I buy a lot of books because finding great books is a numbers game – you have to read a lot of them to find the truly outstanding ones.
But obviously I don’t buy books randomly. There needs to be reason to believe there’s a chance a book is very good before I buy it. The usual reasons are:
- A parent recommended the book
- I liked another book by the same author and/or illustrator
- The book won an award
- The book was highly regarded by a professional reviewer
I had always assumed professional reviewers would have very high standards, but I’ve been disappointed by their reviews enough times that I no longer know what to expect when buying a book that has received acclaim from a professional reviewer.
I cannot say why it is that I find some reviewers’ recommendations so off the mark, except that there is obviously room for subjectivity in such matters. Indeed, some parents and children may not like all the books I recommend.
But I can say what it is I don’t like about them: invariably I find that my disappointment is due to the books lacking substance. In my view, too many children’s books have a story that is frankly lacking a moral, a lesson, excitement, fun, suspense, or any other attribute that makes the story compelling, memorable, or just interesting.
I’m sure it’s not easy to come up with a great story. I certainly haven’t been able to snap my fingers and come up with them. So kudos to all the authors who are trying to write meaningful stories. But that doesn’t mean reviewers should expect and accept anything less than great. I certainly don’t, and other parents shouldn’t either. There are great books out there, and hopefully my legwork on the Books for Children website can help other parents find such books more easily, quickly, and economically.