Dec. 10th, 2009

deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I've reviewed children's and YA books for KLIATT, Jewish Book World, Horn Book Guide, and Horn Book Magazine, and I'm not speaking hyperbolically when I say none of them compared to my seven years with Kirkus. At Kirkus I've had two editors who were mentors, helping me become a better critic and prose crafter. Kirkus's so-called grouchiness is really a committment to fairness -- not fairness to the book, but fairness to our audience, which is to say, the teachers and librarians who need to spend their limited collections budgets wisely, and the children and teens they serve.

In seven years, I gave stars to 25 books, and I'm sure I completely panned far fewer. I had my editors demand more substance to back up negative statements, and once had a book taken from me and given to another reviewer because my editor felt I was insufficiently appreciative of the audience that would like it. At Kirkus, every review was written with the tiny collections budget in mind, with the idea that, if a book has a potential audience, the Kirkus reader wants to know about it.

Yes, we are often negative in Kirkus. That's because we have that tiny collections budget in mind. We're not worried about the feelings of the author but about the budget of the teacher or the librarian. We want brutal honesty, both positive and negative, in the service of that audience.

For business reasons beyond my ken, Kirkus was priced out of the affordability range of our prime audience. Now the children's and YA literature world has lost an invaluable resource. Just as politics bloggers provide a valuable new service but don't replace investigative journalists, book bloggers will not make up for the loss of Kirkus. They don't fill the same niche.

Good luck, PW, SLJ, and VOYA. Keep the flag flying.

Kirkus Reviews: 1933-2009
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