Review: Mangoes, Mischief & More

“King Bheema was a kind and just ruler. Every day he held court at the palace. Rich or poor, tall or short, man or woman – anyone could walk in with a problem.” page 1

Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship: Stories from India by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy.
My edition Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA, 2019.
MG fiction, 180 pages.
Lexile:  600L  .
AR Level:  4.4 (worth 3.0) .
NOTE: this is a compilation of two books:
> A Dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom (2010)
> A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice (2016)

Prince Veera and his best friend Suku decide to hold court and resolve disputes when his father King Bheema is not available in this collection of eight interconnected short stories.

Mangoes Mischief and Tales of Friendship cover resized
Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship: Stories from India by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy.

I came across this charming book looking for our next family read-alouds after we finished the Anna Hibiscus series.  Since there are only two volumes, the American publisher has decided to combine them into one book.  It was considerably cheaper to purchase the collected hardcover volume than to buy the two paperbacks separately, although I’m not sure how much that has to do with import costs.

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Review: The Immortal Boy

“Hector took the curve, tilting his body to the same side, and twisted his wrist back, accelerating. The engine hummed, and they passed between the idling buses, making obscene gestures to the drivers waiting to be dispatched to their routes.” page 93

The Immortal Boy by Francisco Montana Ibanez, translated by David Bowles.
Levine Querido, New York, 2021.
Billingual fiction, 154 pages English, 154 pages Spanish.
Not yet leveled.

Two stories in Bogota, Colombia: five siblings try to stay together in their father’s absence, and a girl left in an orphanage follows a child called The Immortal Boy.

The Immortal Boy by Francisco Montana Ibanez, translated by David Bowles.

After rejecting the overwhelming stereotypes of Villoro’s The Wild Book, I was still searching for a Latine youth fantasy novel in translation. I respect David Bowles and had seen this mentioned without a clear age range, so hoped it would work for my diverse MG fantasy booklists.

Alas, it would be a stretch to consider this MG, although it may be suitable for individual readers. The Immortal Boy is disturbing and morbid… but still good? A difficult book to put down and also an emotionally challenging read. The story is one of nearly unrelenting misery, yet paradoxically beautifully written.

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Review: The Blind Side

“The holes in his mind were obvious enough. He was still working well below grade level. He would probably never read a book for pleasure.” page 211

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis.
W.W. Norton and Company, New York, orig. pub. 2006, my edition 2009.
Adult nonfiction, 340 pages.
Lexile: 980L .
AR Level: 7.2 (worth 19.0 points) .

The story of how the blind side revolutionized football, and a personal story giving one example of the new kind of recruit who is most highly sought after these days in American football.

The Blind Side (movie tie-in cover) by Michael Lewis.

Before getting into the review, I’ll tell you that I’ve read some of Michael Lewis’ other books – a relative is a fan.  This one deals with race and adoption, which is part of why I’ve chosen to review it here.  I was given a free copy of this book and decided to read it in part because of the sport enthusiasts I know who enjoyed it, but I myself am not much of a sports fan, which surely colors my opinion.

I think the major problem I had with this book was that Lewis starts out from a white perspective, and really never leaves that viewpoint, even when he’s purportedly trying to get into the minds of his POC characters.  The point where this was startlingly clear to me was the first paragraph of Chapter Three, where Big Tony is dramatically driving the boys out of poverty.

Lewis states “Memphis could make you wonder why anyone ever bothered to create laws segregating the races.  More than a million people making many millions of individual choices generated an outcome not so different from a law forbidding black people and white people from mingling.” (page 45).  The ignorance is startling – clearly Lewis has never heard of redlining and didn’t bother to do even basic research on Black history before writing a book where race has a major influence!

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2022 Goals

Most years I’ve had this blog I’ve made some sort of goals post. It is mostly an exercise in futility (as I rarely follow them throughout the year) but I still like to look back and see what my goals were and which, if any, I actually worked on during the year.

Often I post my year in review, but I’m not planning to do so this year, until perhaps 2023 when I’ll take a look at the past two years. This year I’ve also made more modest goals than usual as events in my personal life make it likely that I may be blogging less.

