Monday, April 11, 2011

From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books

Holy ham hocks, is this a useful guide for anyone who reviews kid's books! From Cover to Cover, by Kathleen T. Horning, first came out in 1997, but a revised edition was published last year. The book now includes sections on graphic novels, fractured fairy tales, and verse novels. Many of the books cited as examples have been updated as well.

Chapter One starts off with a clearly presented account of how children's books are published and then goes on to list and define the parts of a book. Subsequent chapters give readers a tour of the major categories of children's literature, including nonfiction books, traditional literature (folktales and fairy tales), poetry, picture books, easy readers and transitional books, and fiction. (Unfortunately, YA books aren't represented as a separate category.)

For each genre, Horning explains what reviewers should take into account when evaluating a book. When judging an easy reader, for example, a reviewer should consider vocabulary, sentence length, plot, illustrations, and the book's design (the size of the typeface, the space between words, the space between lines, the number of lines per page, and so forth).

The final chapter deals with writing a review. Horning sets out the process in distinct steps. After first preparing and selecting a book, a conscientious reviewer reads and takes notes, asking herself questions while doing so. Sometimes it is necessary to consult outside sources and to fact check. Finally it's time to write the review and decide what to include and what to leave out.

As someone who blogs regularly about children's books, I found this book immensely helpful. I strongly recommend it to anyone who writes or cares about children's books.

From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books (revised edition)
by Kathleen T. Horning
HarperCollins, 240 pages
Published 2010

This week Nonfiction Monday is at Apples with Many Seeds.


  1. I, too, think this a really worthwhile book. I promote it to the student teachers in the education faculty, as a way to learn about children's literature. When you've had little exposure to kids lit. it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start and what makes a good book. This gives a person lots to work with.
    Good recommendation.

  2. Sounds interesting. I'm going right now to see if my library has this.

  3. Hmm, I'll have to look for it. Thanks!

  4. This sounds like a good resource, both for me and a lot of the education students we get in the library. Sometimes I feel like I'm back in school when they come in with syllabi in hand and ask for lists of books.