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Interview: Melissa Fox, Book Nut

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Here’s the next installment in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Melissa Fox (pictured to the right, abbreviated “MF” below), who blogs at Book Nut. Melissa’s blog focuses on children’s book reviews, though she reviews some adult books too.  She is also an active member of the online children’s literature community (the “kidlitosphere”), as you will see from the interview. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Melissa’s blog (link above), and the other kidlit resources she points to. Thanks Melissa!

Q: How and when did you become interested in thinking/writing about children’s books?

MF: Back in about 1995, a friend of mine was appalled that I had never read BeautyBeauty, by Robin McKinley by Robin McKinley. She insisted that I read it, and I was hooked: I loved the story, I loved the writing, I loved the idea that, as an adult, I could experience books that I’d missed as a kid. But then, over time, I realized that there was just so much more good writing and story telling going on for children, more so than for adults, and that’s what appeals to me most. So, that’s what I read.

Q: How and when did you start your blog?

MF: I started back in November 2004, on my husband’s encouragement. I’d been keeping a list of books I’d read and a brief “review” for about 6 years, and my husband realized that a blog would be a great format for that. Initially, it was only for myself; I never expected it to evolve into what it has, to meet as many wonderful people as I have, and to have all the great experiences that come with being a kidlit blogger.

Q: What is the content of your blog, and what are your goals for it?

MF: I mostly do reviews of the books I read. I’m not on the forefront of the “curve”, mostly because I check out so many books from the library, but also by choice: I’m still mostly blogging for myself, and to make friends, not to be on the cutting edge. My content is probably 2/3 kidlit and 1/3 adult and adult non fiction (just guessing here). I also do interviews — my goal has been one a month this year — of authors whose books have interested me. As for goals? Keep doing what I’m doing, keep enjoying it as much as I am. I suppose I’ll quit if it no longer is rewarding because I’m not making any money off of it!

Q: What criteria do you use to evaluate the books you review?

MF: A “good” book for me (since I don’t use stars, except for on Goodreads, and there it’s just a basic guideline, nothing really firm): engaging writing, a good plot, interesting characters. Sometimes I’ll go for the writing first (as in Beth Kephart’s books), and savor that; other times it’s the plot (say, The Hunger Gamesthe hunger games by suzanne collins) that stands out. Generally, though, if the characters are all highly dislikable, then I probably won’t like the book. There’s got to be someone I can enjoy reading about, even if it’s only one minor character.

Q: Why children’s books and not adult books?

MF: Well, I do read adult books, but the number’s getting less every year. I could launch into a whole reason why, but I’m going to send you to Finding Wonderland, because she said it so much better.

Q: I understand that you are also a parent and stay-at-home mother.  How does that work influence your blog writing, and vice versa?

MF: People ask me if I do this as a preread for my girls. I don’t. But, a wonderful side benefit is that I am able to share books with my girls in a way that my parents didn’t share with me. We’re constantly passing books, and recommendations, back and forth, discussing, gushing, enjoying, hating together. They’re just as excited as I am when a book package comes in the mail. It’s a wonderful bonding experience.

Q: In addition to your blog and mothering, are there any other ways you are involved in the world of children’s books?

MF: I’ve been on the middle grade Cybils panel for the past two years, which has been a wonderfully fun and rewarding experience. I also would love to go get my masters, since currently my “dream” job is a middle school librarian. We’ll see if that actually happens, though.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your work around children’s books?

MF: Honestly? The people. “Meeting” the authors, getting to know the bloggers, talking about the books with both other bloggers and children, and a shared passion for kidlit is really what makes all this worthwhile, in my book.

Q: If you were standing on a soapbox full of children’s books, what advice would you give your audience?

MF: Enjoy! And if you’re an adult, don’t feel guilty. Seriously. There are some great children’s books out there. Read, share, discuss, enjoy.

Have a question for Melissa?  Carry on the conversation in the comments!  Also, if you enjoyed this interview, or found it helpful, why not post it on Facebook or Twitter? The “Share/Save” button below makes it easy. Thanks!

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