To make sure you know what to expect from the reviews, I’ve decided to give the reviews a consistent structure.
First I’ll provide a one- or two-sentence description of the book. Then I’ll rate the book based on what’s important to my son and answer the questions I know he wants answered. Finally, I’ll try address a range of questions that my diverse group of grown-up friends—men and women, Christian and atheist, people from all over the world—hold close to our hearts when picking books.
Kid-o-meter scales. I’ll rate each book from 1 to 5, with 1 as the lowest/least and 5 as the highest/most:
- This book made me laugh out loud
- This book has good action
- This book is suspenseful
- The ending does not disappoint
- I cared a lot about what happened to these characters
Next I’ll answer a series questions about the book–first kids’ questions, then adults’ questions.
- Is there a group of friends I can imagine I’m part of?
- Is this a series or just one book?
- Does it get off to a fast start?
- Is there at least one nice grownup?
- Does it get mushy? (Is there L-O-V-E?)
- How old is the main character?
Note: I originally listed this as a kids’ question because conventional wisdom says kids like to “read up.” That is, eight-year-olds want to read about ten-year-olds, ten-year-olds about twelve-year-olds, and so on. My son demanded that I move the question here, though. He insists–and I do mean insists–that the age of the main character isn’t important to him and that he’ll read books about younger kids, older kids, and even about adults. I also asked him about the gender of the main character and to my great surprise, got the same reaction: “Don’t care.”
- What’s the major source of suspense?
- Which classic fantasy elements does the book contain?
- What’s the book’s take on tolerance and empathy?
- Is there profanity or violence? How about mature themes and dark creatures?
- What’s the take on religion and/or God in the book? What about politics and government?
- Any gender issues whack the reader in the eye?
- Any other important themes or issues crop up that you might want to discuss with your child?
- Is the book especially challenging to read, and if so, why?
- How’s the writing? What’s the writer’s major strength? What’s the writer’s Achilles heel?
- Might some people be upset by the spelling or grammar? For example, are words purposefully misspelled a la Captain Underpants?