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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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.

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.

An Ask

Hello readers,

I don’t normally put questions like this out there, but…

I’m looking for diverse novels with titles that start with N or U.

Especially diverse middle grade fantasy (alas, I’ve already reviewed Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer and UnLunDun). If the title starts with The, An, or A, that’s okay, but if other words come first, it won’t work for this project. (So The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez wouldn’t apply for N, although it’s still on my TBR).

But other genres or age levels are fine too! As long as the books are chapter book fiction that will fit the parameters of this blog (diverse in some way).

Thank you,

CBR

On Deafness, ASL, and Cattywampus

While I like to see Deaf characters in books, a few points in this book – especially the use of SimCom – felt awkward and forced.

Where do all my conversational essays come from? Reviews that have gotten far too long, of course. Yesterday my review of a novel called Cattywampus went up (or should have, I’m writing this well before posting).

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, learn to fingerspell your name or other words at http://www.scholastic.com/wonderstruck/signs.html

Overall I enjoyed the novel (see the review for more details) but the ASL aspect sometimes felt off in ways that were hard to describe. Talking about it took up way too much of the review, so here’s a separate post for those who wish to delve deeper into this aspect of the book. First I wish to give a major disclaimer that I personally am not Deaf nor Appalachian so it is very possible that I’ve gotten some aspects of this wrong. I do have deaf, Deaf, and hard of hearing friends and family, and am familiar with, although not fluent in, American Sign Language.

If you are yourself or know of reviewers who discuss this topic from either of those standpoints, or from the intersex view which I don’t get into here but discuss in the main review (as it is a more major part of the novel) please share those reviews! Since Disability in Kidlit is now ended, I have been hoping for Sharon Pajka to review this book on her blog, but haven’t seen a post about it yet.

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Announcement: New Tags

Yes, another housekeeping post.

At one point, I didn’t tag any of the books with Black content because that was the primary content of this blog, but it was recently brought to my attention that since the original scope of Colorful Book Reviews has greatly expanded, I should probably start using that tag.

After some reflection, I’ve decided to add the following tags:

Black
African American
white/presumed white
Afro-Latinx

It was also brought to my attention that I probably should be tagging books with biracial main characters also. After some conversations, what I’ve decided to do is tag each ethnicity as well as using biracial tags. I understand that the biracial people in my life are not necessarily representative of all biracial people everywhere, and that some might differ in opinion. For now I’ll be making two tags, biracial (white) and biracial (nonwhite). This is not to diminish the importance of literature about biracial people from two different nonwhite cultures, but simply to reflect the reality that far more children’s literature currently exists including biracial characters with partially white heritage.

While embarking on this tag clean up project, I’m also toying with the idea of region-specific tags for Africa, and will probably consolidate the Caribbean tags since I just don’t post enough about most countries there.

It will probably be May or June before I have time to actually start implementing these changes on past posts in the blog, since my main priority continues to be reading and writing reviews. But I wanted to mention it early to have a chance for feedback before all these changes.

Joining a Challenge

Intent to join post for #2021ReadNonFic and a few recommendations for others attempting the challenge.

Nothing like joining a tough reading challenge to make you examine habits. I saw this older post over at What’s Nonfiction about the 2021 Nonfiction Challenge and thought it was just the thing to pull me out of last year’s nonfiction reading slump. In fact, overconfidence was so high I thought “I’ve been blogging for five years now, why don’t I put together a list of some books I’d recommend?”

First mistake: I review books for all ages, so a lot of my nonfiction reviews are for children’s books.

Second mistake: I read a lot of books that don’t make it onto this blog, either because they aren’t diverse, or because I have to return them to the library.

Third mistake: Apparently the diverse adult nonfiction I do review mainly falls into three categories: biography, historical nonfiction, or parenting.

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Year(s) in Review and Goals

A few updates, some favorites from the last two years’ reviews, and very loose, mild goals for 2021.

So not only was 2020 a mess, I never really did a wrap up from 2019. I’ve gone ahead and updated my Review pages (2019, 2020) so let’s look at a few other things before getting into my favorites of the last two years and goals for 2021.

Middle Grade Mondays

For 2021 I am going to start a new occasional post, Middle Grade Monday. Towards the end of 2020, my Fiction Fridays were almost entirely diverse middle grade fantasy novels. I have a LOT more books in that category to read, review, or post about and am hoping to put out a second round up at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022. But I also read a lot of other books including adult novels, YA, picture books, historical fiction, realistic stories, and even middle grade science fiction, all of which I would love to discuss on Fiction Friday.

I don’t want the diverse middle grade fantasy to overwhelm the blog, so sometime in the next few months I’ll be switching to posting that on Mondays and hopefully doing other fiction reviews for Fiction Fridays.

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Blog Housekeeping

TL;DR – The advertising fake “sponsored post” content is NOT from me. Might have to figure out a new place to take CBR depending on how this goes.

Greetings dear readers.

I prefer to focus my time on producing content, so it distresses me to make another one of these this year. The good news is as of right now, I’m still creating content, with Fiction Fridays at least continuing for the next few months.

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH WORDPRESS?

The bad news is that WordPress is very suddenly testing a deceptive new feature called “sponsored content” in several places, including this blog. This is a practice of making a fake blog post which is actually an advertisement that is incorporated into one’s blog feed.

Readers are more likely to click on it for two reasons:
1) because it is formatted and styled just like a regular post
2) or because some bloggers do get paid to create and post specific content, which in some cases may still be of use or interest to their readers

DO I EVER CREATE SPONSORED POSTS? (NO! NEVER!)

For this blog, I do NOT do any sponsored posts. At times I accept free review copies of books that interest me, but always with the understanding that I may not write a favorable review. These posts where I get free review copies are ALWAYS labeled as such. I even mark books to indicate if I got them at the library, purchased them myself, or received them as a gift. At times I might refer to or collaborate with others and these posts are ALWAYS LABELED.

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Rant About #coverfail in Earthsea

A thousand words (and some pictures) about depictions of Earthsea and the importance of cover art that better reflects diverse fantasy novels.

I was planning to cover this topic as part of my forthcoming review of A Wizard of Earthsea, the first book in the Earthsea Cycle (formerly trilogy) but could not cut it down to any reasonable length, and the same topic applies to many other books, including the rest of that series.

Ruth Robbins Wizard of Earthsea first cover
The first cover of A Wizard of Earthsea was illustrated by Ruth Robbins.

The first Earthsea book was published in 1968 and in the intervening 50 years, they’ve come to be seen as something of a classic of fantasy literature, frequently compared to Tolkien or the Chronicles of Narnia.  They are not without failings (which I’ll try to address in my reviews), but the Earthsea books do have one major difference to many commonly known “classic” works of fantasy – the vast majority of LeGuin’s Earthsea characters are NOT white.

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