Since we began our MiddleWeb book review program in July 2012, we’ve posted 300+ reviews of professional books of interest to middle grades teachers and school leaders. Who’s writing the reviews? Middle grades educators themselves. Who knows better what colleagues want to hear?
Read on to learn how you can become a MiddleWeb book reviewer. If you enjoy the experience and our readers respond to your reviews, we hope you’ll become a regular here. If you’re a publisher, contact us about submitting books for review. (Of course, the opinions of reviewers are their own.)
Our Book Review Guidelines
Our books are provided by interested publishers at no cost to us. We don’t endorse the books, just offer them for review. We pay the postage to send them to you ourselves, so please ask for books only if you intend to review them! When you’re done, you may keep a book or give it away to a colleague.
How to Obtain Books to Read & Review
1. Visit our current list of books available (Google Doc). This list is updated daily, so we recommend you get in touch quickly if you see something you’d like to review. (If you have difficulty accessing the Google Docs list, let us know.)
2. In our current list, click on titles to find out more about the books. (Please make sure the book is one you are likely to review.)
4. Select one book you’d like to request. You can include an alternate choice if you like (our review books are claimed quickly!). Once you’ve reviewed your selected book, you’ll be welcome to select again!
5. Email us. Include: the title of each book, a reason why each book interests you, a target deadline for each review, and your postal mailing address. (We recommend a deadline of 3-6 weeks.) Janice, our Outreach Coordinator, will let you know about availability. If we don’t have your first choice, we’ll invite you to revisit the current list. Again, the email address for book requests is: firstname.lastname@example.org
We cannot send you books unless you include your complete postal mailing address! (Sorry for shouting, but some folks forget this essential piece of information.) And we can only send books within the United States and to APO/FPO/DPO addresses.
Reviewing the Book (important guidelines)
1. Include book information at the top of your review, in this format:
2. Include a 50-75 word bio about yourself and a photo or avatar image, suitable for a small headshot (200 dpi or less preferred). Here’s a sample bio (55 wds) — feel free to write yours using your own style and voice. Be sure to mention your professional work. Honors and accomplishments are encouraged. Embedded links are welcome.
3. We’re often asked how long the review should be. We recommend 500-1000 words. If you don’t like a book and can say why succinctly, fewer than 500 words is okay. Please use a block paragraph style (no indents) with a space between paragraphs. Our #1 tip for a good review: tell readers what’s in the book. Good example.
4. Send us an email with My MW Book Review as the subject line. Attach the book review as an MS Word or RTF document. Be sure to include your short bio and attach your photo. If you prefer to post your draft review in Google Drive/Docs, be sure to invite our editor John Norton to the draft using THIS address: email@example.com. (Why? This way all the reviews end up in the same GDocs table of contents. Big help!)
5. Please give us 1-2 weeks to acknowledge your submission and provide feedback. Unless major changes are necessary, we may just make minor edits, add subheads, and post your review. Depending on the # of reviews in our queue, it could take up to a month for the review to appear. We’ll publicize your review via Twitter, Facebook and in MiddleWeb SmartBrief (so be sure to subscribe: http://bit.ly/mw-sb-sub). We’ll also send you the page link when your review is posted.
Some Writing Tips
1. Look at some reviews on our site or in other publications you respect.
2. Don’t obsess about length — we suggest 500-1000 wds but if we feel you’ve written too much or too little, we’ll suggest ways to expand or contract.
3. Write in a relaxed, personal voice. Be professional but don’t feel compelled to write your review as formally as you might in a grad school class or for journal publication. Humor is good. Multimedia might be appropriate. Even an emoticon.
4. If you don’t like the book, or don’t like parts of the book, or think the book is pretty good but could be better with some changes/additions, please say so. Avoid sarcasm, personal attacks, etc. but feel absolutely free to criticize ideas or delivery. If you totally love the book, gush if that’s your style. Or just be cool, collected and complimentary.
5. Feel free to tell stories from your own experience as an educator (or learner or parent, etc.) and relate those stories to the author’s messages and the book content. This will engage readers!
6. Tell our readers what YOU would want to know if you were reading the review. Think about who this book might benefit, and why and how, and address those points. It’s not much fun to read a review in which the reviewer is mostly swimming in his or her own fishbowl and isn’t tuned in to the audience.
Writing questions? Send them to editor John Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org
In an interview with Matt Huston in Psychology Today, Harvard professor Steven Pinker shared this insight from his book, The Sense of Style (Viking, 2014).
The main impediment to good writing, says Pinker, is that people “assume too much, use jargon and abbreviations that their readers have no way of deciphering, fail to present background information that’s critical to understanding the passage, and describe things at too high a level of abstraction.”
They’re falling prey to the “curse of knowledge” – they know something and fail to put themselves into the shoes of a reader who doesn’t. (from The Marshall Memo)