and other book review tics are in my mind this week, as we wrap up editing the July August book review section of the Magazine and the first half of the Fall Guide. The Daily Telegraph offers a helpful list of words and phrases book reviewer love overmuch, but in what words do children's book reviewers, specifically, overindulge?
I came into the Horn Book late in the last century on a tear about the then overuse of "humorous" as a more respectable variant of "funny." I mean, when was the last time you told a friend to read a book or see a movie because "it's very humorous"? Later I got crazed about "artwork" to mean "illustrations." Deborah Stevenson of The Bulletin spotted a good one in an article she wrote for us some years ago: feisty, as an adjective to allegedly praise a heroine "who is nonthreatening and totally unserious."
Now I'm getting bugged by "endearing." Adults might feel "endeared" to a book or character, but kids' attachments tend to be more robust. And I think the term also holds the same kind of implied threat as those "Mommy loves you best books," that the book or character is somehow acting in a way that inveigles approval--rather than alliance--from the reader. Ick.