A CHILDREN'S books website is seeking young reviewers and has new books worth more than pound;80,000 to give to schools in return for the pupils' contributions, writes Geraldine Brennan.
The Schools Review Panel, a live Internet project set up by okukbooks.com, is recruiting next term's critics.
Last year a successful pilot project involving 60 schools generated 300 on-line reviews by children.
Okuk's directors, Lisa and James Bruce (she is a children's author and a former Westminster children's librarian; he is a website designer) have persuaded publishers to donate new books (fiction and non-fiction), which they have divided into mixed parcels relevant to key stages 1 to 3.
Schools pay pound;8.50 postage for each parcel, which will include books worth between approximately pound;80 and pound;120 - probably between 10 and 20 titles depending on weight.
They are then given half a term to supply pupils' reviews, which are published on the Website. Any books not reviewed have to be returned or paid for.
Mr Bruce says the pilot schools were able to apply the project in literacy and IT activities. "It also generates excitement and exchange of ideas about books which all helps to encourage reading."
Okuk does not exert any literary criticism itself - the parcels will include the publishers' more mass-market offerings in the selection, as well as promotional material and the occasional extra gift.
"We want to give children books that they like and give them a platform to say why they like them," Mr Bruce says.
He is prepared to accept less than ecstatic reviews "as long as they are constructive".
But he adds: "If a child clearly hates a book, really the teacher should try it on another child, who might find that it's the book that makes all the difference to their reading. Any book will be the right book for at least one child."
Authors should take comfort - there is no such thing as a bad review, just the wrong reviewer.
For more details, contact James Bruce at Okuk Books, Suite Six, 91 St Martin's Lane,London WC2N 4AP. Tel: 0171 379 5950. Fax: 0171 240 9098. e-mail infookukbooks.com