100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Where Do You Fall On The Book Critic/Book Champion Continuum?

A complete navel-gazer today…


A pure book critic focuses on evaluation. A pure book champion focuses on promotion. Both are important for different reasons. I love that both exist.

Here’s where I’d put myself:

Continuum Me

I write reviews (critic), but not for books I don’t care for. I like sharing books I’m enjoying on social media – often books that I don’t end up giving a full review here (champion).

Where do you fall on the critic/champion continuum?

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Dead center. I write reviews of books I loathe. (My current column in Tablet is a fully venomous pan of a parenting book.) I think it’s important to steer people away from crap, and I think we do a disservice to readers by not running negative reviews. When I review for the NYTBR I don’t get to choose the books (in fact, the reviewer CAN’T request a book) — your job is to tell the truth about a book the editor thinks is notable (because of the subject matter, art, author, timeliness, buzz, whatever reason).

    But I am a HUGE cheerleader for books I love. I cannot shut up. I blog, FB, GR, grab people and shake them…

  2. I keep track of everything I read on Goodreads. Most books get a written review (as opposed to just a 1-through-5 star rating) and I am honest in what I like and don’t like. After working on my own book for 5+ years (my agent is currently shopping it around now) I think I’ve become more critical about the books I read. However, as I do with critiques of other writer’s works-in-progress, I’m clear about what doesn’t work for me and why.

    fwiw, I’ve found that my negative reviews of some of the books I have read have received more comments than any positive review I’ve given. (Some of those comments have been angry rebuttals of my negative reviews. Most have been positive, with people agreeing with my reasons for disliking a book)

    All of that having been said, I absolutely love championing a great book. I’ve insisted that most of my Jane Austin-reading friends read “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” because the author, Seth Grahame-Smith, clearly loves Austin’s original book and makes some changes that are simply perfect. If you’re a Doctor Who and/or Douglas Adams fan I’m going to do my best to convince you to stop everything you’re doing and find a copy of Gareth Roberts’ “Shada”. And I’m wondering how many favors I might need to call in to get a copy of The Bloggess, Jennifer Lawson’s “Furiously Happy”, her follow-up to last year’s “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”, the funniest book I’ve read in years.

    — Tom

  3. I define myself as both as a critic and as a book champion. I love reviewing for Horn Book, the Times, and my blogs and rarely write negative reviews. Like you I prefer to focus on what I like rather than what I don’t. And when I really love something I advocate for it like crazy, on my blog, on other people’s blogs in the comments, in person, and on social media. And so I’ve no clue where I’d fit on this continuum. (But I suppose I’m not “pure” either way:)

    • Travis Jonker says

      Maybe right in the middle, then. I feel like most reviewers/bloggers will fall in the standard bell-curve (a couple at either extreme, most somewhere in the middle).

  4. I’m more of a Book Champion. I pretty much don’t review books I don’t like. Though I do mention what I see as drawbacks. And I call them reviews. For the most part, though, I figure someone might like them, so I’d rather not mention the books I think are dreck.

  5. In the center. On my blog I only review what I like, but goodreads and slj are different stories. It’s much more difficult to write a negative review with finesse. Thinking about this, I am starting to consider a “not for me” post every now and again.

  6. Jonathan Hunt says

    I’m actually at both ends of the spectrum simultaneously, and the reason is that I serve different audiences. Most adults know me only in my critic role, but my students only ever see the book champion. :-)

    • Jonathan Hunt says

      So I can explain very clearly on Heavy Medal why WONDER shouldn’t win the Newbery Medal and turn around and tell all my students they simply *have* to read it.

    • Sam Bloom says

      Jonathan, I thought the same thing when I saw this post. I recommend books to kids at the library CONSTANTLY after having slammed same said book in a committee or on Heavy Medal or Calling Caldecott. Different situations call for different takes on a book.

  7. I’m probably in the middle heading towards Critic. There are reasons I have shelves on goodreads “It’s Me Not The Book” and “Took One For The Team.”

    When I’m working on collection development, I really appreciate those of you who will write negative reviews. I hate having to read between the lines of tepid language.

  8. Like Jonathan noted above, I move back and forth along the continuum depending on the audience. I will champion many books on social media, especially Twitter, that I won’t necessarily formally review on my personal blog simply because reviews take so much time. For the YA blog that I write for, Rich in Color, we try to stay in the center or lean toward the critic side in formal reviews because we want to look closely at how people of color are being portrayed in literature. We want to promote, but also want to provide some awareness of problematic titles. We also champion books through Twitter and Tumblr since we don’t review everything we read and we want to get attention on more diverse/inclusive titles. At my Pre-K through 5th grade library, I operate almost exclusively in the champion role. The exception is when I teach students how to read critically and evaluate texts.

  9. I would say I am ultimately a book champion. I love helping people find the right books for them. If I am critical, it’s because I know I wasn’t the targeted audience and it could still be right for others. And for the regular customers who come in to our bookstore, I can tell them about a book I didn’t particularly like and they can decide for themselves if they’ll like it or not.

  10. For the past few years I’ve been in a reading slump– I can’t find the time for it, so if I attempt to read a book and it’s not working for me, I don’t bother even thinking about trying to finish it, I just dump it. So I pretty well HAVE to be solely a Champion, because just FINISHING a book automatically means I loved it. But I do discuss issues I have if I have them, and I try to look objectively at how it fits into the book scene and who might appreciate it most.

  11. I would say I am a book champion on social media and my blog. But my book critic can come out when I am talk to my friends about books on Voxer and in person. I would say over all that I’m more of a book champion.