How We Review

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*Please note: the reviews can sometimes make even a great book seem like a bad one. It may be useful for you to read a few books and look at the reviews so you get an idea of how the information looks within a story versus plucked out of context.

 The review is divided up into the following categories: language, sexual content, alcohol/drugs, violence/disturbing, social/family, religious/spiritual.  Basically, we examine every book for content that parents might want to know their child is being exposed to. Families will have different levels of comfort with different material, so we have taken a very conservative approach and have tried to list most things that might raise a flag for a child or their parents. Clearly, this is difficult to be objective about, but we do our best to list as much as possible. 

 A book that you remember fondly from your own childhood may suddenly appear totally inappropriate when you read the review—don’t panic! Remember, this is just information for you to be aware of. The content is pulled totally out of context.  You know your child best and can determine if the content will bother them or not. If you’re not sure, try having them read it until they find something that bothers them and you will start to get a good idea of what to look out for.

 A note about Young Adult books:

Young adult books fall into a wide age-range: 12-18, though most of them are 14-17.  We consider Young Adult (YA) to be 14-17 year-olds. 

Content review by category:

Language 

4-8 year-olds: Words like “stupid”, “hate”, “idiot”, etc. These are about as bad as it gets in this age group.

9-12 year-olds: We list words that are generally considered “cuss words” or “curse words”.  Particularly cruel words will be listed here, as well. Racist or sexist words may be listed here, but more likely in the “Social/Family” section, depending on context.  The language section will have: Level 1, 2 or 3 with a link to a list of words that level might contain.

12+ and YA: Generally held curse words will be listed as:  Level 1, 2 or 3 with a link to a list of what that level might contain.  Cruel, racist or sexist words may be listed here, but possible in the ‘Sexual Content’ or ‘Social/Family’ section, depending on context.

Language Levels

Level 1: words like hell, damn, dammit, bastard
Level 2:  a*s, b**ch
Level 3: four-letter words, particularly vulgar words or words that are generally held to be very offensive

Sexual content 

4-8 year-olds: Almost non-existent in this age-group. But I will mention any ideas, pictures, or words that seem edgy.

9-12 year-olds:  Any descriptions of a person that are sexual (ex: mentioning someone’s butt) or a suggestive thought process, i.e., giving someone a once over.  This age-group starts to have more kissing and touching, though fairly innocent in nature.

12-14 year-olds:  Books that fall in this age range are reviewed on both the 9-12 year-old level and the YA level for sexual content.

14-17 year-olds (YA):  References to sex, sexual thoughts and feelings, and sex acts will be listed here.

 Alcohol/drugs

All age groups:  Any reference to drugs, alcohol or tobacco products are listed here. Even if it is adults who use them.  This includes mis-use of medication.

 Violence/scary/disturbing

4-8 year-olds: Violence against another person or an animal.  Since “scary” is extremely subjective, I include anything that might startle or frighten a child in real life. If I don’t think it’s a good read at bedtime, I’ll mention that as well.  Nightmare fodder, anyone?

9-12 year-olds: Same as 4-8 year-olds.  Also, weapons are listed if they are used against people.

12+ and YA: Same as above, but taking into account the age the book is recommended for by the publisher/Amazon.  In these upper age ranges, things become darker and more sinister.

 Social/family

4-8 year-olds:  Some common themes revolve around family issues like divorce and sibling problems.  Bullying and loss of a pet will be mentioned, too.

9-12 year-olds:  This section includes a wide-range of themes, including; bullying, anti-parent/family sentiments, sexism, racism, ageism, classism, stereotypes, differences of any kind that are portrayed in a negative way. Some classic children’s literature includes material that, by today’s standards, is not considered culturally sensitive or is stereotypical and that will be mentioned here, too.

12+ and YA: Same as 9-12 year-olds, taking into account the age of the intended audience.  YA content in this area can be very mature and controversial.  This is usually the largest section in YA books because of the significant issues teens are working through as they come-of-age. Reviews include issues about body image, suicide/depression, family dynamics, peer pressure, and authority figures, to name a few.

 Religion

 4-8 year-olds: I include any references to religious figures (God, Allah, goddess, the Pope, pastor, demons, etc), religious icons (crosses, holy water, prayer mat, etc), religious practices (going to Temple, observing the Sabbath, praying, worship, etc). I include these so that you can talk to your child when they ask a question about a religion or practice that they are not familiar with.

 9-12 year-olds: Similar to 4-8 year-olds, though we assume some basic knowledge of mainstream religious ideas and icons (crosses, prayer, going to Church/Temple).

 12+ and YA:  A notch up from 9-12 year-olds. The YA books, in particular, start to questions religious beliefs and there is sometimes some religion bashing which we will note.  Things get darker with this age-group, and especially in a spiritual way—evil becomes truly sinister and can harm people (an idea that is not permitted at younger levels very much).

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