Our editorial assistant, Ashleigh, sorts, logs in, and mails out new SLJ assignments. We receive over 1,000 books every month, roughly 300 of which wind up getting assigned for review.
The SLJ Reviewer Connection April 2015 | Building a stronger community for reviewers
Spring has sprung here at SLJ headquarters—well, sort of. Though the weather is still quite brisk in New York, we've begun to see warm reviews of terrific spring titles pouring through our inbox. It keeps our to-be-read piles towering high and our stars discussions ever-lively.
If you haven't RSVP'd for next Monday's first-ever Reviewer Basics Webcast, there's still time. Details on how to participate will be emailed very soon to those who've signed up. For anyone who cannot attend the live session, we'll be archiving the video and sending it out in the next newsletter.
This and future webcasts will also soon have a home: a dedicated website just for SLJ Reviewers. The site is still coming together, but I'd like to invite a handful of beta-testers to help us figure out what's working (and what's not) before opening it up to all of you. If you are interested in volunteering as a beta-tester, just shoot me an email.
We also recently analyzed the results of the Demographic Survey that we first sent out in January. Your feedback was incredibly useful. The statistics and takeaways have been eye-opening for us and have helped shape some very specific goals for reviewer outreach and recruitment in 2015 and beyond. More detail below on the results and how we plan to use them.
Editor, SLJ reviews
Results of 2015 SLJ Reviewer Demographic Survey
According to the survey sent out in January 2015 to SLJ reviewers (about 250 of you responded), the vast majority of you identify as white (88.8%), female (95%), and heterosexual (90%). Of the respondents, 2.5% identify as Asian, 1.7% Black/African American (non-Hispanic), 2.9% Hispanic (any race), and 0.8% Mixed Race, and 1.7% selected “Other.” Most of you live and/or work in large urban centers or high density suburban areas. We gathered additional information, but these basic statistics are what I was most interested in examining this first time.
The results came as no big surprise. If you look at recent demographic studies conducted by ALA, our numbers are pretty much in line with theirs. And since most of our reviewers are active ALSC and/or YALSA members and were recruited from within those ranks, it stands to reason that our reviewers look a whole lot like ALA divisions.
So what's the takeaway? What do we do with this information? For me, it's a tool to help in future reviewer recruitment. One shocking statistic we found: as of January 2015, we had zero reviewers who identified as Native American or Pacific Islander. That, to me, is simply unacceptable. So we are working on identifying areas where we need to strengthen our outreach.
At this moment, the following statistics are for your eyes only. We are planning to release the general percentages on ethnicity/race, gender, and regional saturation in an upcoming news feature—absolutely no identifying information whatsoever will be shared. We are hoping to spark a real dialogue—not just about SLJ, but about the community of professional reviewers across the industry, including publications like Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Horn Book, etc.
I think our reviewers are absolutely the most intelligent, passionate, open-minded librarians in the business. That said, I do think we, as a group, as a community, can only get stronger when we take a look at ourselves and ask the tough questions. I want our reviewer team to be inclusive and inviting to librarians from a diverse array of backgrounds, experiences, and geographical regions. This survey was the very first step toward that goal.
Last month, we met the lovely Maryann Owen, a long-time SLJ reviewer with a soft spot for classic British children's literature and an enviable record of service on some of ALSC's most coveted committees.
This month we profile a relative newcomer to our review team, Amanda Buschmann, a middle school librarian who loves a good dystopian novel and used to race cars in her college days.
Book Seeking Reviewer
Occasionally, the editors receive a book for which we have no reviewer. Often it's because the book is a sequel and the reviewer who wrote the review for the previous installment is not available. Sometimes we are just plain stumped!
On the soon-to-be revealed website, we'll have a forum for such topics. In the meantime, here's a new title looking for a reviewer...
The Boy Who Knew Everything by Victoria Forester (Feiwel & Friends, October 2015)
- Middle grade fantasy/adventure
- A sequel to The Girl Who Could Fly (2008).
- Summary from publisher: There is a prophecy. It speaks of a girl who can fly and a boy who knows everything. The prophecy says that they have the power to bring about great change.... The boy is Conrad Harrington III. The girl is Piper McCloud. They need their talents now, more than ever, if they are to save themselves—and the world.
The ideal reviewer will have read the first book. If you're interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About a year ago, we began dipping our toes into the waters of digital assigning—meaning sending out "egalleys" for review via NetGalley. While the vast majority of our assignments are still paper ARCs delivered through the post office, we've found that many reviewers are active NetGalley users and sometimes even prefer to get their review assignments digitally. Our friends at NetGalley recently started doing some fun librarian spotlights. If you are interested in using NetGalley for SLJ assignments, send me an email.
What We're Reading...
Mahnaz Dar, associate editor: It’s almost Easter, and in anticipation, I’m reading an old favorite: Richard Adams’s Watership Down. This work of epic lapine fiction is perfect for readers of all ages. And die-hard fans are in luck! The BBC just announced that it will be producing a CGI film version of the book.
Shelley Diaz, senior editor: I just finished sniffling through Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not, pubbing in June from SohoTeen. I’m in the middle of Jill Tamaki’s hilarious graphic novel Super Mutant Academy, out in May from Drawn & Quarterly.
Stephanie Klose, media editor: I had two cross-country flights in the last week and while I generally prefer to do all of my travel reading digitally (so much easier to pack!), I wanted a print book to keep me occupied during take-offs and landings and grabbed Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina off one of my teetering TBR piles. I was expecting to enjoy it—SLJ named it one of the best books of 2012 and LJ declared it one of the best YA works for adults—but I was still bowled over by the intricate worldbuilding, appealing characters, and well-crafted plot. The only reason I’m not beating myself up for having gone so long without reading it is that the sequel is available now, so I won’t have to wait to find out what happens next in Goredd.
Daryl Grabarek, editor, Curriculum Connections: Traveling with me everywhere for the past two days is Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger. I’m savoring it…and feeling a bit sad that I’ve only a few pages to go.
Luann Toth, managing editor: I'm reading Rae Carson’s Walk on Earth a Stranger (HarperCollins, coming out 9/22/15) and the graphic memoir by Maggie Thrash, Honor Girl (Candlewick, coming out 9/8/2015).
Kiera Parrott, editor: I just started The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, which comes out in September from Little, Brown. Okay, yeah, it's a grief book. I thought I couldn't read another poignant middle grade grief story. And yet here I am. I'm liking it a lot so far.
When entering your review in the Review Center, please remember to add in a grade level recommendation. Unfortunately, reviewers don't currently have access to the dropdown menu to select a grade range. We hope future improvements to the Review Center will make this easier.
In the meantime, simply include it at the very beginning of your review. For example:
"Grades 2 to 5. In this laugh-out-loud chapter book, a young octopus meets a friend...."
The grade level recommendation is your professional opinion. It has nothing to do with what the publisher puts on the back of the book or what Fountas & Pinnell have to say. If you aren't sure about the grade level, contact us. We are more than happy to help you determine the best grade level.