Judge’s review of ‘Sarah & Katy and the Imagination Blankets’

Back in February, I entered “Sarah & Katy and the Imagination Blankets” in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

I found out in mid-October that my book was not among the winning entries. It would be a lie to say I wasn’t disappointed, but I also know the self-publishing industry is filled with a lot of talent and stiff competition, so I took heart in that.

This week, I received commentary from the judge who reviewed my book. The entry fee was well worth the positive reinforcement and marketing suggestions offered by the judge. The comments are included below:


Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

  • Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
  • Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
  • Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
  • Plot and Story Appeal: 4
  • Character Appeal and Development: 5
  • Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary:
Sarah and Katy and the Imagination Blankets is a delightful story that shows off Julie Stroebel Barichello’s writing chops. Young readers and their parents will be whisked away on an enjoyable journey with the characters in this book.

The story starts with action and dialogue that will instantly grab readers’ attention. The chapters are the perfect length to keep the pacing quick without losing some of the details. The plot follows a logical pattern but still provides the unexpected. Barichello uses a nice balance of dialogue and narrative to keep a smooth flow.

The quirky and fun front cover will draw attention of prospective readers. The back cover copy is intriguing and will surely compel people to open the book to check out the writing.

Barichello has excellent command of language, and she uses it to draw graphic word pictures. For example, when she describes how Sarah and Katy held the shovels at the beginning of chapter 9, readers will instantly have the image in their minds. This type of description is used skillfully throughout the book.

Marketing this book should be fun. Speaking at libraries and bookstores will draw quite a few people in, but I also think it would be great to add an interactive element to your website. Have fans describe how they’d use imagination blankets and encourage them to bring their friends on the journey with them. This would help grow your fan base in an entertaining way that won’t seem forced.

— Judge, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

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