Writing a Book Review: How to do it and why

Someone asked me the other day if I ever review a book I don’t like.  Nope.  No way.  I know longer review for money but simply for the love of reading and helping people connect with good books.  You can find my reviews here at Bookshelf.  Since my goal is to help people connect with books, I stick to books I like.

Each review starts with the basics – Title, Author and illustrator, Publisher.  I also include a copy of the cover.  Then I move into a summary, but a review has to go beyond this.  Otherwise, it would simply be a summary.

Sometimes I include why I read this book.  May someone recommended it.  Or the author might be a favorite author.  Other times I simply love the topic.

If I’m reviewing an illustrated book, I say something about the illustrations.  If possible, I include the medium used — oils, watercolor, pencil, or Photoshop.  Do the illustrations bring humor to the text?  Expand on the story?  Lighten what could easily be a too-dark moment?  Sometimes I say something about why this illustration style was a good choice for this story.

Then I write something about the audience and/or how this book might be used.  Is it a book that will appeal to kids who love nature? Or maybe it is the perfect choice for fantasy readers.  Some books are great classroom books because they easily introduce the reader to a topic.  Others are great read alouds but lousy bed time books.


In addition to the fact that I review because I love books, reading and writing about books helps me understand publishing and improve my writing.  If you write to review, you tend to read a lot of books.  You also read critically.  A book may not be my favorite but I’ll still review it because I can see why it is an important title for the audience.  Having a feel for the audience is vital to solid writing.

I’ve learned about unreliable narrators and how to make them work.  I’ve developed a better feel for page turns in picture books.  Want to break a publishing rule such as having the character solve her own problem?  I just read a picture book that makes that work.

Reading is a great way to study writing.  Reading to write about the book makes you think beyond the superficial as you look for something meaningful to say.  It has definitely shaped how I think about writing and reading.