CLJ Reviews are Distinctive
The Christian Library Journal is distinctive as a professional review publication in that we look at books from a Christian worldview, noting the values found in the text. While a book may include ungodly, immoral, or indecent episodes, we look for redemption and resolution. We also recognize that evil exists, and not all things will be redeemed, nor all problems resolved.
We look for literary quality and/or accurate information presented in attractive, readable form.
CLJ points to problem areas in books, such as prurient details, immoral behavior, or worldview focused on the individual and based on evolution, to help readers make informed choices.
At CLJ, we limit the types of books we review to meet our goal of providing good books for Christian readers. Our primary focus is on books for children and teens, both Christian and other. We also review some Christian titles for adults, and professional titles in two fields: libraries and elementary/secondary education, including homeschooling.
Choosing Titles to Review
- Choose your title(s), using your own sources, the list of titles to go, or publisher sources.
- Submit your choices to CLJ for approval. Include complete title, author, publisher, date, and ISBN. (You can copy and paste this information from TitleWave, the publisher website, or Library of Congress.
- Wait for approval, then order the book(s), or ask Nancy to order if needed.
- The publisher will respond with information or approval.
- When the book arrives, notify the editor of your due date. You are allowed three weeks per title, or three weeks plus one extra week for each extra title, for series reviews. These dates can be consecutive, if planning on more than one review. If a deadline causes a hardship, please let the editor know, and we can adjust.
Reading the Book
Read the assigned book. Then, before writing anything, think about the book in the terms below. Use these ideas, plus your own, to explain how you value the book (or not):
Value of the book, Fiction: Christian or moral excellence, literary excellence
- Good example (to the reader) of redemption/forgiveness/spiritual growth/etc.
- Potential to impact the reader
- Well written, appealing story, holding the interest of the reader
- Entertaining story
Value of the book, Nonfiction
- Appealing, readable presentation of accurate factual material
- Helpful illustrative material, well presented, attention-getting
- Covers the subject area well
Problems with a book
Reviewers identify and report conflicts with biblical teaching:
- the occult
- black magic
- immodesty or nudity
- explicit, sexual material
- any deviation of behavior or attitude from the Christian ethic.
Reviewers also identify and report doctrinal points of view, if any, but no comments about them.
Note redeeming factors, moral tone; also, extent of the problem: a page or two, or permeates the entire text.
- Character growth
- Overcoming problems
- Change of heart
Note: Some problem books may provide an opportunity for analysis and discussion in a group setting.
Rating the book
Rate the book using the this CLJ Rating System:
- *5 Outstanding —a book which impacts someone’s life or thinking
- 5 Excellent—well written, among the best
- 4 Very good—definitely worth reading
- 3 Good—may be a good source for relaxation or to meet needs for information
- 2 Fair—poor writing or editing; read only if very interested
- 1 Poor—not much going for this title.
- Recommended with caution (may be used with any of the above ratings)–Note reservations within the review.
- Not recommended (may be used with any of the above ratings)–Note problems within the review.
- Rating 1 or 2—Write a heading as usual. Instead of writing a review, please write a few phrases or sentences, describing the good things and problem areas of the book, including “not recommended.” It will be posted as informative.
- Rating 3, 4, 5, or *5—Write your review, following the guidelines below.
With fiction, the rating includes the quality of plot development/pacing, characterization, sense of time and place, mood, and atmosphere, dialogue, depth of perception, sensitivity of writing, use of humor. Be aware that some books are character driven, so character development is extremely important. Others are plot driven, so character development isn’t as critical; plot is.
With nonfiction, the rating includes quality of the information, accuracy, up to date, stimulates further inquiry, adds to the understanding of the topic, illustrations which are informative and appropriate.
With picture books, first be aware that these are written today for various age groups, so don’t assume little children. The rating includes those above for fiction and nonfiction, and also emphasizes the illustrations.
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Writing the Review
Tell the reader about the book. In a fiction book, tell enough of the story to interest the reader, but do not give away the plot. Then critique the plot, writing style, illustrations, etc. If you have no experience with professional reviewing, go to TitleWave and read reviews there. See the paragraphs just above regarding reviewing fiction, nonfiction, and picture books. You’ll find good ideas about what things to look for in your book. Write in 3rd person, being objective at all times.
If theological ideas are described in the book, tell the reader about them objectively. Do not take sides or give your opinion about the author’s theological position.
- Title, exactly as seen on the book’s title page / statement of responsibility as seen on the title page. Series, if applicable.
- Publisher ISBN
- Level Grades Rating
In lines 2 and 3, use 5 spaces between sections.
Storm / by Evan Angler. (The Swipe series, 3)
Tommy Nelson ISBN 9781400321971
MS Grades 5-8 Rating 4
PRI: any of preschool-grade 3, and perhaps more
INT: any of grades 4-6, and perhaps more
MS: any of grades 6-8, and perhaps more
HS: any of grades 9-12, and perhaps more
Adult: after high school, and perhaps more
PROF: professional books for librarians and teachers
Designate a range of grade levels most interested in this book. Think interest level, not reading level, and keep the span somewhat short. Go for the main audience. Many books written for small children are meant to be read to them. You may find a book with grade levels designated by publisher or someone else, but you have a good reason for disagreeing. Please do so, giving your reasons within the review. And please don’t assume picture books are for small children. Many picture books today are written for varying ages, not just for small children. Here are some examples of what grade levels might look like:
- Grades 2-5
- PS-Grade 2
- Grades 4-7
- Grades 5-9
- Grades 7-10
- Adult (Grades 10-12)
- Adult (College)
- PROF (Teachers, librarians, parents, etc.)
- No more than 150-200 words for the summary or information description.
- 150 to 200 words for your critique.
- You may intertwine these as long as you meet the maximum word count requirement for the entire review (see below). No exceptions to these limits; sorry.
- Entire review should not exceed 350 words (not counting the heading and signature). However, if you are reviewing multiple books reviewed in one review, your maximum word count increases by 50 words for each additional title (e.g., 400 words for two books reviewed, 450 words for three books, etc.).
Submitting Reviews to CLJ
First check your work against the CLJ style sheet:
CLJ Style Sheet
Font and Layout
- Calibri (Body) (or Arial, if you don’t have Calibri), 12 point single-spaced
- Do not indent paragraphs
- One space after every sentence, except none after the last sentence in a paragraph
- Set a 6 pt space between paragraphs, if you can, or Enter after every paragraph.
- Use italics for book titles, double quotes for short story, poem, chapter titles. Indent quotes from the book.
- Sign your review like this: Name, CLJ (or blog address, if from your blog).
Words or phrases in series
- Comma after every word, except the last: sun, moon, and star
- Comma after every phrase, except the last: jumping up, turning around, and hugging him
- Numbers, both counting and ordinal, between one and nine, are written out: seven, not 7; seventh, not 7th
- Numbers, both counting and ordinal, from 10 up, use numerals: 10 or 177 or 2,000; 13th or 22nd
- When multiple numbers are used in a sentence, some from one to nine, and some greater, use numerals for all
Writing Titles of Books
- Standard composition style within review copy: The All-American Boy; or Liberty in America (Note the use of italics in composition style)
Miscellaneous Final Steps
- Name the document with the exact wording of the title, with no extra words, spaces, or numbers.
- Leave a space between each word, so the title is searchable by the editor.
- Save files as Word document (.doc or .docx), or as Rich Text Format (.rtf).
Let the review sit at least overnight to “cool off”; then edit one last time. Email the review, entering as the email subject the exact wording of the title, with no extra words, spaces, or numbers. If you abbreviate or leave out words, it is difficult for the editor to find the review in saved email!
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