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Kids' Book Review - Interview (August 2019)

Tania McCartney: KBR Founder Editor in Chief

Dimity Powell: KBR Managing Editor

How did Kids’ Book Review get started?

Tania: It all began with my picture book obsession. I had been living in Beijing with my family and when we returned to Australia in 2009, I threw myself into the kidlit industry. KBR actually started as a blog. I began with reviewing from my own collection, and over time, as I became more and more industry involved, colleagues expressed interest in being involved in the site. So I started approaching publishers for review copies. Fast forward ten years, and we now have a slew of local and international publishers sending us books.

What are Kids’ Book Review’s goals?

Tania: Essentially, to provide a platform for children’s books and their creators, but also to inspire, uplift and educate, provide resources and opportunity. To celebrate children’s works and people in all their forms.

Dimity: As the Managing Editor for the last two and a half years, it’s my intention to support that premise at every level and to continue to deliver content that cements KBR as one of the most respected and well visited children’s literature and book reviewing sites in the world. There have been gentle shifts in the ways children access and enjoy stories over the past few years. KBR endeavours to highlight the best of these new media platforms of storytelling to encourage the strongest possible appreciation of children’s literature as possible.

Who is your intended audience?

Dimity: Teachers, librarians, industry professionals, and of course - parents and kids. I regularly receive messages of thanks from grateful carers and parents after they’ve scoured our site for useful reading recommendations. There’s a story out there for everyone. KBR simply gathers them neatly together for easier inspection.

What resources do you provide?

Dimity: Apart from reviews, we feature Guest Posts from creators, kids’ lit enthusiasts, and industry professionals, which cover a range of fascinating, insightful, literary-centred topics including: story genesis, writing advice, children’s mental and physical well-being and the virtues of book reading to name but a few. We also have comprehensive collections of Teachers’ Notes and Book Lists, and regularly feature articles on education, literacy, bookish places to visit, festivals, conferences and, the perennial favourite, interviews with your favourite book writers, illustrators and industry notables. Because who doesn’t love discovering quirky, curly details about their book heroes!

How do you choose your review titles?

Dimity: The majority of our review titles are solicited through major publishing houses both in Australia and internationally. We also receive titles from a huge number of smaller independent traditional publishers. Every so often we invite self-published and indie published book creators to submit their books for review. These unsolicited shout outs are an attempt to feature as many quality children’s stories on our site as physically practicable, although this is not always possible. So many books, never enough reading time! Comprehensive review submission guidelines are all on our site.

How can people get involved with Kids’ Book Review?

Tania: Read and share. Comment on Facebook and Twitter. And most of all, buy the books we yell from the mountaintop about! The children’s book industry is only as successful as those who buy or borrow its books and share them with children. And KBR will continue to take pride in sharing the books and the creators and the kidlit champions who produce children’s books … for both literacy and sheer enjoyment.

Dimity: Lovers of children’s books and those forever on the lookout for the next Harry Potter like we are, can simply follow our website or KBR Facebook page; every review or article we post appears there. You can find us on Twitter and Pinterest, as well. We regularly run Giveaways to coincide with new book releases or simply to celebrate old favourites. These are free and simple to enter and the prizes are always phenomenal! I wish I could enter.

If you have something to add to the discussion about children’s literature, you can drop us a line anytime with a guest post proposal - the criteria guidelines and contact details are listed on the website – because as Tania says, we just love sharing and caring about the books our children read.

Tell us a little about the Kids’ Book Review team.

Tania: Originally a team of one, we grew to three then a brilliant core team of five for quite a while. As my book career took off, I found less and less time to dedicate to the site, so I gradually stepped away and most recently almost fully stepped away thanks to the amazing Dimity and our current team. We’ve had reviewers and editors come and go over the years. Some have stayed a wee while, some have stayed for years (Sarah Steed is our veteran right now!) and some have gone and returned again, as life has its way with us. But all have contributed invaluably to our kidlit industry, and all have touched KBR in a glorious way.

Dimity: The privilege of working within the KBR family is a fiercely contested and sought after one. Although 100% voluntary, KBR has exacting expectations of every team member; to deliver a requisite number of high quality posts per month. This is not always an easy task given the number of variables preventing quotas being met (that life thing again), however our dedicated current team of 12 (including one junior reviewer), never disappoints.

Their diligence and enthusiasm constantly floors me as they strive to deliver reviews with ‘insight and charm, but without compromise’. Without them, there simply would be no KBR.  Between us all, there are decades of experience in the children's book industry, with backgrounds as authors, publishers, editors, illustrators, booksellers, bloggers, speech pathologists, clinical psychologists, teachers, librarians, children's literature academics, early childhood educators, education specialists, mothers and or course, book-loving nuts.

What’s next from Kids’ Book Review?

Tania: With the way our team are travelling in this book industry, juggling book contracts left right and centre, I would say we’ll continue to be up for a team shuffle! Of course, I never want to lose anyone, but it’s pure joy to see our team do so well creatively. Because we are all busy professionals, mums, teachers, librarians, creators, etc etc, I can’t see any kind of expansion for KBR in the coming years, as much as we’d love to branch out. It’s all about manpower, really. We work voluntarily and we have to be sensible. But thankfully, we have an incredible, comprehensive backlog of content, with stacks of resources, and we continue to have brilliant people posting brilliant reviews and articles about brilliant books and creators. So I think we’ll do. We’ll do.

Dimity: If we could wedge another day or two into the week, then I foresee numerous possibilities for expansion of this site; the reintroduction of competitions, more resource-centred content and the like, but for now, as Tania pointed out, our ability delivery is at maximum capacity. No other reviewing platform for children’s content consistently delivers at least two reviews a day, showcasing the best and newest releases available than Kids’ Book Review. I am immensely proud to be at the helm of such a revered ship.


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