Staying Power: SLJ reviewers share what makes a book a “star” | From the Editor

Our almost 500 reviewers initiate the first step in determining each month's stars. Backed by their professional experience, they nominate the books they believe will make a long-lasting imprint on readers' hearts.

When considering what I wanted to focus on in this editor’s note, my thoughts were immediately directed to our reviewers. They start it all. SLJ reviews editors may have an idea that a book might be nominated for a star due to publisher buzz or because it’s the latest from a big-name creator, but that means nothing without the input of our reviewers.

We have almost 500 active reviewers, and I can assure you that each of them understands the value and weight of an SLJ star. Like most of our readers, our reviewers are working librarians who make the same purchasing and collection development decisions that you do. Your colleagues also assign grade levels, using their professional experience to assess the relevant audience for each book.

They’re the ones in direct contact with kids. They’re the ones who read each book cover to cover, analyzing, scrutinizing, and matching each title to a student or young patron in their libraries. While the editors ultimately make the final decision, the ­reviewers initiate the process of determining an SLJ star.

So, I turned to them.

“What do you think about when nominating a book for a star?” I asked in an informal poll of our reviewers.

It must be “a book that resonated with me and stayed with me even after I turned the last page,” responded Esther Keller. Rebecca Greer shared, “I think about the journey readers go on and if the book will stay with them once they close it.” ­Recently retired reviewer Mary Ann Karre agreed: “It needs to be so well written that it will not only be popular now but will withstand the test of time.”

The books that make “non-readers” readers. The books that change lives. The ones that burrow themselves into the hearts of the young people you serve. The books that have staying power. These are the titles that get starred every month.

Reviewer Karen Alexander said, when talking about the importance of starring books, “I think about what the book taught me [and] how it made me think differently.” That book, what it teaches us, and more importantly, our children, is here to stay. The books our reviewers nominate teach young readers how to be independent thinkers and that one day, no matter what the world around them is saying, they will find their people and themselves.

In these trying times, as the right to read is being questioned and violated, hold on to that.

In this issue, we’re celebrating the 227 books published in 2023 that have received an SLJ star, thus far. There wouldn’t be 227 starred reviews, and hundreds more than that, without the talent and expertise of our reviews editors. Thank you—Andrew Eliopulos, Kimberly Olson Fakih, Amanda Mastrull, Florence Simmons, and Ashleigh Williams—for your time, dedication, knowledge, and grace.




Author Image
Shelley Diaz

Shelley Diaz ( is the Reviews Editor at School Library Journal.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing