Wendy E. Betts, Children’s Book Reviewer

I’m the former editor of The WEB: Celebrating Children’s Literature, and the current editor of Notes from the Windowsill, an online book review journal.

People ask me a lot how I got into online book reviewing, so I thought I’d put a little history here. As an undergraduate I won first prize in an annual Book Collection Essay Contest, writing about my children’s book collection. Talking with people about the essay made me realize that I wasn’t alone in my interest in children’s books–and that many people were interested in reading about them. When I went on to library school, I essentially majored in children’s books; I also started The WEB, a newsletter for children’s literature enthusiasts.

When I started getting a lot of review books from publishers, I realized that I couldn’t review them all in The WEB without running into far more pages than I could afford. Starting an online journal seemed the obvious solution.

The work has its discouraging aspects. The problem with reviewing new books is that most people haven’t read them yet and can’t discuss the books with me or comment on whether my reviews are working. Most of the feedback I get is positive but very general. It’s some consolation to have been singled out for praise in a January 1995 Netguide article about online reviews: “Anyone can post a review, which means that some read like junior-high book reports, while others, including several excellent reviews by Wendy E. Betts, flow like literature.” But I even more prize an email letter from someone at Booklist which said that my review of Slot Machine really captured the book.