Reading Jacob Silverman’s “Against Enthusiasm: The Epidemic of Niceness in Online Book Culture” has me yet again doing my own navel-gazing. “Not nice” for my 4th grade students can be code for anything they don’t like. Good thing that I’m thick-skinned enough at this point in my career to know that their identifying me this way is generally temporary due to one irritating moment and that soon enough something else will happen to redeem me in their eyes.
When it comes to the world of children’s books it is not so easy. Long ago when I didn’t know anyone in this world it was easy for me to voice strongly my feelings about the books I read. If I liked one I said so and if I didn’t I said so too. But now I’m a part of this world (online and off) and consider many members of it my friends. And so Silverman is accurate in that I prefer to focus publicly on those books that I like rather than those I don’t. One reason is because taste is so involved — what speaks to others may just not speak to me for reasons that have nothing to do with quality. But most of all it is because I know how much the creators put their hearts and souls into their books.
That said, I still feel critical reviewing is necessary. And so, on occasion with books on topics I know a lot about, books that have too many errors and problems in my opinion to be ignored, I grit my teeth and point them out. I’m sure others may disagree, but I do think it is possible to do this respectfully if not exactly nicely.
What about the rest of you? I know some of you don’t do negative reviews, but some of you do. Thoughts?