Reviewers and Reviews
Some authors pay no attention to reviews of their books, but most of them care--partly because a negative review can affect sales, and thereby income. I will never forget the very first review of my first book. DINOSAURS AND THEIR WORLD was published in early 1968. The first judgment came from a reviewing service called Kirkus--famous for its often negative, scathing opinions. And sure enough, the negative review concluded, "It's the last book most youngsters would choose from a wide assortment and there's no reason they should." Ouch!
Fortunately, most other reviews were very favorable: "a good addition to any elementary collection." And: "Irrespective of how many dinosaur books elementary and public libraries own, they need this one." The book did well, and stayed in print for many years. Amazingly, you can still find copies of this old book in a few libraries. If you do so, tell the librarian to throw it away! (You can probably figure out why I urge that.)
One issue involving nonfiction books is that most reviewers are not good judges of accuracy. Many reviewers are librarians. They can't be expected to be deeply informed on scientific or historical matters. Nevertheless they do make judgments about accuracy. I've seen glaring scientific mistakes in books by a well-known nonfiction author that most reviewers did not catch. Also, sometimes a reviewer assumes that she or he is well-informed and "corrects" an error in a book--one that does not exist!
In my books, mistakes are extremely rare. I always ask for one or more experts to read my writing (and, usually, approve drawings and other illustrations). Authors who get such help usually write a "thank you" near the front of the book, on the copyright page. If you don't see this acknowledgment, beware. RED FLAG! The book may have mistakes--that reviewers may not notice and report.
Authors treasure certain reviews. After all, a writer knows what he or she aimed to achieve, and what special strengths are there in the finished book. Then a reviewer "gets it!" Occasionally, a reviewer even points out a good quality of the writing that is a revelation to the writer. Also, after an author has several books published, reviewers start to generalize about all of the titles (called the writer's "body of work"). Here, too, a reviewer sees a pattern or an overall theme or quality that may surprise the author. "Wow, I didn't realize I was doing that!" Some of the reviews quoted below are like that.
"Laurence Pringle is considered one of the most distinguished writers of informational book for readers from the early primary grades through high school....he is recognized for writing authoritative, well-researched works that inform his audience about the natural sciences and the environment in a manner considered both accurate and interesting. Pringle is noted for transforming complex material on scientific and ecological subjects into lucid, balanced overviews of sophisticated topics, some of which are not often treated in books for children. Several of the author's titles are regarded as definitive references that are among the best literature available on their subjects."--Something About the Author, Vol. 104, 1999
"The text...is clear, informative and interesting; it exemplifies Pringle's ability to deduce principles, examine meanings, raise questions and encourage observation--all in a well-woven narrative."
--Margaret Bush, reviewing Animals at Play in School Library Journal, 1986.
"Pringle has a knack for taking unusual topics (cockroaches, killer bees) and
introducing them in intriguing and thoughtful ways."
--I.C., reviewing Throwing Things Away: From Middens to Resource Recovery in Booklist, 1987.
"Your books fill a very needed 'niche' in children's literature. It is rare to find an author who can present environmental and biological topics in great depth and yet write in a style which really appeals to this age group. I think your books truly have a part in conserving natural resources for the future."
--Wendy Hanopy, Wildlife Education Specialist, Colorado Division of Wildlife, 1997.
"Laurence Pringle is known for his holistic approach in books...His environmental sensitivity has set a new standard that we see reflected in books---emphasizing natural cycles in connection rather than as isolated phenomena."
--Betsy Hearne, Choosing Books for Children: A Commonsense Guide, 1990.
"Accessible, entertaining resource by an esteemed children's author whose gift is turning natural history and science into page-turning reading."
--Kathleen Squires, reviewing Animal Monsters: The Truth About Scary Creatures, 1997.
"Pringle, arguably one of America's top nonfiction writers for young readers, has a remarkable ability to succeed with topics others would turn deadly dull."
--review of Smoking: A Risky Business in Chicago Tribune, 1997.
"Pringle has done his usual careful job of presenting balanced, clear information here."
--Kirkus, reviewing Global Warming, 1990.
"Laurence Pringle shows--once again--a nose for interesting and telling detail."
--R.S., reviewing Antarctica in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 1992.
"Pringle's passion for his subject enlivens what might have been just another dry science tome."
--S.S.V., reviewing An Extraordinary Life: The Story of a Monarch Butterfly in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 1997.
"Laurence Pringle is one of the best wildlife authors currently writing for the children's market."
--Library Media Connection, in review of Crows! Strange and Wonderful, 2002
"Once again, Pringle shows his mastery at meeting young children where they are and then expanding on the knowledge they are already likely to have." --Cooperative Children's Book Center, in review of Crows! Strange and Wonderful, 2001.