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Southfield girl’s book reviews draw global following

Southfield’s Bridget Smith reviews books and interviews authors on her blog Bridget and the Books

Stephanie Steinberg
The Detroit News

Every week, Bridget Smith receives dozens of book review requests from publishers. Authors want to know what she thinks of their stories. Illustrators want to hear what she thinks of their drawings.

Bridget Smith, 7, reviews books and interviews authors on her blog Bridget and the Books. Her mother, Melissa, said the blog has attracted a total of 4,162 visitors and gets roughly 20 visitors a day, mostly from the United States.

As the giggly blond blogger with a gap between her front teeth will tell you, she’s in second grade but with one important distinction:

“I’m on a third-grade reading level,” she said.

Bridget started her blog Bridget and the Books last June to review children’s books as well as interview authors and librarians nationwide.

Perched at her kitchen table in Southfield, spread with graphic novels to review for March’s National Reading Month, Bridget explained she originally started a vlog (a video blog). Her mother then suggested a more manageable project: a blog.

She began posting short reviews, including what a book is about, what she likes about it and who she suggests read it. The authors tend to get a kick out of those responses.

“From the authors we’ve talked to, that’s probably their favorite part, because she comes up with some very crazy reasons who should read it, and they think it’s funny because it’s not what they would have thought,” said her mother, Melissa Smith, 37, who types the posts dictated by Bridget.

Asked who should read Peter Raymundo’s “Third Grade Mermaid,” one of the books on the table, Bridget responded: “Anyone that likes mermaids, sea cucumbers, jellyfish or giant shrimp.” Fans of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” would like it too, she added.

Ten months in, Bridget has reviewed nearly 150 books. One is a review of “Dragons from Mars” (HarperCollins, 2016) by Bloomfield Township resident Deborah Aronson, who was thrilled Bridget reviewed her story about a boy who emails dragons on Mars.

The 69-year-old was especially impressed that Bridget picked up on a “secret surprise” — the book cover has a different picture underneath the book jacket.

“She thought (the story) was funny,” she added. “Oh, my God, did that touch my heart, because I was really hoping that kids would find it funny.”

Aronson, who also wrote “Where’s My Tushy?” (Carolrhoda Books, 2014), said Bridget’s blog is a gift to authors, who don’t always hear from their young readers.

A selection of some of Bridget's favorite books.

“To actually get a chance to see the reaction of someone you’re writing the book for is such a privilege,” she said. “It’s just something you really appreciate as an author.”

Yet the blog is read by more than authors. Bridget’s mother said Bridget and the Books (which is not monetized) has attracted a total of 4,162 visitors and gets roughly 20 visitors a day, mostly from the United States.

“But she does have a strong international following,” Smith said. “Israel. China. Australia. We’re not entirely sure how they’re finding this. Even in the United States — they’re all over.”

The top-read posts are the librarian interviews, where Bridget questions the book experts about their favorite authors and what inspired them to follow their career path.

Why interview librarians?

“Because they’re a source of books,” Bridget said matter of factly.

Her favorite librarian she’s interviewed is Meaghan Battle, a 24-year librarian and head of youth services at the Troy Public Library.

Normally, Bridget emails the questions, but the two met in person last year and hit it off.

“I was pretty blown away when I met Bridget and looked over her blog,” said Battle, adding that she hasn’t come across another kid-authored book review blog. “I think it’s great that she highlights books and authors and librarians, because it’s all so interconnected. She puts it all together. These things aren’t in a vacuum — they’re affected by each other, they’re part of the same world and they appreciate each other.”

Running upstairs to show off her bulging bookshelf in her bedroom, Bridget said her favorite books are by Salina Yoon.

“I like that they are beautifully illustrated, and they have a lot of detail and there’s one series I like the most: ‘Penguin,’ ” she said.

Bridget Smith, 7, displays some of her favorite books inside her bedroom.

Bridget first read Yoon’s series at age 3 and loved them so much that her parents reached out to the San Diego-based author and illustrator to let her know. A friendship forged, and Yoon has sent Bridget books for her birthday as well as her penguin drawings, now hung above Bridget’s bird bedspread.

Smith credited Yoon for helping Bridget kick off the blog by using her social media platforms to promote it to other authors and illustrators.

In an email interview from the International Young Readers Festival in Hong Kong, Yoon called Bridget “the kid-blogging celebrity” in her circle.

“Her passion for books is a gift she shares with the world through her blog,” Yoon said. “When her mom told me that she was going to start a blog reviewing picture books, I couldn’t wait to let my author friends know about it and introduce them to Bridget. And now, authors thank me for making the introduction.”

“She’s such an inspiration not only to readers her age, but to all ages.”

Bridget plows through about five books a day at school and continues to read at home, but to keep up with the posting pace, she allows her kindergartener brother Cooper to occasionally guest review under the byline “Annoying Little Brother.” Her class at McIntyre Elementary School also contributes reviews, and one author’s daughter the same age as Bridget asked to be a guest reviewer.

“She’s been trying to build up other kid reviewers because it gives her a day off,” Smith said, “but it also exposes her to other books.”

This month she’s focusing on graphic novels, dubbing it Graphic Awesomonth. (Graphic novelist Mike Maihack is another favorite author.)

“I like that they’re like comics, and they’re like chapter books,” she said.

Next month, she’ll feature books with environmental themes in honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day.

While some kids have a “reading spot,” nowhere is off-reading limits for Bridget.

“(I read) wherever I want,” she said. “This whole house is my reading space.”

Her mother joked there’s only one problem with having a voracious reader in the family.

“We do have to tell her to stop reading,” she said, especially at bedtime. “The other thing we have to do is remind her to put books away, because she will leave books everywhere.”

Bridget devours fiction, and she loves mysteries. There aren’t many books she doesn’t like, but she admitted she’s not a huge fan of stories by one beloved author.

“I don’t like Dr. Seuss,” she said. “They’re a little too weird for me.”

She’ll leave those for the other kids to review.

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Twitter: @Steph_Steinberg