Did you see Roger Sutton’s evisceration of Laura and Jenna Bush’s children’s book in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review? It was everything reviews in the Times should be but rarely are: bold, witty, interesting, authoritative and utterly persuasive.
In Read All About It! (HarperCollins, $17.99) the first lady and her daughter try to show 4-to-8-year-olds that reading can be a joy. Their vehicle is a student named Tyrone who doesn’t like reading as much as other activities, such as “helping my mom pull the pesky weeds from the front yard.”
The Bushes’ effort cuts no ice with Sutton, editor-in-chief of The Horn Book, the country’s leading children’s literature journal. “The point is laboriously made, the teachers’ names are dorky, the plot is hectic and the suspense and dialogue are artificial,” he writes. “What child today says ‘pesky’?”
Sutton’s comments were such a contrast to most reviews in the Sunday Times – many of which are timid and inflationary – that they threw into relief a central problem of the section: The Times often chooses reviewers who have more expertise in a subject area than experience as reviewers. Sutton has expertise and deep reviewing experience. What a pleasure the NYTBR would be if all of its critics had his skill and courage.
One-Minute Book Reviews reviews books for children every Saturday. Occasional posts on children’s books may appear for cause during the week — the cause in this case being that the Bushes’ book is the No. 1 children’s bestseller in America and links to newspaper reviews may go dead after a week or two.
Read the full Times review here: www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/books/review/Sutton-t.html?_r=2&bl&ex=1210737600&en=949dc013156ba36c&ei=5087%0A&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.