Review journals that enrich our knowledge of children’s and YA literature

Review journals that enrich our knowledge of children’s and YA literature

Amidst the wealth of online resources at our fingertips about children’s and YA books  —  favourite blogs, author websites, nerdy bookclubs, twitter streams and newspaper pages  —  there is still a place for structured, objective, comprehensive and reliable review journals. 

Books for Keeps and Magpies are two journals I have long valued and enjoyed  —  one is digital now and one is print, one from the northern hemisphere and one from the southern. Both provide interesting, trustworthy and useful information from the children’s literature world: news, reviews and recommendations, opinions and interviews, insights into trends and connections with authors, illustrators, publishers and more. Magpies’ has a sister journal, The Literature Base, which is also a great resource. 

Books for Keeps

Books for Keeps cover

Books for Keeps was launched in 1980 and over the decades since has reviewed hundreds of children’s books and published articles on every aspect of writing for children.

“The best scholars, reviewers, authors and critics write for Books for Keeps. We hold a mirror up to the children’s book world and reflect back its output, issues and preoccupations with intelligence, scholarship and wit.”

It is available free online, and if you sign up for the newsletter you will be sent a link to each new issue as it is published. Have a look at the Books for Keeps website and explore the various interviews, latest reviews. At the moment there is a fascinating feature video clip of artist Jennie Webber describing the complex traditional process to create her print etching, hand-painted illustrations for It starts with a seed.

Open the pages of each Books for Keeps digital issue and you’ll find a well-informed editorial from Ferelith Horden, highlighting a particular trend, issue or event, followed by a range of articles, interviews, opinion pieces, booklists, awards information, authorgraphs, and obituaries. 

Regular features include an author’s I wish I’d written…, Good Reads student reviews, historical Classics in short PLUS a wealth of useful, critical reviews from experienced reviewers, arranged by target audience age levels, and with handy star ratings to draw your attention to 'not to be missed' titles. 

When the email notification of the latest issue arrives each quarter, it always feels like a remarkable gift, an engaging, professional resource of the highest quality, generously shared with all. 

Magpies

Magpies logoAll rights reserved

With almost the same longevity, Australian magazine Magpies has been 'talking about books for children' since 1986, and its 8 page New Zealand supplement of interviews and reviews provides a useful professional reflection of our own children’s literature publishing scene.

Each issue contains:

  • a thoughtful editorial from Rayma Turton
  • reviews of new children’s and YA books
  • articles of interest to people involved in children’s literature — parents, librarians, teachers, students and academics
  • a 'meet the author/illustrator' interview
  • a round-up of information about awards and what’s happening in the children’s literature scene.

Magpies published 5 times a year,  is a subscription based, print-only journal (5 issues = NZ$55.00). It’s a treat when it arrives, not online but in an envelope  —  a colourful, tactile, work-desk or bedside read, becoming post-it note stickered with reminders of reviewed titles to follow up for requesting or purchasing.

The Literature Base

Magpies’ sister journal, The Literature Base, has a different focus. Each issue contains practical ideas for ways to use books with students in the library or classroom. It also has thematic annotated book lists, and book activity ideas and templates. 

The Literature Base is a fantastic resource for teachers and librarians looking for ideas of ways to integrate literature into classroom programmes, develop a literacy event such as a book week, or to strengthen their school’s reading culture, helping students talk about books, reading and writing. It was first published in February 1990 and is published 4 times a year. The annual subscription is NZ$47.50. Visit The Literature Base website for subscription information (online or offline). 

You can subscribe to both Magpies and The Literature Base for about $100, you’ll have these enjoyable working tools arriving regularly on your desk through the year, informing and inspiring your practice.

Journals a 'doorway' into children's literature — do you have a favourite?

Journals such as these provide you and your library, teachers and students, with a doorway into the world of children’s literature and the 'stories behind the stories'.

What are your favourite go-to review journals/children’s literature professional reading, in print or online? 

Read more about selecting resources for your school library

By Jeannie Skinner

Jeannie is a Facilitator in the National Capability Services team with Services to Schools.

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