Last year, I gave a proof copy of Alfie Slider vs the Shape Shifter to one of the teachers at my local primary school. The teacher offered to use it as her class reader, and get the children to review the book for me. When I did some workshops at the school recently, I was given the forms back; 29 reviews from my target readership! Terrifying and exciting, all at the same time.
The class was made up of 12 girls and 17 boys, who ranged in ages from 7 to 9. These are their responses:
How much did you like this book?
Average 4.4 out of 5. There was less gender difference than I had expected; the average for boys was 4.5, for girls 4.2. (The rating on Amazon at time of writing is 4.9)
What did you like about it?
I took the answers to this question and broke it down into concepts, putting things like When Alfie went to the Monkesto together with Travelling to a parallel universe together under transported. Here’s a word cloud with the most popular choices; number one was…
What could be improved?
A few simply didn’t like Sci Fi. A couple wanted illustrations. One or two had technical suggestions about description or the use of cliff hangers. But the most popular answer, which a delightful 17 of them chose was…
Good for the ego, even if it doesn’t give me much to work on 😉
Who was your favourite character?
I honestly thought this would be an easy win for Alfie, but as you’ll see he had some competition not just from the ship’s computer, Mr Monk, but also the bad guy! (Also glad to see Omar getting a mention there as he features more in Frozen Prince!)
Who do you think would enjoy this story?
Some children answered this question with an age range, which I’ve converted to a bar chart below. I’d agree with them generally, though I am surprised that so many included teenagers!
9 children thought only Sci Fi lovers would enjoy it, and three specifically mentioned boys; but six commented they thought boys and girls would enjoy it.
So there we have it. The scores on the doors, courtesy of 29 of my target market. I have to take into account some personal bias from the reviewers; some of them know me, and they were excited to have been asked their opinion by a real, live, author. Even so? I’m thrilled to bits.
Asking people to read your work can be a very frightening prospect but it is also very, very, rewarding.