Monday, October 05, 2009

Discovering Children's and Young Adult Literature: The Reviews

I love children's and young adult books; you can see from my reviews. And it's fun to have that interest overlap with my job (librarian) and to turn that into other professional areas (writing articles, presenting at conferences, etc.)

But just as often, a person becomes a reader of children's/YA for other reasons; and may think that because these books aren't really covered in most popular newspapers and magazines that there isn't coverage. But, there is; you just need to know where it is. And, as you read blogs and get further immersed into reading and blogging about children's and young adult books, you may find references to things like SLJ and Roger and wonder, "huh"?

So here's my "if you're reading children's books and want more reviews" list. The print journals may or may not be available at your local public library and may or may not be available for customers. Ask your library if they have it and if you can read it.

The primary audience for many of the reviews in these journals is adult gate keepers. The review isn't for the end-reader but for a person buying materials for the end-reader. In other words? Yes, there may be spoilers. Because it's about a librarian or teacher or bookseller (or other person) wondering, "should I buy this book for my library/students?" and "should I recommend this book to my students?" The reviews are often pre publication, so that teachers and librarians and booksellers can buy the books as early as possible. Pretty much all of these review journals also have best/starred/end of year lists, and these stars/best lists are often referenced by bloggers. Often, a collection development policy for a library (both public and school) requires that a book be reviewed by at least one of these journals before the library buys it. These are also the reviews cited when a library supports its decision to purchase during a book challenge.

School Library Journal AKA SLJ. Reviews and news of children's and young adult literature (including books, audiobooks, websites, etc.), both as a monthly print magazine and an online site that includes several blogs. It's a must-read site for news; you can also sign up for various newsletters and RSS feeds. It's blogs include A Fuse #8 Production AKA Fuse AKA Betsy. SLJ is part of the Reed Business Family, along with Library Journal (AKA LJ) (library news and book and media reviews), Criticas (reviews of Spanish language materials) and Publishers Weekly (AKA PW) (book publishing and bookselling news and reviews).

The Horn Book. A print journal; some of the essays, articles, and reviews are available online, and there is an enewsletter you can subscribe to. While SLJ aims more at daily librarianship and how one uses the books; The Horn Book is more literary in its approach to the books, but still accessible for non-academics. For the essays and articles, it assumes you are familiar with the books being discussed. Perhaps the best example of what you'll find there is KT Horning's On Spies and Purple Socks and Such, about the queer subtext in Harriet the Spy. Roger Sutton is the Editor in Chief of The Horn Book and blogs at Read Roger, AKA Roger. He's not afraid of being controversial, stirring the pot, speaking his mind, and being a devil's advocate.

Multicultural Review. This publication is all about diverse titles, whether it's ethnicity, race, spirituality, religion, disability, or language. The majority of the online content is only available to subscribers. So, like Kirkus, you can see a quick peak of what is available but not the full thing. Lyn Miller-Lachman, the editor in chief, blogs at her own website.

Voice of Youth Advocates AKA VOYA. Like The Horn Book, some of the content is online and some isn't. Like SLJ, it's intended audience is librarians. VOYA is all about young adult literature and librarianship; so there are articles about serving teens as a librarian and there are reviews. There is online-only content. VOYA has a reviewing code that addresses both popularity and quality, rating both on a scale of 1 to 5. Authors love to get what is called a "perfect 10": a top score of 5 in both popularity (5P) and quality (5Q).

Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus is all about reviews, nothing else. While there may be one or two full reviews featured, usually what you find online are teasers; you'll have to pay to enjoy the full content. The two things to know about Kirkus: it has anonymous reviewers (the name of the reviewer isn't attached to the review) and it can be critical. That means that authors will either blog/tweet about Kirkus with a relieved tone for not hating their book (or, better yet, liking it!); or will say they've earned their author-stripes by getting a negative Kirkus review. For some historical perspective on Kirkus and reviews and authors, read what David Lubar has to say about it. To be honest? I love Kirkus because it is honest and often brings the snark.

Booklist is a publication of ALA (American Library Association). It's available online at Booklist Online. There are reviews, blogs, columns, essays. Booklist is a terrific help to librarians; I especially love the themed issues that they do. As an example from the October 2009 issue: Early Literacy and Series Nonfiction. If you click through, you will see that these lists are not just about what is published in that particular year. Booklist's sister publication is Booklinks (quarterly publication, literature resources for teachers & classrooms that include bibliographies, author interviews, etc), and some of that content is going online, also.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Some of the content of this children's book journal is available online; for example, here are the October stars (but not the actual reviews of those titles.) Their 2008 Guide Book to Gift Books is available online in a PDF (Am I the only one who reads these things and counts up how many they read?). Oh, and check out the website for the Center for Children's Books.

Library Media Connection. Deb Dietrich, a High School Librarian, recommended this one. A description from LMC's website: "Our Editor's Choice awards are announced, along with great new finds of YA authors. Find ways to support the reading programs with the Five Pillars of Reading. Technology Connection finds great applications for open source software available for free or low cost."

What else? The reviewers for these journals may or may not be paid. Often, the only payment is the access to ARC (Advance Reading Copies) or review copies and being able to put on your resume that you review for these journals.

I was originally going to have this post also include listservs, other periodicals, and academic information. But it's already tl;dr (too long; didn't read, a comment often made about too-long blog posts or comments).

What print review journals have I left out? I'll revise and update. Also, for the resources I've listed, what do you think people should know that I haven't mentioned?

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Tricia said...

Playing off your earlier post, I'm one of your regular readers who is too lazy to click through and comment. However, this post was particularly helpful. Thanks so much for pointing out the differences among these review sources.

Lisa Jenn said...

Thanks for doing this, Liz. A journal I've often wondered about that you didn't discuss is Children's Literature. Their reviews are often the first review you see on Barnes & Noble's site, yet I don't know any librarians who use it in collection development. It looks like it comes out of MLA, but I don't know anything more about its reputation.

I like Kirkus' brutal (apparent) honesty, but I feel it is tainted by the anonymity of its reviewers. It makes me wonder if all the negative reviews I'm reading were written by one disgruntled person.

One of my concerns about Booklist is that not all its children's reviewers work with children (or even have past experience working with children). Why should I trust a review that says "children will enjoy" if the reviewer doesn't know children?

Roger Sutton said...

Liz, I just got a request for advice about how blog reviewers can become print/professional reviewers. A lot of the difference between the two relates to your point above about persons "buying materials for the end-reader." I wish you, being a librarian who also writes blog reviews, would write a post about this.

Mary Ann Scheuer said...

As someone relatively new to being a school librarian (2 years, now), I really appreciate the way you've spelled all this out. It's information I've been gathering on my own, but you explained it very clearly and succinctly. thank you!

Liz B said...

Thanks for the comments!

And I guess I should have added that of course any individual can subscribe to these; I get some journals at work, but there is one I don't that I pay for myself.

Roger, I didn't realize how long this post would turn out; I had thought about going into how each journal, while offering reviews, has different standards, criteria, etc. I think something more substantial about what a "professional" review is is warranted and I'll add it to my to-blog list; probably for end of October/early November.