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Review: Dream Magic

“He nocked an arrow. Their armor looked good, but there were gaps he could aim at. Except he’d never shot at a man before. He wasn’t sure he could.” page 197

Dream Magic (Shadow Magic #2) by Joshua Khan, illustrated by Ben Hibon.
Disney Hyperion, New York, 2017, my edition 2018.
MG fantasy, 340 pages.
Lexile: 580L .
AR Level: 4.5 (worth 12.0 points) .
NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the previous book.
FURTHER NOTE: Pictures on this review are part of the pink posts.

Lily and Thorn are back in the gloomy sequel, with added trolls and spiders and sinister intent!

Dream Magic by Joshua Khan, illustrated by Ben Hibon

While we were teased a lot about Lily doing forbidden magic, it didn’t really have any consequences in the first book – she was easily able to pretend it wasn’t her and the focus was more on the murders and political intrigue. This time around, there’s still plenty of court politics (now with actual courting, since Lily’s assumed to be available again) and a few murders (which sort of have the edge taken off by Lily’s ability to revive the dead). But Lily is also properly studying magic, and Thorn is doing more regular squire work, and the social mores and consequences of their situations start to catch up with them.

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Review: She Came to Slay

“With no promise of a pension, Harriet and her friends began the planning of her memoir, a narrative that would be printed and sold with the hopes of finding a large readership that could generate significant income.” p. 116

She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, illustrated by Monica Ahanonu.
37Ink, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2019.
Nonfiction, 162 pages.
Not yet leveled.

A unique biography of the FULL life of Harriet Tubman.

She Came to Slay resized
She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.

I ordered this sight unseen because we had the ability to buy a certain amount of books and there wasn’t time to do a deep dive into each one before the gift card and sale expired.  So literally my only knowledge about this was 1) the cover and blurb, and 2) that Dunbar had written Never Caught, which I’d heard good things about but had yet to read.

Honestly I didn’t even know what age level it was for.  Never Caught is available in both adult and YRE versions.  I’m still not sure what age this was intended for, but it could work from middle school all the way up to adult readers.  Dunbar doesn’t avoid the difficult parts of Harriet Tubman’s life, but she doesn’t dwell on them either.  Remember that Minty was beaten, permanently injured, cheated on, and witnessed extreme systemic racism from Northern “allies”, among other things.  For younger or family use, I’d suggest pre-reading it first to see if it would fit your particular classroom or personal situation. Continue reading “Review: She Came to Slay”

Review: A Festival of Ghosts

“School buses disgorged students at the front entrance. Rosa and Jasper kept to the very back of the crowd, and the crowd moved to keep well clear of them. No one wanted to be knocked over by the inhospitable door.” page 173

A Festival of Ghosts (Ingot #2) by William Alexander, illustrated by Kelly Murphy.
Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2018, my paperback edition 2019.
MG fantasy, 264 pages plus excerpt.
Lexile: 610L .
AR Level: 4.5 (worth 6.0 points) .
NOTE: This book is a direct sequel to A Properly Unhaunted Place and this review will contain major spoilers for that novel.
FURTHER NOTE: Pictures on this review are part of the pink posts.

The continuing adventures of Rosa Diaz, from a family of librarians who specialize in ghost appeasement, and Jasper Chevalier, native to the unhaunted town of Ingot and the son of two Renaissance Faire leaders.

A Festival of Ghosts by William Alexander, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

We enjoyed the previous book, so I was happy to continue this story, although it wasn’t immediately obvious where this one would go. After all, I felt the previous book worked well as a stand alone novel. However there was one thread left unteased, and of course that was pulled in to this new story, along with a number of new problems.

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Blog Housekeeping: The Pink Posts

Got here from a review link?
Then the pictures are probably pink!

At one point during the Covid times, I took some pictures of books but something happened (don’t ask me what, understanding the photography for this blog is the outer limit of my abilities). My assumption is that I messed up the settings on my friend’s camera, or that something weird was up with the lighting. It made all the pictures look fine on the little camera screen, but really turn out very pinkish.

To show you these two William Alexander book covers is probably the simplest way to explain it:

While the cover of the first does have more blue tones and the cover of the second does have more pinkish/purplish color, you can clearly see from the background that something is different.

