At the start of every book review in the Harried Parent's Book Club, there's a rating of one to five stars. Here's a general look at how I assign those rankings to books, and why you may not want to put too much weight on that shorthand assessment.
When I read a special-needs parenting book, there are three things I'm hoping will happen:
- I'll learn something I didn't know.
- I'll get some practical advice on turning that knowledge into action.
- I'll enjoy the time I spend reading.
- I'll need a dictionary just to get through a sentence.
- I'll be frustrated by the author's tone, structure or approach.
- I'll feel the book missed important opportunities.
These are the things that factor in most heavily when I dole out star ratings; and while the stars are only the briefest starting point of Harried Parent's Book Club reviews, and not at all to be considered the last word, they do reflect a book's success at meeting my positive hopes and ducking my negative ones. Very generally, here's what the stars mean (with half-stars indicating a little extra measure of good will from your reviewer):
5 Stars: A classic, something I've personally parented by or would if my child was in that situation now. Five-star books generally hit all of my first three criteria, and hit them out of the ballpark.
4 Stars: Excellent books that don't quite make my classic list, but are still well worth reading. These may include books that hit one of my top three points most strongly -- a wonderful inspirational memoir that's light on practical advice, a book that's all about practical tips but not the smoothest read, a volume full of fascinating information but no practical application.
3 Stars: Books that are perfectly fine, if their subject matter interests you. These may start to slide into my bottom three points, with structure or tone that I don't find helpful, opportunities missed, less helpful or entertaining or interesting than I'd like. But still perfectly respectable works, and highly of interest to many, many readers.
2 Stars: Major disappointments, books that frustrated or angered me, or have negative elements that outweigh any usefulness they may have had.
1 Star: A complete wipe-out, books in which I can see no redeeming value whatsoever.
You won't see many one-star reviews here, because I've rarely read a parenting book that won't be useful, even life-changing, for somebody. There's such a wide range of special needs, and such an extraordinarily wide range of parental responses to them. Stars are a great way to give and get a first impression, but as we know so well from parenting our special kids, first impressions can be misleading.
Start with the stars, but then please, keep reading. The rest of the review will give you an idea of the books' pros and cons, and you may find that what's a con to me is a pro to you. If something about the review catches your interest, read the book yourself, then report back with your own review.