Merlin Conspiracy Review

deborah deborah at
Mon Jun 16 16:57:53 EDT 2003

On Mon, 16 Jun 2003 minnow at wrote:

[many details disagreeing with or fine tuning parts of the Horn Book
review of Merlin Conspiracy.]

|Ian W Riddell posted:
|>Here's the review of "The Merlin Conspiracy" from the latest "Horn
|>Book Magazine":

I've been reviewing books for a couple of years now, and it's a tricky
skill.  Book reviews range in length from 60 words (Horn Book Guide) to
the multiple page reviews you might find in the New York Times Book
Review, or in a professional journal.  The majority, however,
particularly of children's books, range from about 150 to about 350
words.  Of that, the bulk of the review has to be plot summary --
sufficient to give the purchasing librarian or teacher knowledge whether
or not it is an appropriate book for his or her collection, and the rest
needs to be analysis.  It's extremely difficult to fit all that in
150-350 words.  One way is to take shortcuts with plot which would be
completely inappropriate in a long analysis of the book, but which
really don't affect in a major way the overall meaning.  Just yesterday
I changed a book review from reading "over the autumn and winter" to
"over the winter".  It didn't change the general description of the
plot, it didn't really change the meaning, and it saved me two words --
more important than you would think.  I think that Minnow's distinction
between "the Merlin controls the magic" and "the Merlin controls some of
the magic" falls into this category of editing.  It doesn't really
change a quick analysis of the plot in any substantive way, and it saves
a couple of words, as well as keeping the review succinct, as editors
like.  The distinction that Minnow makes between "falls in love with"
and "fancies" is more significant, but the Horn Book is an American
magazine, and we don't have as good a way of saying the same thing.
"Gets a crush on"?  "Thinks is cute"?

Along those lines, the latest issue of The Lion and the Unicorn reviews
Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom.  It was a very
positive review, although it didn't mention my article at all.  Grump,
grump.  I can't recall offhand if it mentioned Charlie's, and I have a
cat on my lap, so I can't go look.  (One of the few nice things about
voice dictation software is that I can write e-mail with a cat on my

deborah at
Start a revolution.  Stop hating your body.

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