Sunday, October 15, 2006

Negative reviews

I've been busy for a while and haven't had time to keep up with the blogs, so I just found out, courtesy of Jen Robinson and MotherReader, that there's been a debate about negative reviews raging across the kidlitosphere. Since this is a topic that I've been thinking about lately, in what must be some kind of weird blogosphere telephathy, I couldn't resist adding my two cents.

I remember seeing an episode of the Simpsons TV show in which Homer becomes a food critic. Homer loves food, all kinds of food, so he gives everything a great review. His fellow critics take him to task for this, telling him that it's a critics job to give bad reviews.

Well, I'm with Homer. I just love books. It's a rare book that I dislike enough to give a bad review. I can almost always find something good about a book. Maybe it sounds corny, but I see it as my mission as a reviewer to find the soul of a book. That's partly why I write so few reviews; because I agonize over each one. I do sometimes comment about a book's shortcomings, but it's rare that I write a review which is more negative than positive.

In addition, as other bloggers have noted, if I'm really not enjoying a book, I usually don't finish it. Life is just too short to waste time reading something I'm not enjoying. My reviewing is strictly voluntary, so I have the luxury of choosing which books to review.

Finally, because I am a publisher, and my husband is a writer, I'm keenly aware that every book is someone's baby. Even if I really dislike a book, I just don't like to air the dirty laundry in public.

I'm not criticizing those who write negative reviews. I think that they do have a place, particularly in helping budget-constrained librarians and teachers make important purchasing decisions. But I just can't do it. And neither can I write humorous reviews like MotherReader or Fuse #8, although my guilty pleasure is reading their posts. Sadly, I don't have the sense of humor to be able to write like that.

4 comments:

MotherReader said...

I've enjoyed the conversations about it, especiallly as it makes you think where you fall in the continuum of reviewing. And, maybe even more important, why. Thanks for the compliment. Me likes being funny.

Sheila said...

You're welcome. I do enjoy reading your blog.

Libby Koponen said...

Sheila:

This is the best description of the reviewer's mission I've seen:

"find the soul of a book"

Thank you! I wish more reviewers tried to do that. I don't mind if someone doesn't like a book, but I DO get angry when they don't understand it and then write as an expert! And I also think that there are so many good books out there that get overlooked that it's a shame to tell people about the bad ones.

Libby

Sheila said...

Thanks, Libby. And you're right that there are a lot of good books that get overlooked, and part of what I hope to do is to help people discover them.