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  How to write a book review
Updated 22 July 2004, 17.57
Newsround's Lizo Mzimba announces the winner of the Carnegie Medal

A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly has won the Carnegie Medal - one the UK's biggest awards for children's writing.

Students write their own book reviews and act out a book awards ceremony.

Learning aims:

  • To write about the plot, setting and characters of a novel.
  • To comment of the highlights and weak points of a novel.
  • To evaluate a novel.
  • To enagage in role play.

Teaching Ideas:

1. Icebreaker

Read this story to the class:

The Carnegie Medal is awarded every year to an outstanding children's book. Ask students to imagine they are a Carnegie judge. What outstanding qualities would they look for in a book? Make a class list of their suggestions.

2. Warm up

Students read these book reviews:

Ask students: Which book would you prefer to read and why?

3. Main activity

Pupils write a review of the last book they read using this template:

Use these notes to help students complete the template:

Published: Skim the first few pages to find the date the book was published.

Pages: You don't have to count them! Just look at the number on the final page.

The plot: This is what happens. To help you think about the main events, first draw a time line with the beginning scene of the book at the top of a piece of paper and the final scene at the bottom.

E.g. Write "Harry starts at Hogwarts" at the top and "Harry defeats Voldemort" at the bottom.

Now add a few events in the middle of the time line - ones which link the beginning and final scenes.

Setting: This is where and when the story takes place. E.g. At Hogwarts school of wizardry in the present day.

The characters: This is who is in the book. To help you describe the characters, first jot down these details:

  • Name of character
  • Role
  • Adjective to describe them
For example:

  • Harry Potter
  • Schoolboy wizard
  • Brave

Highlights: This is where you describe your favourite part of the book. Was there a particular piece of action, description or characters' speech you really enjoyed?

Any weak bits?: Were there any chapters where you found yourself wishing for some action to liven up the plot? Any unrealistic characters? Any descriptions or chapters that you felt were ?

Unputdownable?: Did you grab the book whenever you had a spare moment? Did you read it rather than playing computer games or watching TV? Or did you read the first chapter before letting it gather dust on your bookshelf?

4. To turn this into a drama lesson

Using the reviews they have compiled, students act out a book awards ceremony.

Some students play the parts of authors.

Others play a series of judges, ranging from the nice Nicki Chapman types (from TV's Pop Idol) to the mean Simon Cowell types.

One or two students play the hosts.

The remaining students play audience members.

Each author presents a summary of their shortlisted book to an audience. They read out the plot, character and setting sections of the review.

The panel of judges respond, reading out the highlights, weak bits and unputdownable sections of the review.

The host asks members of the audience for their opinion on the books. Would they read them? Why? Why not?

The audience vote on which author should win the award.

The host, complete with golden envelopes, presents the winner with their award.

5. Extension activity

Students add their own comments about books reviewed by the Newsround team by clicking here:

Students use the template to write a review for an imaginary novel which combines the characters, plot and settings from three different books or films.

E.g. Luke Skywalker tracks down a Victorian teenage boy on the run from a London poorhouse.

5. Plenary

Recap on the definition of plot, setting and character.

Students read out their reviews to the class.

For all links and resources click at top right.

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