Read Roger had an insightful post about this new world of blog reviews. He made interesting points that we hadn't thought of...mostly because we have never been in the world of professional/print book reviewers. We have, however, always read reviews. They help us choose the books that are worth reading. Then we can decide if and how we will add them to our classrooms somehow--as a read aloud, in the classroom library for independent reading, etc.
F: I worry when I review a book because I understand that I am reviewing with the eyes of a reading teacher and a mother. But, when I sat back and thought about it, I have been reviewing books for years as part of workshops that I do with teachers. Part of every session is about good books for the classroom.
In fact, I don't think I really consider the things I write "reviews." They are just my thinking/my sharing of the books with other people who might like them. They are no different from me talking to friends about books I like. I don't think I have the expertise to critique a piece of literature but certainly trust those who do and I count on them for lots of my reading.
I think each person reads reviews differently--knowing who wrote them and their take on books. There are some books that are not great quality, but they somehow turn that one child into a reader. There are others that deserve a closer look. For years, I didn't like when my kids read lots of series books that weren't well reviewed. Now, I know that getting hooked on a series, regardless of the quality, is a huge step in the life of a reader.
ML: For us, that pairing of a child with a book, or our class with a book is one of the most important reasons why we review/share about books. Roger says that children's voices are still missing in this flood of reviewing that's going on in blogs. True, reviews written by children are not a big part of the Kidlitosphere. (Don't discount the blogging work Educating Alice's students are doing, however, or the guest reviews by MotherReader's daughter, or all the children who write reviews on Amazon.) And while Franki and I write all of our reviews, all of our reviews are written with children in mind -- whether we are imagining how we will use the book with our whole class, or whether we know just which child/group of children might like it. In addition, we often include student insights in our reviews. We're not the only ones: Miss Rumphius works dilligently to keep children's literature at the heart of all her pre-service teachers do, Wild Rose Reader shares children's work with poetry as well as teaching ideas for the poetry books she reviews, and Mentor Texts highlights students' writerly connections to children's books.
Like Franki said, what we write aren't so much reviews as they are book talks. They certainly aren't written by "putatively disinterested experts." But that's what makes them so valuable. They are written not just about the book, but about the book's potential real life experience in the hands of children.