Friday, February 25, 2011


I have been very lucky to have been reviewed by many national and international reviewers and never take getting reviews for granted. Now that so many people can review books on sites like Amazon I am cautious of looking. I think people forget that they are reviewing work that is done by other people and writers have feelings too. And sometimes you need to have thick skin.
It is a fact that many people, and I am one, only remember the bad reviews.

Today press cuttings arrived from my publisher including a review in Books For Keeps. If I had been packing these up in the office I think I would have removed this one. I read it. I thought about it, and here is my response. But first, the review, or a part of it . Two thirds of the review is taken up with an abridgement of the storyline as the reviewer interprets it.

" While the illustrations are lovely, the reader may struggle at times to follow the narrative and make sense of it. Clearer textual connections would help draw us in, especially at the beginning. The language is at times lyrical, at times stilted and the text is quite small on the full colour double page spreads- a larger font would add visual appeal. A slightly disappointing read given the dramatic illustrations."

I have thick skin, like a dragon. Just as well.

I could do a short review of the review and suggest that paraphrasing the story is not the best use of space, and neither is reviewing a book that you do not like. It is a little pointless. Also the balance of type and image is carefully thought through and this being a story for older people the text did not have to be large. ( Obviously I also have a soft underbelly like a dragon.)
On the otherhand in Carousel Magazine a short review says,

" This book is written, illustrated and published with loving care. Set in the polar regions of the Arctic the story is magical; easily understood text and stunning illustrations merge to carry a powerful message that we must care that our actions do not endanger the lives of wild creatures."

Two reviewers, one book. 
You cannot please all of the people all of the time.

I sometimes review books on Amazon, if they are something that I have loved and wish to share my passion for. I sometimes review for magazines. And I never ever give a book a bad review because I know, even if I do not like a book, the passion with which each and every author and illustrator works.


  1. There is a big difference between bad reviews and bad reviewers. The latter shouldn't be reviewing books. I can remember asking author Kate Atkinson (Behind the Scenes at the Museum) whether she got upset by bad reviews. She made the point very strongly, she NEVER reads reviews. That way she doesn't get mad about bad reviewers!

  2. Never the less it is hard to hear criticism and it always amazes me how we can remember it years after our praises have been forgotten. I too have not left a bad review ever on Amazon for the very reasons you said, to create is like giving birth. Surely something that a moment before didn't exist then does, has all the thought and feeling of the writer or artist imbued in it's very essence, and it's not kind to cast that down. Alas there are humans out there who feel they need to.

    I hope that the comments and thoughts that all of us blog-people can cancel out those nasties for each of us!

  3. Joyce Grenfell once wrote about the role of a reviewer...I believe she put forward the view, that a reviewers role, was to discuss the intent of the author/playwright/artist...what were they aiming to do ?... and then they should examine how well they had achieved this.
    The insertion of personal likes and dislikes was inappropriate and unhelpful.

    I must say I agree with her.

    The reviewer may make the introduction
    Intelligent information is useful ...but the personal taste of the reviewer is generally not helpful.By all means tell me the length/ format/intended audience for the work, the content/type... humour/tragedy/rhyme etc and any technical flaws or triumphs
    but I would like to be allowed to make up my own mind about whether I like the book/play/picture or not.

    A superficial review where a reviewer obviously hasn't done their homework regarding practical details of typeface size/choice related to intended audience etc is rather insulting and must be (insert suitable Anglo-Saxon epithet here) annoying...

    I think we should ask the fire breathing dragon to aim at the seat of the offender!

    I rather agree with 'Q' good English involves communicating as simply and succinctly as possible.

    I prefer the second review and I rather think your audiences will agree too.

  4. And I don't think that 'UC" whoever that is was being unkind. They expressed their personal taste and have a right to do so. But without a thought perhaps to how that might make the author feel.
    We all of us put our hearts and our souls into our work. And that is how it should be. They have a right to their opinion, and that too is how it should be. And I would rather they had kept it to themselves.

  5. Another reason against giving bad reviews - Not everyone thinks the same, so a bad review might put off someone who would have loved and cherished the book. Differant things appeal to differant people. It's as simple as that. I never read reviews - of mine or anyone else's work.

  6. Like you, I don't see the point of giving a bad review. I recommend stuff I love because I want someone else to love it too. I don't review anything negatively because if I didn't enjoy it that may well just be me. Someone else may love it.

  7. I do sometimes read reviews. More often I buy on the recommeendations of friends. I don't think I have ever been put off buying a book by a bad review, although took me a while to buy Seth Lakeman's new cd because reviews were a bit iffy. But I love it. Serves me right for listening to reviewers and not the music.

  8. Jackie, I hardly ever read a review because I think many reviewers live in a world that I don't know, and what they say has little to do with the the meaning that a book will have for me.
    If I were creating something I sure would not
    read reviews about it for the same reasons.

  9. The chorus to Rick Nelson's song "Garden Party" pretty much say it all: "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."

  10. The reviewer is a botanist. I am a gardener!

    Jules Renard

    I think that says it all!

    Greetings from Germany