(Note: Links to two reviews are included in the text. In addition to the starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, since the post below was originally written School Library Journal also published a starred review for Life According to Og the Frog, calling it  “full of heart and humor.”)

 

Reviews are dreaded (always), hated (often) and loved (if they are good).  A writer is so thrilled to have a book accepted for publication! It’s everything you ever wanted – a dream come true! But once the book is in the works, the sense of dread starts to build. Yes, it’s published but what if the reviews are unfavorable? That doesn’t mean it won’t find its audience and yet …. And a good review is a good review, but nowadays, it’s all about the *starred* reviews. A good review without a star is still excellent, but people tend to check the *stars* first.  We live in an increasingly judgmental and unfor

giving world these days, in my humble opinion.

Someone not in the publishing world recently expressed her surprise that reviews were important at all for children’s books because, of course, children don’t read reviews or care about them – bless them! But they are still important. There’s the industry profile and reputation that a writer builds to consider. And there are the teachers, librarians and even parents, who keep up with children’s books and want to make sure their children are reading quality books. They are the gatekeepers who can pass your book on to young readers or lock the door.

A lot of authors (and actors) don’t read them or claim not to read them – after all, it’s only one person’s opinion -but reviews carry weight. That’s why a simple added, “however ….” or “but …” can make an author’s heart sink to her toes. Ignore them if you want but they exist. Reviews have sabotaged careers. They have  kept potentially good or great writers from ever picking up the pen again. I think most professional reviewers realize this and are responsible. Most.

I have been lucky so far – knock on wood here or any other superstitious warding off of evil – but that guarantees nothing for the future.

I have this evil eye in my office. I bought it in Greece, when my son was studying there. All of the shops have them -some of them huge – outside. They are to ward off any evil that’s approaching. It’s usually over the door, facing the street. Mine is directly opposite my glass office door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also have this lovely creature in my office. It’s the Brazilian equivalent of the evil eye, which my husband brought back from the rainforest, when he was shooting a film in Curitibo. (Which is an extremely progressive city, by the way.) I would definitely say I’m NOT superstitious, but you can’t be too careful.

I’ve not had a dreadful review so far in my career. I say that as an apprehensive person who always feels as if that bad review is lurking just around the next corner. I had a few books that failed to get many reviews. That might be a blessing if the reviews may not have been favorable.

All that being said, I put all thoughts of reviews out of my mind when coming up with an idea, executing it, publishing it. Thinking about them would prevent you from writing at all. You know they’re coming and you brace yourself, but I truly don’t dwell on it. But once the release date draws near, you prepare yourself.

The first review for Life According to Og the Frog was in Kirkus (here), which has a reputation among writers for being tough.  Even so, The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs got a star from Kirkus and Humphrey got a highly favorable review. So when the review for the new book came out, I thought, “Well, even if the next review is bad, I’ll have this one as a back-up. It’s lovely and says so many things I wanted a review to say.

 

Then, I got a Google alert that Publishers Weekly, which is probably the one publication everyone in the industry reads, had a review up. It was FRIDAY afternoon at the start of the Memorial Day weekend. People in NY, the hub of the publishing business, had already gone home or left for a long weekend. I clicked on it and there was the *star*, followed by a beautiful review. The second word was “sparkling.” I knew no one would see it until Tuesday, but I had a gigantic adrenaline rush and walked on air for a few hours. The *review* (here) highlights elements that I worked especially hard on and this wasn’t an easy book to write.

Again I thought, well even if I get a bad review next, I have this one. (PW also gave The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs a starred review, which is quoted on the cover of the book.)

So what does it all mean? It’s not that huge in the giant scheme of things. It’s not life or death. Besides, now online reviewers – like you and me – are also really important. And in the end,  it’s up to the faithful and fabulous Humphrey fans to decide. But that star gave me a lift and validation I haven’t had in a long time, so I am grateful and I will live on that for awhile … at least until I have to worry about the next book. But at least I feel more confident that there may BE a next book, at least today.

(There WILL be a next Og book… I just finished it! Exploring According to Og the Frog.)

 

 

 

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