The Young Reviewers Program
The young reviewers program was begun because the members of the committee understood that, despite our collective years of experience working with children, as adults, our responses to certain children’s books might be different from those of the intended audience. When we want to know whether or not a child would like a particular book, or understand it, or if the age of the reader that we have identified is on target, we consult the source.
Our cadre of young reviewers range in age from three-years-old to 18. While several live in New York City or its suburbs, several of them live in Alaska, in Minnesota, in Maine, and many places in between. The program is coordinated by committee members Todd Jackson, Alex Grannis, and Nan Shipley.
When a young reviewer is sent a book, he or she is also sent a brief questionnaire. The youngest “readers” are, naturally, assisted by a parent, whose own input is useful as well. Older readers generally fill out the Young Reviewer's Form (PDF) themselves, sometimes in great detail.
Some books, especially those being considered for an award, are sent to more than one young reviewer for feedback. For award books, excerpts from responses are shared with the attendees at our annual award ceremony.
2012 Reviews by Young Reviewers
Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Ann James
I really liked the concept of the story and I liked that baby boy always got his way every time except the end. I loved when the girl finally got to have her way because I don't usually get my way.
- Elena, age 7
Unusual Creatures by Michael Hearst, illustrated by Jelmer Noordeman, Christie Wright, and Arjen Noordeman
I liked learning about creatures I have never heard of before. Some of the stories are amazing. I liked reading all the classifications with the Latin names and trying to pronounce them. It was fun to do with my Mom. There's so much information in this book that you want to spend a lot of time with it. The illustrations of the animals are very cool. The style is a combination of realistic and cartoonish.
- Dante, age 8
The Worst Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure Novel: Amazon by Hena Khan, David Borgenicht, illustrated by Yancey Labat
This book is not only fun and addicting, kids my age love these kinds of books because when you read a regular story, it is already written out for you, but with this book you decided how the story unfolds. End it with an extremely horrible and dark death? Or come out on top with fame and fortune.
- Jake, age 11
Shadow by Michael Morpurgo
This book is different because it has a political twist to it. The thing I liked most is that there were multiple layers of a story within a story within a book.
- Jack, age 12
Steve Jobs: Thinking Differently by Patricia Lakin
I thought this biography was an amazing book. It had a great impact on how I now view the company Apple. For instance, I now know Apple started from Jobs' garage. I think this book is different from the traditional biography because it tracks Jobs' life from start to finish and it really emphasizes the important and amazing parts of Jobs' life.
- Adam, age 12
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I like how this book forces you to think about how you might react, and maybe make changes in how you view other people's challenges as well as your own challenges in life. I enjoy the intimate feeling you have with the character narrating, and I also enjoy how it switches points of view so that you get a feeling of the many different actions that people might take in such a situation. I think that both the writing and the characters were superb, especially how the author switched tone for each voice.
- Julia, age 12
The Diviners by Libba Bray
In almost every teenage fiction book you will find some sort of sci-fi – probably vampires, werewolves, and a lot of romance. This book had romance, but not an overdose of it and, yes, it did have some sci-fi and occultism such as pentagrams and ancient rituals, not your average vampire vs. werewolf story. Yes, sometimes it was horrifying, yet at the same time the author's amazing way of crafting a story, made everything intriguing and not too horrific. There was some descriptive gore, but it was necessary to tell the story.
- Olivia, age 13
The Dogs of Winter by Bobbie Pyron
In beautiful, heartwarming prose, this book exemplifies a tragic global problem: the existence of street children. This epic story, which is based on real events, recounts the two years that Ivan Andreovich lived on the streets of Moscow. Ivan befriends a pack of feral dogs to survive the harsh winters. The plot and characters are so realistic that the story is believable. It is excellent because of its rich details and captivating writing style. It is extraordinary in every way.
- Foster, age 13
Son by Lois Lowry
This book was a riveting tale of a mother's journey to find her son. I was surprised to find that, even though this book was the fourth in a series, it could be read alone. The extent to which the protagonist goes to find her son, whom she barely even knew, was very inspiring.
- Noah, age 13
Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught
This book helps readers empathize with the struggle of living with mental illnesses. The narrator is diagnosed schizophrenic. He recounts old memories with his two best friends, the selectively mute Sunshine and Derrick “Drip” who has ADHD. Although bystanders cannot truly comprehend living with schizophrenia, Freak makes it very relatable. Freaks Like Us helps spread the important message that everyone should listen to “freaks”. The book relays the message that different can be beautiful very well.
- Sarah, age 15
Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
A lot of books try to talk about what it's like to be a teenager, but I feel like this book does an especially good job. He's growing up AND it's the Depression, for example. But even though there are certainly twists and turns in this book, none of them are THE twist. They're just events that make the characters more real. I normally detest growing-up teenage novels, but when I picked this book up I got hooked and finished it several hours later.
- Eli, age 16
Every Day by David Levithan
This book is the story of a teenage romance, albeit an abnormal one. The reason for this is that the main character is not a typical teenager. He or she wakes up every morning in a different body with a completely new life. This idea is fascinating. The author has managed a way of sculpting a story out of such an ambiguous premise, which is commendable. The author wrote this book in order to expose the teenage world. His method of accomplishing this, ironically, was to center the narrative around a character who truly could not live the average teenage life and yet knew it all the same. Levithan has created a system to represent nearly all teenage experiences by allowing his main character to live each one.
- Andres, age 16
Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo
This book is a brilliant, inspiring story about a high school senior and his problems with romantic and platonic relationships because he suffers from mild obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).The author very realistically portrays how Chuck's mental illness interferes with his social life and emotional well being. Through the author's interesting and insightful writing, the reader understands Chuck and sympathizes with him, making the story gripping. Overall, the narrative captures the reader's attention, making the book a one-sitting read.
- Sawyer, age 16
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This is a fantastic book. There are no two ways about it. It doesn't have a plot like a normal book. Yes, I could say that it is about a sixteen year old female cancer patient going through her life, but that would be ruining the entire point. Instead, it tells the story of Hazel, the cancer patient with a deservedly gloomy outlook on life. Until she meets a boy and does the one thing she thought she could never do: fall in love. The characters are funny and real. Every time I read a line from someone, I read it in a specific voice, that the author and my imagination created for them. There were points where I was crying from laughter, and points where I was just crying. All in all, I highly recommend this book.
- Ben, age 17
The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
This book starts out very slowly. It is not particularly plot driven in genre. However, it is extremely compelling and truly fascinating. It is a book that is hard to put down. The two main characters are both so troubled in such different ways that it makes for a compelling read. It is also excellent historical fiction. The setting and details are very believable and they give the novel a new dimension as well as giving it a strong plotline that really emerges toward the end ot the novel when the conflict erupts.
- Penelope, age 17