What Can You Say
About a Book?
Ideas and Inspiration for
Improving Book Talk
and Book Reviews
by Steve Peha
What’s a Book Review?
Let’s get one thing clear right off the
a book review is not a book report.
A book review is a real form of writing real writers use to
write real things about real books that really matter to them.
A book report is a made up form of writing, used only in
school, that some teachers ask kids to write in order to prove
that they have read a particular book. A book report most
often involves reciting information from a text and answering
someone else’s questions about it. A book review most often
involves creating new and original information about a text
and answering one’s own questions about it.
Book reviews can contain just about any
type of information related to the text, to the reader, or to
the world of books and readers in general. Here are some
typical things book reviews include:
An interesting lead. Reviewers
will often start out their reviews with some kind of catchy
phrase that glosses something interesting from the book.
A brief plot summary. Reviewers
don’t retell the story. They just give you a quick summary of
the plot, rarely more than a paragraph or two.
The reviewer’s favorite part.
Assuming the book was enjoyable to the reviewer, it’s always
fun to talk about one’s favorite part and what makes it
The reviewer’s interpretation of the
main idea. This is the one most important thing the writer
wants the reader to know. Most reviewers will address this
directly because it is often the key to understanding what the
book is really all about.
An evaluation. In most book
reviews, reviewers will come right out and say whether they
think the books is good or not, or what parts were better than
A recommendation. Since one of
the purposes of writing book reviews is to get other readers
to read certain books, book reviewers often end their reviews
with a recommendation.
A Model Review
Here’s a terrific book review of, from
a talented 3rd grade writer, of
"Ramona Quimby, Age 8" by
“Ramona Quimby, Age 8” by Beverly Cleary
Touch of the flu? Egg in her
hair? Poor Ramona!
“Ramona Quimby, Age 8” is a nine chapter, one hundred and
ninety page book about an eight year old girl in third
grade. She started school with a surprise gift from her
dad, only to have it stolen by a boy she called “Yard
Ape.” One day at lunch she tried to be cool and show off
for her friends by cracking an egg on her head and found
herself in a big mess. When flu season hit she learned
how awful it felt to throw up in class. She and her
sister learn about using good manners at the dinner
table. As time goes on, Ramona and her family solve
their problems, and learn to be more caring for each
other. They also learn to be more considerate for each
other when time alone is needed.
My favorite part was during a scene where Ramona’s class is
“She took a firm hold on
her egg, waited until everyone at her table was
watching, and whack—she found herself with a hand full
of crumbled shell and something cool and slimy running
down her face.” (“Ramona Quimby, Age 8”, Beverly
Cleary, p. 60)
that was funny because she wanted to be cool like the
rest of her class, by breaking a hard boiled egg on her
head. But guess what, her mother was in such a hurry she
gave Ramona a raw egg! Whoops!
I think the one thing the author wants me to know is that
when my family may be having problems I can be of help
by obeying them and not fussing, disturbing, and/or
“Ramona Quimby, Age 8” is one of the best Beverly Cleary
books I’ve ever read because it pulled me in better than
any other book in her series. (I have read 6 of her
books.) It made pictures in my mind (Word Choice) and
sounded like a real person wrote it (Voice). It also
sounded good as I read it, flowed easily from sentence
to sentence (Sentence Fluency), and sounded like a real
8 year old girl’s life. These traits made me want to
keep on reading until the end of the book.
I recommend this book to good readers who enjoy good long
The site I go to most frequently for
book reviews is Amazon. Make a list of several books that you
have read recently, ones that you liked. Then, head over to
those titles up, and check out all the book reviews. Some of
the most popular books have been reviewed hundreds of times by
readers just like you.