The Art and Science of Writing Book Reviews: Online vs. Print

From left to right: Facilitator Tarie (seated), panelist Daphne Lee (standing), and seated panelists Anu Kumar and Blooey Singson (seated)
Low-resolution photograph taken with my mobile phone camera

The event was on Monday, 28 May 2012 at the Playden, Arts House @ The Old Parliament House. It was the twelfth session of the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) 2012.

In the many dimensions of the Children’s Content industry, book reviews provide critical introduction of literature. For consumers, whether parents, librarians and or young readers themselves, deciding on the selection of kid reads could hinge upon positive feedback of book reviewers. This session brought together the diverse experiences of the three panelists, Blooey Singson, Anu Kumar and Daphne Lee, the facilitator, Tarie, and members of the audience, in discussing the differences the online and print medium effects on book reviews.

Their passion for books brought the session to life as they shared their love for children’s literature and their writing careers. Harry Potter-lover Singson adds at least 5 books a week to her personal collection and would buy every edition of books she loves. Kumar spoke of the timeless appeal of The Tale of Two Cities and To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee drew laughter from the audience jesting on the socializing opportunities Children’s Literature brought to her.

Such intertwining of their passion for Children’s Literature extended to their careers as well.

Both Singson and Lee share the same day job of journalists, writing Children’s Literature book reviews for the Manila Bulletin and The Star of Malaysia and Philippines respectively. By hobby, both maintain their personal online literature review platforms.

Paralleling similar passion for Children’s Literature, Kumar is an author who writes Children’s Fiction and contributes book reviews on Children’s books on an online blog.

They never seemed to tire talking about books as they shared their personal guidelines and feelings about online and print book reviews extensively.

All three panelists echoed similar sentiments on the rigidity of print reviews, whether due to content requirements, space constraints or editorial and censorship restrictions.

Their praise of the online medium’s flexibility in exercising personal discretion in these areas was balanced however, by the demanding nature of online readership, with no monetary rewards.

Such a desire in sharing Children’s Literature with others remains the key motivation of their extensive reading and writing lifestyle.

All three panelists also shared helpful tips on working with bloggers and book reviewers for authors, illustrators and publishers. The personal relationship founded upon understanding and appreciation for the blogger still counts the most, not just a good read!

While they were all decorated writing professionals with awards and outstanding experiences, their dedication to Children’s Literature left a marked impression upon me.

More than mere critique and enthusing the introduction of literature, the panelists allowed me to see the cornerstone of passion that would make such a difference to book reviews, whether in print or online.

Article by Christina Ong, AFCC 2012 student journalist.

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