Children and Young Adult Summaries
One of the key elements of the Children’s and Young Adults’ Cataloging Program is a brief, non-critical, one-sentence annotation (commonly referred to as the summary) that describes the content of the work being cataloged without making any judgmental statements. A sentence of twenty-five to thirty words in length is preferred. Catalogers do not normally count words and retain the right of flexibility, using as many words necessary to describe the work adequately and accurately.
Special features of the work ("Includes related activities" or "Features movable flaps") are included in a note field and are not usually part of the summary.
Style is intended to conform to the guidelines set out by the University of Chicago's A Manual of Style (commonly referred to as the Chicago style manual). Present tense and active voice are favored. Because the intended audience for these summaries includes both children and the adults who work with them (parents, teachers, librarians), the summary does not need to match the reading level of the work in hand, but using language that suggests the flavor of the work is considered to be a benefit.
In cataloging fiction, the cataloger tries to mention the name and age of the main character, where appropriate, as well as the setting, time period, and key elements of plot or theme. "Eight-year-old Alice" is more effective than "a very young girl." Effort is usually made not to give away too much of the story, particularly the ending, although there are no ironclad rules regarding this.
An example is the summary assigned for the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic The Secret Garden: Ten-year-old orphan Mary Lennox comes to live in a lonely house on the Yorkshire moors and discovers an invalid cousin and the mysteries of a locked garden.
Example of a summary as placed in the summary box on the CIP application:
When sixteen-year old Gabriela's death is foretold by a letter, she must complete her 'wrap-up list' before she's forced to say goodbye
Guidelines for Annotations
Additional information on writing annotations is available in the book, Cataloging Correctly for Kids, available from the American Library Association external link.