blog.

Vivian Mahoney said...

So niceley written. Thanks for my thoughts exactly.

Anonymous said...

Well said! Thanks!

Mary Lee said...

Yup: Cozy. Chummy. Subjective. And FUN.

Glad to be a part of the kidlitosphere!

Little Willow said...


I too love honest reviews, good books, and corn!