Saturday, August 4, 2007

The validity of reviewing books for children

Have you ever wondered about the fact that children's books are reviewed by adults, who are not the intended audience for them? How much is my - or any adult's - opinion about a children's book worth, anyway?

I have often felt that there are certain picture books that seem to be written by adults for the parents or grandparents or teachers who buy the books, and not necessarily for the children themselves. These tend to be gooey books about how the children are growing and how bittersweet that is, that sort of thing. My kids have always been patently uninterested in that sort of book - books like Munch's Love You Forever (which has always slightly creeped me out). Or else books that have an educational slant but somehow there's not much there to really hold a child's interest, like A Cool Drink of Water (which I thought was kind of cool, but my kids wandered off in the middle of it).

Would children have given those books such high reviews? Maybe. There are adults who review books for adults, and sometimes I agree, and sometimes I don't.

I guess what makes me really wonder about this whole issue is when I go back to re-read a book that was one of my absolute favorites when I was a child, and it just doesn't hold up. I'm sure had an adult reviewed one of those re-read disappointments, it would have been given a poor review. Maybe it was predictable, or the characterization wasn't great, or the dialog not exactly sparkling. But as a child, that book rocked my world.

I suppose we review children's books because we love them, even as adults. I know I do. And I guess we should keep in mind that children often approach books from a different perspective and have sensibilities that can be very different from adults'. But would that make me give a glowing review to a book that I find predictable, with wooden characterization and flat dialog? Nope. I suppose that takes me back to the original question. Oh, well.


  1. You're so right, I often thought about it too. I remember loving The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe when I was 10. I didn't know it was a classic, I just loved it. Then I re-read it as an adult, and although I can see why I was so fascinated by it, for some reason the magic was gone. I was annoyed by Lewis's sexism and I could see too many external references to religion and morals, that I didn't enjoy it much. And that was a classic, a well-known and much-loved book. Can't imagine the difference with less-known books that I'm reviewing now, what I would have thought as I child.
    That's why, I think if one day Ill have children, I'll let them review the books I read and then maybe post both opinions on my future blog !!

  2. That's a great idea, valentina - I'll have to see if my kids would be interested in weighing in on the books I review. And I know just how you felt on rereading that book - I hate that feeling! Sometimes I hesitate to reread an old favorite because I worry that it won't hold up. But when it does, it is so fun to revisit it.


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