Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's not

Most of the time, I feel very privileged to be a reviewer of children’s and young adult books. It used to be a little more fun back before the advent of the Advance Reader Copy, which are handed out very freely at conferences now, and look very much like the finished book complete with cover and blurbs on the back. Before then, you’d get a galley, usually with no more information on the cover than the title and the author’s name. So you’d wade on in with no idea of what to expect, and every once in awhile you would come across something amazing–What Jamie Saw, or Out of the Dust. Nowadays, with ARC’s everywhere, by the time you are holding something wonderful in your hands, chances are someone has already posted about it on a listserv. But still, most of the time reviewing is a lot of fun, even if not quite as adventuresome as before.

Every once in awhile, though, you hit a string of books that make you wonder how it is possible that publishers reject so many books and still manage to publish so many mediocre ones. The past few days I have gotten to the point of wishing I could boil my reviews down to a single phrase:

“Biography of a big jerk”
“Has first-time novel written all over it”
“Beautiful book design, no content”
“There’s such a thing as being too affirming”
“Making the characters dinosaurs doesn’t make it a dinosaur book”

But then you pick up the new Alice Walker picture book There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me, and you remember that it really is a privilege to be a children’s book reviewer.

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