Writer, copy editor, and educator who finds joy in reading, writing, and thinking along life’s trails

My Notebook

Notebook and feather fountain pen

Have you ever been asked to write a book report and thought, “Oh, no! What do I write?’ Some commonly used steps are (1) read a book; (2) name the book title and author; (3) who are the characters; (4) what is the setting; (5) what is the author’s purpose for writing this book; (6) what happened in the beginning, middle, and end; and (7) what is your opinion about this book. Presenting your book report to the class will prepare you to write a book review, which is different.

In the 1800s a writer created the first book review. Today’s writers still (1) read a book; (2) tell who narrated the story; (3) identify the setting; (4) state the theme, which is the overall message of the book; (5) compare the genre of literature of this book with others you have read; (6) name facts about the author and other of his/her previous works; (7)give a summary of the plot without spoiling the ending of the book; and (8) state your opinion about the book and reasons why or why not you liked it. Librarians and parents use book reviews to select appropriate reading materials for readers. The Horn Book Magazine has good book review information. Reviews of movies, architecture, stores, fashionable clothes, restaurants, and musical shows help patrons decide which would be good.

Research now shows that writing an art review in arts-based learning helps students have improved brain function and school performance by:

  • Improving creative problem solving skills

  • Improving decision-making skills

  • Having enriched learning by recognizing materials and elements in works of art

  • Choosing to participate in art experiences and acquiring art vocabulary and methods

  • Understanding different cultures including those from other countries through art

Unlike a book review, an art critique or review requires studying a photograph or painting closely and use evidence of the artist’s skills and understanding the author’s purpose. In 1982, art professor Edmund Feldman at the University of Georgia identified a method for art analysis thinking and talking about a painting.

                   Description     Analysis     Interpretation     Judgement


Numerous members of my family have great talent in music and in art. I think that we should thank my great grandmother, Sallie D. Robbins Clement Rainey (1867 – 1924) who left to us such wonderful oil paintings to remember her by.

My husband and I have this picture she painted using oil paints.

I am an amateur painter. I took lessons one summer in the 1970s learning how to use watercolor paints. The teacher had idea file folders full of scenic pages from magazines. We chose one and she guided us to paint it.

This is my painting.


I wish that I had learned to write a review of pieces of art and taken notes when I visited art museums. Here are the steps in Feldman’s Method: 4 Art Critique Elements:

Use details that tell the title of the work;
artist’s name; art materials used, any objects, shapes, humans, places.

What feeling do you get from the painting? Does the artist use elements like contrast, different shapes/sizes, imbalance to help the painting tell its story?

What is the artist trying to tell you? Do you understand the painting?

In your opinion, has the artist succeeded in his/her objective for the painting to show the viewer? Explain. What art terms and techniques have you learned with this painting?

 Dear Readers,
Study this painting by American artist Manierre Dawson of Chicago. The picture of the work is available from the Smithsonian Museum website. Use your steps above and write an art review of this painting. Have fun!

--M. Stoddard


“Book report and book review differences. Wikipedia.

“Book Review Template” and “Choose an author or illustrator.”

“Coaching Preservice Teachers to Integrate the Arts in STEM
Content,” International Journal of Education & The Arts, Vol.22 No. 5,
June 3, 2021

“Open Access at the National Gallery of Art” 2022
https://www.si.edu/collection, Open access media (CC0)

“Steps.” Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden 2022
https://www.si.edu/collection. Open access media (CC0)

“To best write a book review.”

Author at Work


Turtle Turtle Turtle

Teacher's Guide for Nelly | Printable Teacher's Guide | My Path to Publication | Author Visits
Home | About Me | My Writing |My Newsletter | My Notebook| Poetry Parade | Archive

© 2023 Martha Stoddard
All rights reserved
Contact the Author:
Website Design by librarylaura.com