• Allison Diehl

How I Select and Review Books

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

Children's book subjects I review:

  • Archaeology (everything I can find)

  • Other Science books (particularly earth sciences)

  • History, historic preservation, historic resources

  • Geography and world cultures

  • Biography of important historical figures and scientists

  • Museums and heritage tourism

Requirements for reviewed titles:

  • Illustrated

  • In print or widely available

  • MSRP is reasonable for the book quality and number of pages

  • Available as a physical (paper) edition

Included at I Dig Books on rare occasions:

  • Books in large series (e.g. DK Eyewitness) if written by subject matter experts

  • Historical fiction or speculative narrative

  • Teaching materials or other books for adult audiences

  • Educational video programs

  • Self-published books

Qualities I look for:

  • Written by or in consultation with subject matter experts

  • Current and accurate scientific research

  • Engaging illustrations

  • Appropriate font size, layout and text-to-artwork ratio

  • Introduction of new vocabulary with appropriate context or definition and pronunciation guides where needed

  • Text is well-written and appropriate for intended audience

  • Helpful front and end matter where appropriate (e.g. table of contents, index, bibliography, resources)

Flaws that I will point out:

  • Focus on the work of "great men" that comes at the expense of the accomplishments of women and minorities

  • Inappropriate terminology (value-laden, patronizing, culturally offensive, etc.)

  • Misleading content (overgeneralizations, omission of key info, opinion presented as fact)

  • Dated illustration styles that would deter children from reading

  • Books that don't live up to the description given on the publisher website, cover, or jacket

The review process

When reviewing a book, I usually read it multiple times. For longer titles, I take notes as I read. To learn more about the author(s), I conduct research online. Websites suggested in the book for further research are checked or sampled to make sure the links work. I look for information on the copyright page about the methods and materials used by the illustrator. Reading levels are obtained on the publisher's website, Ingram (my distributor), Lexile.com or Amazon. I write my reviews using a form so that I remember to record all necessary observations that will make my reviews consistent with one another. Using the form as a prompt, I draft my review. Only then do I read other reviews of the book, particularly from industry leaders like Kirkus and School Library Journal. After copy-editing my blog post and finding an appropriate image, I publish the review and share with followers on Facebook.

Do you know of a children's book that should be included at I Dig Books? Please let me know! Use the Contact Me form at the bottom of the About page.

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