The other side of my writing life is conducting book reviews. Currently, this involves kids’ books (for Tania McCartney’s website, Kids Book Review) from picture books to young adult novels, but it will soon expand to adult fiction and non-fiction for another website – stay posted.
It’s a surprise to me that I enjoy doing this so much. I had never thought of reviewing books until I ‘met’ Tania and she suggested I submit some reviews for her site. But as soon as I began writing my first one, I knew I was hooked.
I’ve spoken before about my passion for reading children’s books, and books in general, but it took me a little while to realise what I enjoyed about reviewing them. And here it is: it’s writing about something I love, something I find interesting. Each book is so different, with new things to like and dislike, new topics and themes to explore, reasons to enjoy reading. Sometimes there are surprises, when you thought you’d like a book and give it a great review and you’re disappointed. And vice versa.
The other thing I love about reviews is the opportunity to really think about a book I’ve read. So often we read books, then straight away toss them aside and open the next one. Reviewing a book involves flicking back through it, perhaps taking notes of interesting thoughts as you read, and really reflecting on what you loved about it and what you didn’t think so much of. Most importantly, it’s a chance to think over why you liked what you liked.
Sometimes this can mean you enjoyed a book but something was stopping you from loving it. What was it? That one thing that’s holding you back? With a children’s book, it might be that the text was brilliant, but the illustrations didn’t catch you. It could also be that I love a picture book, but my daughter or other kids in my life didn’t find it the least bit interesting (and this has happened on a few occasions). If it doesn’t appeal to its target audience, then I guess it can’t be so great.
And, lastly, as an aspiring author, it’s invaluable to have this motivation to really think about these aspects of a book. It helps me figure out what I do and don’t want to do with my books.
I’m learning all the time.