I have a lot of pinkish book photos for reviews that are completely written.

Some of the books I could probably re-photograph, some have since been used by my family and are no longer in nice condition, or have been passed along to others already. Some of the books I did re-photograph and there was a technical error (me) and none of those photos were even slightly useful. Also, while I have a passion for book reviewing and try to put out quality content, there’s a limit to how much time and energy I’ll spend doing the same thing over again (especially when it’s not reading a book but related to blogging).

So I decided to just write this post to explain, and then as relevant reviews or pictures go up I’ll just add a note directing people to this to explain why the pictures are so very pinkish. Yes, this is going to bother me, and maybe some of you too, but at least it will get my review queue moving again.

Thanks for understanding.

Review: Arrow Over the Door

“Samuel tried to remember what his father had told him about Indians. The Light of God was in them too. He struggled to keep that in his mind, but it did not ease his fear.” page 66

The Arrow Over the Door by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by James Watling.
Puffin, Penguin Random House, New York, 1998.
Historical fiction, 104 pages (including excerpts).
Lexile: 810L .
AR Level: 5.2 (worth 2.0 points) .

Set in 1777 and told in alternating views from the perspectives of Quaker boy Samuel Russell and Abenaki teen Stands Straight, this novel is based on real events during the American Revolution.

Arrow Over the Door by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by James Watling.

Joseph Bruchac, although not without error, is one of the handful of Native authors consistently writing historical fiction for children. (Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House series is another notable example; Eric Gansworth and Tim Tingle have also written more than one book each. At the time of this writing, any others I know of only have one.) Also, I have so far been able to find only one work of children’s historical fiction by another Native author set before 1800. I hope others exist and are published set in all time frames, especially given the promising new Heartdrum imprint.

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Here and Back Again (Mostly)

An update, the hiatus plan, and what was popular on CBR in 2021.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted regularly, and I’ll probably be switching to a more sporadic schedule for a while. I’m also thinking of taking a planned two months off yearly, to ensure that my blogging stays fresh and I don’t burn out. (Most likely this would be either June and July, or June and December.) As I’ve stated before, these reviews are a hobby and labor of love – my real life commitments will always come first. That said, I was a little shocked to leave this blog for over five months and come back to find it was still getting over a thousand views per month! I’m always curious about the top posts, especially when they aren’t the ones I’d expect.

My booklists and negative reviews are consistently among the most viewed (including my Diverse Disabled booklist which is sorely in need of updating – pointing to the real need for accurate lists and reviews of this category of books). People apparently love drama and I definitely want to make more booklists, it just takes a long time because I prefer to review every book on a list, or at least the first in each series, before I feel confident making a recommendation list.

But what interests me the most are the individual posts. My reviews of indigenous fiction have been getting far more hits this year than ever before – even though I haven’t updated the page for that challenge since 2017! I do use the tag regularly, so maybe that’s how people are finding my reviews? Also, now that I’ve gotten to know more homeschool families, and that community is growing since the pandemic, I wonder if that is a newer demographic finding me online.

But by FAR my top post this past year was the second book in the Scraps of Time series, Away West, which I reviewed way back in 2018. I have no idea why but am happy to see a book we loved on my top posts! Perhaps people liked that I suggested it as a family read aloud? Or were looking for historical fiction? Maybe someone will comment and let me know what drew them to that review – especially if you started reading Colorful Book Reviews in March of 2021, when that post suddenly had hundreds of views but no referral pingbacks…

Scraps of Time 1879 Away West by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Gordon C. James.

Anyway, seeing that Away West is still among my top back posts, it reminded me that perhaps some of the other books my family and I have been reading about African American life in the West might be worth reviewing here. Plus I probably should get around to photographing and posting my reviews of the final two books in the Scraps of Time series, which we read years ago.

If you came here in the last half year when I was not actively posting, what brought you? What book lists, reviews, or posts would you find most interesting?

I write this blog in large part for my own reference (hence why I keep doing Website Wednesdays despite nobody but me ever reading those posts), but of course I also hope that it is useful to other parents, teachers, and librarians as well.