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Book Review: Criteria and Contents

What is a Book Review?

You may have written a book report at some point in high school or middle school that was a simple summary of a book.  However, there is a big difference between the basic book report and a book review.  This objective for this assignment is for students to be able to analyze (in-depth) a novel for more than events, focusing on themes, arguments, and criticisms. The idea of a professional book review is to briefly summarize the ideas of the book, but mainly to give your opinion about the book’s merits – it is a critical analysis of the book.

“Critical” does not imply that you are going to be mean or harsh in your review.  It means that you are going to evaluate objectively (without opinion) whether the author(s) have fulfilled their objectives in the book, and whether they have used persuasive and unbiased evidence to support their claims. Did you find the book engaging?  Persuasive? Did you agree with it? Did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it to others? What is the intended audience of the book?  Does it succeed in reaching this audience?

A well-executed book review will also hone your critical reading skills by inviting you to identify the author's perspective: does the author seem prone to bias or prejudice? How does the author's slant (if any) find expression? Does he or she challenge other writers' work and, if so, is this done in a persuasive manner, or does it seem motivated by petty professional or personal rivalry (this also opens issues of historiography). Is there anything in the author's own biography that may help explain (though not necessarily justify) any bias you have identified? All these are questions a well-executed book review will take into consideration.

Work hard on making your book review very readable to a general audience – it should flow well and be written nicely.  You should have an introduction, discussion of the book, and clear conclusion (although these don’t have to be broken into explicit sections – you can write this like an essay).

Include the following in your review:

  1. The title and author of the book you are reviewing
  2. The author’s objective(s) and audience
  3. The author’s main arguments
  4. Your evaluation of the author’s support of his arguments (provide examples)
  5. Your evaluation of the author’s interpretation and success with his/her objectives in writing the book (provide examples)
  6. Comparison with other books or sources if appropriate
  7. Your conclusions about the book
  8. You can rate the book with some sort of system if you’d like, but this isn’t mandatory. (Think “stars” or “thumbs up/down”—be creative).

Be sure to put any quotes from the book in quotation marks with page numbers and to cite any sources used.

As we move forward, there will be a page on our class website devoted to this assignment.  It will have the requirements/objectives for the activity, useful tools, a book list, sample reports, and much more.  Please make use of these resources as you work.




Book Review Guidelines

Your paper will be assessed for the following:

All of the categories outlined on K.D.E. On-Demand Rubric, with special emphasis on:

  • Your ability to analyze your sources and present your material clearly and analytically
  • Your ability to effectively integrate your sources into the text of your paper
  • Your ability to select and use quotes effectively and appropriately
  • Your ability to be a critical reader of your own text

REMEMBER correct formatting:

  • Be sure to make use of the MLA Template file.
  • Typed, MLA format, size 12 font, Times New Roman or Calibri, 1” Margins
    (Follow the guides given to you—if you’re not sure, ASK!).
  • Your paper must be a minimum of THREE (3) full pages, but no longer than EIGHT (8) pages
  • Name and page number must appear in the upper right corner of all pages.
  • Submit your paper to the Online Classroom. 

Book Review Contents:

The following table outlines the basic contents of a book review.  It is only meant to be a guide—you do not have to follow the outline exactly—however, use it as a tool to establish a format to share your ideas and/or opinions.  I will be looking for this information somewhere in your review, although they do not have to appear in the order below.  Make sure you include them somewhere.


Introduction: (HOOK!)

  • Begins with an interesting opening and an introductory paragraph that leads the reader naturally into the book’s content
  • Contains title, author, type of book
  • Include some background to enable readers to place the book into context: Describe the general problem the book addresses or earlier work the author or others have done. In framing your review, you should provide some information on the author. What are the author’s relevant qualifications and background (or lack thereof) for writing on this subject? What were his/her reasons for writing this book? (Often the preface contains such information.)

Body Paragraphs:
(Number of paragraphs may vary—shoot for somewhere between 5-8 paragraphs).

  • Specifically discuss setting (WHEN & WHERE: very important).  Provide context: something unique about the time/place in which the story takes place and how it affects the characters:
  • Identify and describe the protagonist and antagonist
  • Identify point of view and discuss how the point of view helps tell the story
  • Summarize plot clearly and concisely (this should really be one paragraph—no more than two—and should not contain spoilers)
  • Discuss the central conflict
  • Give your opinion on the book with specific reasons for opinion
  • Contains a quote with an explanation of the quote’s significance (more than one would be great—use them to help make your arguments; show evidence!)

Conclusion: (Wrap up your review).

  • Conclusion neatly summarizes the book and what the student learned from their reading
  • Was the story/book entertaining, educational, amusing, etc., and why?
  • Why did you enjoy/not enjoy reading this story/book?
  • Would you recommend other kids read this book?
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