Editor’s note: One of the weirder aspects of the children’s segment of the publishing industry is that the actual readers of the books are not part of the process. We are pleased to present this perspective from a fairly recent child reader who spent the summer as an adult insider.
I’ve peripherally entertained the thought of entering the publishing industry for the decade comprising nearly half my life, but never in a wholly serious capacity. The friends and classmates whose stories I proofread joked that I ought to pursue a career in editing, that I might put my proclivity for grammatical punctiliousness to profitable use; I personally thought it a more accessible way of playing with words than writing—something I could never quite devote myself to wholeheartedly—and thought little more on the subject than that. None of my current fields of study have anything whatsoever to do with English, so I can only thank serendipity (thy name is Handshake.com) for leading me back to Kirkus Reviews in adulthood.
I wasn’t unfamiliar with the magazine—quite the contrary. I recall a vague amusement at what seemed like a bastardization of “circus” touted on the backs of books, but in my unabashed youthful geekery I formed a more informed opinion. That is to say, I read book reviews as a child: either after the completion of a particularly interesting book, or in the intermediate phase between finding an interesting title and requesting said interesting title from the library. Blurbs and magazine reviews were the easiest to find: short, summary-heavy, at times self-consciously clever, and carefully constructed to deliver a sure verdict in fewer than 250 words. Goodreads was a great way to get a variety of opinions all at once, helped by the fact that the most passionate users sometimes wrote full essays. Private blogs tended to be a hit-or-miss of good analysis or uninspired, emotive rambling.
I’m rather prone to rambling myself, so the mere existence of reviews both short and thorough continues to impress me. The sheer volume of books still being written and published impresses me more. Frankly, I’m delighted that the digital age has not “advanced” so far as to curtail reading. I can’t recall if I expounded upon this theme while interviewing for my position with Kirkus [Ed. note: yes], but throughout the summer I never stopped being floored by it—partly because the rush promised large stacks of books to enter into the mire of the review system and resultant stacks of reviews pick through with mental tweezers to verify accuracy, and partly because it was proper heartening.
Having exited the “kid lit” loop in high school, I came at this job with fresh sensibilities, less jaded than those of my reviewing colleagues. While I may lack issue-driven bones to pick, I possess a flagrant passion for language, and I must say, I enjoyed most what I read (even some of those books that reviewers lambasted). My summer with Kirkus has allowed me to examine children’s books in more detail than I ever thought they’d be afforded by adults—I still find it strange that adults can muster such vitriol—or such exaltation—for books that they themselves, in all likelihood, would not read if their job didn’t demand they do so.
In an age of remakes of remakes and tropes so rampant their deconstruction is exercised with almost gladiatorial glee, creativity still exists in abundance. From the old-fashioned, fantastical tenderness of Kenneth Kraegel’s Wild Honey from the Moon, to the convoluted, rapid-fire capers of Kate Milford’s latest Nagspeake mystery, The Thief Knot, to the dirt-filled and delightfully plebeian King of the Mole People, I had the pleasure of reading some bloody good books: books I wouldn’t hesitate to class with the nostalgic favorites of my own youth, books I hope today’s youth will enjoy just as much. What more could I ask of a summer job than that?—T.C.
Tamar Cimenian spent the summer working as Kirkus’ children’s intern. She is a senior at Colby College.