Last week, I found myself in a position where I was reviewing a child’s book. I had signed up with the Readers’ Favorite website to a contest. I sent a book in to be reviewed, and one of the conditions was that I would review someone else’s book. I could choose which book I wanted to review, and Readers’ Favorite would send the book to me (as long as I lived in the States). I thought I would select a book, and buy it on amazon.co.uk. When I began to search for a book on the Readers’ Favorite site, they all seemed to be ebooks. I finally noticed a button labelled ‘Find a Hard Copy Book’. I clicked in that button an one (1) book appeared on my screen: it was a childrens’ book. When I queried the website whether there really was only one hard copy book available, I was told that for the time being, that was the case, because they were prioritising books which had been entered in the contest.
When I read, I much prefer to be holding a hard copy book, rather than a screen, so I thought, what the heck, I’ll review the children’s book. I bought it on amazon.co.uk; it arrived, and I read it twice. I can’t tell you the title of the book or the author’s name because Readers’ Favorite has a (quite sensible) rule that only they can post reviews on the internet. (What follows could be considered a review.)
The book was about a baby animal which is born in winter and is brought into the family house and raised until it is old enough to join other animals of the same kind. The story featured some of the pranks the animal got up to, as well as what its human carers learned in the process. It was a cute story, and the author and publisher had obviously gone to a good deal of trouble to produce the book: it was hard cover with lots of colour illustrations. The back cover had the author’s photo and bio. There were also comments by local people about the story. There were several informative pages at the back of the book where one could learn more about this particular animal. All well and good.
But . . . I felt that the story was told from the perspective of the animal’s carer (the author), rather than the perspective of a child. In this sense, there was too much detail about things that were of concern to the carer, but which would be of little interest to most children. There were missed opportunities to explore the feelings of the carer and to guess at the feelings of the animal in particular situations. Many children find stories which provoke or include feelings quite interesting.
The illustrations were in colour, placed adjacent to the relevant text, and quite appropriate. But for me, they were complete pictures, leaving no room for a child to add to the image from his imagination. I believe that the most effective illustrations in childrens’ books are either fanciful or are incomplete in some way, thus provoking the child’s imagination.
So, for me, this particular child’s book should get a good score for effort, but it missed one important point: catering to the reader. Of course all writers have to keep the reader in mind as they write, and this must be more of a challenge when an adult writes for children.