Children’s Book Review

Assignment: Write a critical review of a full-length children’s book—i.e., a novel. The book should be a Newbery award winner—or be written by an author who has won the Newbery award. The paper should be approximately 850 words in length. It must be typed, double-spaced, and carefully proofread. Like the picture book analysis essay, this essay should have a strong introduction, a discussion section of several paragraphs, and a conclusion. The purpose of a critical review is to identify and discuss the most important aspects of a book you are analyzing. As you read the book and subsequently prepare to write your review, you need to ask yourself questions like these:
• Is this a good book? If so, what is worthwhile about it?
• What about plot? What is the basic conflict in the book? Is there an identifiable climactic moment in the book?
• What about character? Character should be an important element in a book for a more advanced reader. Is this the case here? How well developed are the characters? Are these characters you care about? Is character development as important as plot? How does plot function in developing character? Does the main character grow as a result of dealing with this conflict?
• Assuming this is a book that aspires to being realistic, are the characters realistic? Are the events depicted in the book realistic? Even if the book is a fantasy, does the fantasy have a feeling of being real? Does your “suspension of disbelief” come willingly?
• Who is telling the story? What point of view is being used here? First person? Third person limited? (If limited, in what way is it limited? To the perspective of a particular character? Perhaps the narrator is completely objective, that is, reports only what is said and done, does not tell the reader what a character may think or feel.) Third person omniscient? (The narrator is not limited to perspective of a particular character. The narrator knows all — though may not reveal all.)
• What about theme? In other words, what meanings does the book seem to convey? What are the underlying concerns of this book?
• What about style—that is, how the author uses language? Anything significant about this?
These are all question to consider—questions to think about. (There are others as well! You need not include a discussion of all of these matters—only those that you think relevant. But you should think about all of them before you write your review.
NOTE: A critical review does need to convey the basics “facts” of the story: the who, the what, the where, the when. So a little bit of summary is helpful to the reader of your review. However, you should be able to summarize the most important background information of the book—setting, characters, situation—in about a paragraph.
• As you read, think about why you are reading. Think about the questions above. If the book is yours, by all means mark it up. Be sure to identify passages that you think are really important.
• After you have read the book, spend some time thinking about it. If you were going to make an oral report on the book, what would be the most important things you would want to discuss or point out to your audience?
• Make a list of key discussion points.
• Now think about how your will arrange your discussion in written form. Think about how you will arrange what you want to say in paragraphs.
• Be sure to back up the points you are trying to make with details from the text — that is, the book itself. If you say something is good or well done, then you must show specifically what is good or well done by making specific reference to the text. Evaluations are generalizations. Generalizations must always be backed up with detail. Selective quotations from the text can be very helpful in supporting points that you want to make.
• Compose a draft. Rewrite as needed. Your paper should be carefully proofread. It should have proper margins. In terms of manuscript form, it should be double-spaced. Essays that are not presented in the proper format will not be accepted.

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