For Grown-ups (Creative Kids, feel free to skip to the next section…!)
Nurturing enthusiasm for writing book reviews has a whole lot of benefits. First up, there’s a clear link between writing book reviews and developing comprehension and writing skills. Then there’s that all-important, broader benefit of learning how to articulate personal opinions. In addition, exploring the personal nature of responses to books, and expressing those responses through writing reviews, can stimulate genuine excitement around reading (and writing) for pleasure.
Put simply, reading need never be a chore. Like Goldilocks’s search for her “just rights”, it’s simply a case of finding the right books for individual readers. You just need to know where to look (which, as it happens, is the raison d'être of LoveReading4Kids - our Expert and Community Reviewers cover every kind of book, for every kind of reader).
So, here are our top tips to encourage kids to write their own book reviews, so they can discover the fun of helping their siblings and peers find their own “just right” books, while unlocking a love of reading and writing for themselves in the process.
TOP TIP: read to the end to find out how budding book reviewers can have their work published on LoveReading4Kids.
For Creative Kids - ten tips for writing top book reviews
First things first. You might be wondering why book reviews matter. The fact is, the world is full of a GINORMOUS number of books - from stories that still spark our imaginations thousands of years after they were written (like Ancient Greek myths and Viking legends), to the hundreds of thousands of new books published each year. Yep, there really are that many new books to choose from! This means it can be pretty tricky to find your new favourite book or author. In fact, it can sometimes feel like those special books are as cunningly camouflaged as colour-changing chameleons…
But fear not! There are plenty of ways to spot even the most camouflaged book-shaped chameleon. For example, you might get lucky and be given a book you can’t put down. Perhaps your teacher picks a class-read that captures your imagination. Maybe you have a book-loving buddy who gives great recommendations. Maybe you gobble up book reviews like the ones on this website. Talking of which, keep reading to discover how to write your own brilliant book reviews, so you can become the special kind of person who helps other people find books that will become special to them (which, by the way, is why book reviews matter!)
1. Read to write
If there’s one thing all writers do, it’s read (a LOT!). Whether you’re crafting funny fiction, informative non-fiction, or brilliant book reviews, reading helps your writing improve. So, before you start writing your own, read other people’s reviews for ideas and inspiration.
TOP TIP: this website is chock-a-block with book reviews! Type the name of books or authors you’ve read into the search bar at the top of the page to get started. Then think about these questions while you read some reviews:
• Did the review make you want to read the book? Why? Why not?
• Did you agree with how the reviewer described the book? Why? Why not?
• What did the review include? Look out for things like an overview of the story, and the reviewer’s personal opinions (what they particularly liked about the book). Perhaps the review includes quotes from the book to give a flavour of the writing style. Perhaps it makes comparisons with others books or writers.
• What didn’t the review include? HINT: reviews should never include “spoilers”, which means they mustn’t reveal surprise twists or turns that could spoil the story for readers.
2. Pick a book
The main purpose of writing book reviews is to share opinions about books you’ve read, so you’ll want to pick a book you have strong feelings about. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you picking a book you didn’t like, but you probably want to focus on books you’ve loved - books that had you gripped, thrilled and flipping the pages way past bedtime. Books that bowled you over, knocked you sideways, boggled your brain and split your sides. Take a little time to pick a book to review before putting pen to paper.
3. Summarise the story
To kick-start your review, write a few sentences summarising what the story is about. Think about what happens. Think about the main characters. Think about the setting. What genre is it? Genre means what kind of story it is. For example, is it an adventure story? Science fiction? Funny fiction? Historical? Spooky? A mystery? If your chosen book is part of a series, you’ll want to let you readers know in your introduction, and you’ll also want to let them know whether the author has written anything else.
TOP TIP: if you’re struggling to get started, imagine a friend has asked you why they should read the book you’re planning to review - think of your review as your response to your friend.
4. Make it personal - share your excitement
While it’s useful for readers to know what a book is about (without spoilers, of course!), the heart of your review should be YOU sharing YOUR thoughts and feelings about the book. To help you do that, think about these questions:
• What was your favourite part of the book, and why?
• Who was your favourite character, and why? Did they feel real to you?
• When and where does the action take place? Did the author make you feel like you were inside their story world? How do you think they did that through their writing?
• Did the story make you want to keep turning the pages?
• How did the book make you feel? Did any parts make you laugh out loud? Did any parts make you feel scared, sad, or even mad?!
• Did any particular sentences stick in your mind? Did the author’s writing style create any strong images? Did you like the way the author uses words?
• Is the book illustrated? If so, what do the illustrations add to the story?
5. Make it personal - be honest
A key rule of writing book reviews is to be honest, so don’t dodge telling the truth. If you think the book was perfect, you could say something like, “my only complaint was that the book was too short - I wanted it to last forever!” However, if you thought some parts were a bit boring, or if you thought some characters weren’t convincing, don’t be afraid of saying so. But, while, it’s important for your review to present the full picture, don’t be mean! Be honest, polite and balanced, and back-up your opinions. Talking of which…
6. Back it up
Give reasons for your personal opinions. For example, if you think a book is funny, your review could include a funny quote from the book to show readers how hilarious it is.
7. Make comparisons
Making comparisons with other books and authors is a very useful way to let people know what a book is like, which will help them decide whether they’ll enjoy the book you’re reviewing. So, you could say something like, “this book reminded me of a mash-up of Horrid Henry and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” Or, “If you like Abi Elphinstone’s adventure books, you’ll LOVE this!” Or, “fans of football and funny stories will definitely enjoy this top-of-the-league tale!”
8. Make it magic
To make your readers as excited about a book as you are, make your descriptions stand-out. You could use similes and metaphors to do this. Here are some examples:
This book was as exciting as whizzing down the world’s wildest rollercoaster.
The ending was as unexpected as encountering an alien in your back garden.
This book was as comforting as being snuggled up in a fluffy blanket.
This book was so full of crazy facts, it made my brain explode!
9. Keep it snappy
Reviews don’t have to be very long, so you could set yourself a limit of 100 words. To practise summarising books succinctly (that means describing them in just a few words), pick three of your favourite books and write a single-sentence strapline about each of them. A strapline is a short, snappy subheading that describes what something is. In the case of books, straplines usually give a sense of what the story is about and what kind of book it is (funny, mysterious, scary etc). Here are some examples of straplines describing real books:
“Green by day, hero by night!” - The Astounding Broccoli Boy
“He smells. He’ll eat literally anything. And he’s humanity’s only hope…” - The Dog Who Saved the World
“Fizzy drinks, a trillion dollars, the adventure that ends with a bang!” - Pop!
10. Spread the word
Once you’ve finished writing (and checking) your review, it’s time to share your enthusiasm with family and friends. Show them your brilliant book review to see if they’re inspired to read the book for themselves. You could also ask a grown-up about submitting your reviews to this website. Grown-ups, head here to find out more.
Joanne Owen is a writer and publishing professional with over twenty years’ experience of the book industry, and the author of a how-to children’s guide to creative writing, You Can Write Awesome Stories. Alongside writing and reviewing books, she hosts writing workshops and is an Editorial Expert for Love Reading.