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Writing book reports and essays:
The Standard Format
· Introductory Paragraph
This paragraph should include the title of the book and name of
the author. It will also describe the setting and quickly summarize
what the book is about. Don't get too detailed here. It's just the
· Body Paragraphs
This is where the real content enters the picture. By reading this
part of your book report (three to four paragraphs), your teacher
will be able to determine whether you read the book and understood
the story. Start by describing the main characters of the story.
Then, describe the conflict. Common conflicts include man vs. man,
man vs. nature and man vs. himself. Your book may present a different
kind of conflict. Describe it in detail.
The remaining body paragraphs should summarize the plot and describe
how it relates to the conflict. Begin with the rising action, the
part of the story where events build. Then describe the climax,
where the story reaches its most dramatic or interesting point.
The third paragraph should describe the falling action, when the
conflict or problem is resolved.
· The Conclusion
This is an appropriate place to state your personal opinion of the
book. What did you think of it? Describe its strengths and weaknesses.
Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Remember, a winning
paper will use examples from the book to back up comments.
How to Write a Book Report:
Middle and High School level
Book reports and book reviews are similar. Book reports tend to
be a little more descriptive (What is this book about?) and book
reviews are usually more persuasive (Why a reader should or shouldn't
read this book). Both offer a combination of summary and commentary.
They are a way to think more deeply about a book you've read and
to demonstrate your understanding. Most teachers have their own
requirements, and sometimes a specific format they expect you to
follow, so be sure to check, but the following general elements
of a book report or book review should be helpful.
Here you want to provide basic information about the book, and a
sense of what your report will be about. You should include:
1. Title (underlined) /Author
2. Publication Information: Publisher, year, number of pages
4. A brief (1-2 sentences) introduction to the book and the report/review.
There are two main sections for this part. The first is an explanation
of what the book is about. The second is your opinions about the
book and how successful it is. There are some differences between
reports on fiction or other imaginative writing and reports on non-fiction
books. But for both, a good place to start is to explain the author's
purpose and/or the main themes of the book. Then you can summarize.
For fiction or other creative writing:
Provide brief descriptions of the setting , the point of view (who
tells the story), the protagonist , and other major characters.
If there is a distinct mood or tone, discuss that as well. Give
a concise plot summary. Along with the sequence of major events,
you may want to discuss the book's climax and resolution, and/or
literary devices such as foreshadowing. But, if you are writing
a review, be careful not to give away important plot details or
Provide a general overview of the author's topic, main points, and
argument. What is the thesis? What are the important conclusions?
Don't try to summarize each chapter or every angle. Choose the ones
that are most significant and interesting to you.
Analysis and Evaluation
In this section you analyze or critique the book. You can write
about your own opinions; just be sure that you explain and support
them with examples. Some questions you might want to consider:
· Did the author achieve his or her purpose?
· Is the writing effective, powerful, difficult, beautiful?
· What are the strengths and weaknesss of the book?
· For non-fiction, what are the author's qualifications to write
about the subject? Do you agree with the author's arguments and
· What is your overall response to the book? Did you find it interesting,
· Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?
Briefly conclude by pulling your thoughts together. You may want
to say what impression the book left you with, or emphasize what
you want your reader to know about it.
Tips for Writing Essays
Here are some suggestions for coming up with a good topic.
1. First, choose a subject that interests you. Let's say you like
2. Then try to narrow the subject down to something you can write
about knowledgeably. Let's say you have a beagle and you know a
lot about beagles based on your experience of owning one.
3. Now come up with a statement about your topic. "Beagles are the
best breed of dog." This will be your thesis statement or "hook."
4. To write your paper, answer the question "why" at least five
times. A beagle is the best because… "beagles are smart" or "beagles
are neither too small nor too big - they're just right."
5. Wrap it up. Write a brief conclusion that summarizes the points
you have made. "Clearly, beagles are best because they're smart
and they're just the right size."
The first important thing to remember about a narrative essay is
that it tells a story. The author may write about: · an experience
or event from his or her past
· a recent or an ongoing experience or event
· something that happened to somebody else, such as a parent or
The second important thing about a narrative essay is that the story
should have a point. In the final paragraph, the author should come
to an important conclusion about the experience that has just been
described. Read this sample narrative essay, and then read the notes
1. The sample essay begins with a general statement, "Learning something
new can be a scary experience." This statement introduces the subject
of the essay, which is a particular learning experience that the
author had. The use of "I" in the essay indicates that what is being
described is a personal experience.
2. The essay is essentially a story about something that happened.
The author gives sufficient details about the people, place, and
events so that the reader gets a clear idea of how the author feels
about them. In the essay, the author "stood timidly" and the teacher
"smiled" and was "patient." These words indicate the author's fears
and the sense of security provided by the teacher who helped the
author get over her fear.
3. In the final paragraph of the essay, the author reflects on the
larger meaning or importance of the experience described. The author
concludes that learning to swim has helped her to feel more confident
about herself in other new situations. The idea that self-confidence
comes from conquering your fears is something that all people can
relate to. This is the point of the story.
4. The essay is well-organized. After the introduction, the author
describes the experience as it happened in time -- going to the
pool the first day, having the first lesson, and the result of the
subsequent lessons. The author might have chosen, however, to talk
about the things she learned in order of their importance or difficulty.
5. The writing in an essay should be lively and interesting. Try
to engage the reader's interest by adding details or personal observations.
Sharing personal thoughts and details invites the reader into author's
world and makes the story more personal and more interesting.
The purpose of a descriptive essay is to describe a person, place,
or thing in such vivid detail that the reader can easily form a
precise mental picture of what is being written about. The author
may accomplish this by using imaginative language, interesting comparisons,
and images that appeal to the senses. Read this sample descriptive
essay, and then read the notes below:
1. The subject of the sample essay is fairly ordinary-a ride on
a Ferris wheel. The author makes it interesting, however, by comparing
the Ferris wheel to a monstrous creature.
2. The author makes good use of fresh and varied vocabulary. For
example, in the first paragraph alone, she uses verbs that create
excitement like "fascinate," "amaze," and "terrify." In the second
paragraph she uses a variety of terms to describe the machine such
as "monstrosity," "mythical beast," "amazing dinosaur," "fire-breathing
3. The author uses her senses to describe the scene-how the ride
looks, sounds, smells, and feels. The ride is "huge, smoky, noisy"
and its engines "drone" like the roar of a dragon. On the ride,
she gets a "rush of adrenaline" and a "lump in her throat," she
feels immobile and then weightless.
4. The essay is well organized. The introduction begins with a general
statement, "I have always been fascinated by carnival rides," and
ends with a more specific statement of what the essay will be about,
"the thrill and excitement of a carnival ride keeps me coming back
for more." The body of the essay is composed of several paragraphs
that describe the Ferris wheel, the way it seems from the ground
and the way it feels to ride on one. The conclusion restates the
main idea of the essay, that the author continues to find carnival
rides thrilling and exciting.