How to Review a Picture Book – Sad the Dog Blog Tour Day 4

Optimized-Anastasia Gonis photoI’m thrilled to introduce Anastasia Gonis, one of Australia’s most respected reviewers of children’s literature.

Anastasia has written reviews for Good Reading Magazine, The Reading Stack, The Age, The Herald Sun and Bookseller and Publisher. She is a long-term member of the Buzz Words Magazine reviewing team and a skilled picture book reviewer.

I bumped into Anastasia on my writing journey and we became friends. She’s insightful and generous – and absolutely, unequivocally loves to read.

Reviewing a picture is a special talent and as part of the Sad, the Dog blog tour, I asked Anastasia if she would write an article sharing her picture book reviewing expertise.

How to Review a Picture Book

Copyright 2015 Anastasia Gonis

To review a picture book one must be passionate about this genre. There should be no pretending; no clinical examination. Every emotion must be engaged to obtain an overall view. Picture books are full of information to be discovered and used. The review of a picture book should be a dissection of everything that lies between the back and front covers. Questions should be asked. Does it tell me something? If so, what and how much does it
say?

The first things I encounter after examining the covers are the front end papers. They frequently give up information that is helpful. If they are illustrated, what is read there depends on if and how I’m seeing what the illustrator is portraying. They might simply be coloured. It is wise to turn to the back end papers to see if they are identical or not. This gives added information to the reviewer therefore, also to the reader.

Always read the dedication. It’s there to give insight into the two major contributors: the writer and illustrator. Follow down and read the publishing information. This too, is critical to the analysis for it contains the subject matter, the age group, ISBN and other relevant information, and frequently, the medium/media used for the illustrations.

The title page always demands attention and should get it. Then (for me) the major part begins. Picture books deserve full concentration. I read the text first. What is the story about? Who are the main characters? Which of the characters carries the story? Is there more than one story? This last question may be answered when it’s the illustrations’ turn.

I search for themes as I read. I make note of the text. What size is it? What font has been used? Does anything stand independently? Where is the text situated on the page? Does it accompany the illustration or stand aside to allow the illustrations to speak louder than words?

Then I read the illustrations. By ‘read’ I mean carefully examine and take into account every aspect of the page. Where is the picture situated? I make note of the colours used, and the detail in the drawings. Can I visually identify what the author has written?

luckyI read how the illustrator has translated the text. Often there is a more extended story visible in the illustrations. This happens when an illustrator is perfectly tuned in to a writer’s words and meaning. If so, they see a wider, more detailed picture in their mind’s eye, and express it in their translation.

What kind of layout have the illustrations been allocated? Is there a reason for this particular choice of presentation? When my interest is aroused I’m challenged to look closer look at what I’m seeing.

Then I read the text again, simultaneously taking in the illustrations and making them a whole. Has the illustrator complemented the story? How do you feel when you close the cover?

Picture books are amazing creations due to their refinement process. Reviewers play a large role in the success of a book. Therefore they must give each book the respect it deserves. Sometimes the gestation period for a picture book is a number of years. Let the words and pictures speak to you. Listen to what they say. Look past the obvious and seek the beauty it contains. If you can’t see anything worth writing well about, set it aside, and pick up something else, for there is no denying that when reviewing picture books, you should feel a passion for them. There should be no pretending.

A touching look into the life of an unloved pet and the heart-warming journey towards finding your true home.

Sad, The Dog

by Sandy Fussell and illustrated by Tull Suwannakit.

Thursday 1st October, Kids’ Book Review
Friday 2nd October, Kirsty Eager’s Blog
Saturday 3rd October, Buzz Words
Sunday 4th October, Sandy Fussell’s Blog
Monday 5th October, Susanne Gervay’s Blog
Tuesday 6th October, Boomerang Books Blog
Wednesday 7th October, The Book Chook
Thursday 8th October, Creative Kids Tales
Friday 9th October, Dee Scribe Writing
Saturday 10th October, Read Upside Down
Sunday 11th October, Sandy Fussell’s Blog

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One response to “How to Review a Picture Book – Sad the Dog Blog Tour Day 4”

  1. Debra Tidball says:

    Thanks for posting this – I got a lot out of it.

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