Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Why do we humans feel the need to review things?" A ReadItDaddy Editorial

Humans. Strange beasts aren't we? In our consumerist society we have so many methods of providing feedback to anything or anyone we purchase something from or have been supplied a product by.

Amazon reviews, customer surveys, even word of mouth all contribute to a mass dissection of our collective opinions on 'stuff' and of course the whole crux of writing and contributing to a children's book blog revolves around writing something that may convince or steer away others from grabbing the book, comic or product you're imparting your wisdom and experience on.

Sometimes I still feel a weird sense of guilt about trying to do so when it comes to things we've been sent 'for free' - and I still feel a bit uneasy about the whole 'parent blogger' thing of reading a piece of ringing praise for something that you know wouldn't perhaps garner such a positive response if you had to pay out your own hard earned cash for it.

It is slightly easier with books than juice drinks, admittedly. Anything that is underpinned by your own personal tastes can go either way, eliciting a positive or negative response that others may or may not agree with but it's still sometimes good to find yourself in a position where, despite a good case being made, you hugely disagree with someone over a particular book.

One recent title we reviewed really did fall into the cliched "Marmite" category. Both Charlotte and Mummy loved it. I just couldn't get on with it at all on any level and it was a great cause for debate for quite some time. I'm a complete wussbag when it comes to things like that so I always buckle under the majority vote (and with two girls at home calling the shots, it's always the best bet to tuck your chin in and go with the flow unless you really like long-drawn out arguments! I do have a stubborn streak but where Mummy and Charlotte are concerned, it often comes to naught!)

But returning to the question, why do we humans feel the need to review things? I feel like I've been doing it since time began - initially writing videogame reviews (don't bother searching for any, they're terrible!) and realising that writing about videogames really does bring out the very best and worst in people (and sometimes the worst in yourself).

Children's books are a lot easier to write about, the whole community is entirely different, nice people are everywhere and though there are arguments and counter-arguments that the children's publishing industry is female-dominated and that could well be the reason it's a much nicer place than the videogames industry, that's a debate for a separate editorial!

For us it's the chance to share something with others, to build a sort of 'You liked this? Me too!' rapport with other lovely book folk or in some cases, to get into a well-reasoned debate or discussion about why a particular title didn't hit the mark for us (or you).

It's also partly a reward for a job well done. In instances where we've written something nice about someone's book and they've responded saying they like what we wrote, the reward is double-sided and it means a heck of a lot to know that someone whose work you've evaluated has responded in kind.

We put a lot of effort into what we write, and sometimes I think that gets lost in the assumption that because we write a lot of reviews, we do so without thinking about the content. Each review, drawn from mental and scribbled notes of our shared experience during readings, often may look fairly short and concise on the blog page but will be the end result of a lot of trial and error. I came to the conclusion that anyone who manages to get their child to write reviews that are pleasurable to read and informative really has a prodigy on their hands because even now, with Charlotte old enough to pick up the keyboard and peck out reviews herself, the end results wouldn't really cut the mustard. It seems to be far more easy to distil a verbal discussion into a review than it would to watch a child put together a readable review, marrying what they're thinking to what they're typing.

(That's not to say I write pleasurable readable copy every time. You can probably tell when it's been a long day or a book has been a bit of a chore to get through!)

So in answer, we review because we love those moments when reviews receive any kind of feedback - even if it's just in passing and we also love to write about books and later hear that someone has taken our recommendation seriously, has purchased a book, and has loved it as much as we have. Yep that makes it all worthwhile really and that's why we'll carry on...

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