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.

Continue reading “Year(s) in Review and Goals”

40+ Diverse Middle Grade Fantasy Novels

Lately I’ve seen several of those “What to Read After Harry Potter” type booklists*, mostly aimed at parents of middle grade readers who zoomed through that intense seven book series and are now voracious readers who aren’t quite ready for the heavier content in YA fantasy novels yet.

However, scanning through list after list, I quickly noticed few of those lists had even a single book with a character of color, let alone diverse authors.  In some ways, that makes sense.  While we’ve seen some improvements in children’s literature lately, genre fiction can be slower to change, and the “classics” haven’t caught up to new tastes in reading.  But there ARE amazing diverse fantasy novels, many by #ownvoices authors, some that have been around for decades, and I was incredibly sad that those weren’t better known.

So this is one librarian mama’s list of diverse fantasy novels.**  I considered these to be appropriate for middle grade readers, so generally not too much romance or graphic violence, but please click on the title of any book to read my full review including length, reading level, and age appropriateness – a few do skew towards older or younger MG readers.

Continue reading “40+ Diverse Middle Grade Fantasy Novels”

Review: …Sing (CONCLUSION)

Final thoughts on the book All the Women in My Family Sing, an essay collection most suitable for current times.

All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World – Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom, edited by Deborah Santana.
Nothing But The Truth, San Francisco, CA, 2018.
Adult anthology, 365 pages.
Not leveled.
NOTES: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  Because this book contains 69 pieces, I decided to review it in three parts.

Well, we made it to part three of this review!  Many thanks to all those who read through all three sections.  I debated a lot on the wisdom of continuing my habit of reviewing separate contributions as well as the entire book, but each author put so much work into their piece, I felt it was appropriate to say at least a bit about each selection.

Continue reading “Review: …Sing (CONCLUSION)”

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.

Continue reading “Rant About #coverfail in Earthsea”

Middle-Grade Reads for Adults

Maybe you just want a short read for the weekend.  Maybe you’re looking for a read-aloud for your family, something to read alongside a child, or a book for your students that might hold your interest too.  Here are five fiction and five nonfiction middle grade books that can hold the interest of an older reader – whether a teen who needs a less challenging read, adult who wants to finish a book quickly, or a family wanting to read together.  Continue reading “Middle-Grade Reads for Adults”

Board Book Reviews: What Next?

Trying to decide the next course of action for my board book review series.

Way back in early 2017 (actually end of 2016 but the first post went up in 2017), I started reviewing diverse board books.  We had little kids again, and with my newfound passion for diverse literature, I wanted to build a collection that was diverse from the very beginning and do better by our youngest children.

My first priority was books with black children or African-American authors, but it was also important to me that our board books represented the world around us, so pretty soon I was collecting more books so that other groups were represented as well.  Our daily life does not, to my knowledge, include Native Americans, so I wanted to be sure to represent #ownvoices indigenous board books.  A few people have also given us diverse books (either from our wish list or just because they’re awesome).

I also wanted to include both fiction and nonfiction, and have been surprised and very pleased with the amount of diverse nonfiction I was able to find.

Continue reading “Board Book Reviews: What Next?”

My Evolving Thoughts

Dear readers,

Over the course of Colorful Book Reviews, I’ve reviewed almost 200 books, ranging from board books to academic works.  I’ve also learned a LOT from you, the diverse book blogging community, reviewers, authors, publishers, readers, parents, teachers, and children.

Sometimes what I learn is that I got it wrong.  Usually when that happens I go back to my review post and add in a note that it’s been edited and what my opinion is now and maybe why it’s changed.

Whether a different edition shows me something about the book to like (or dislike as the case may be) or another person points out a problematic aspect that I’d missed, it’s usually an easy fix to the blog’s content.  However in this case my views on an entire subject have changed.

At one point I did not like books which used strong language for elementary school children.  The more I’ve read and listened to people talk about this issue, the more my views have changed.  The tipping point was reading this interview with Mildred Taylor.

I still have not worked out how to handle some words in a diverse classroom setting, but that is no longer such a concern as my career is taking a different path these days.  At home, I’ve realized that softening the words and events of the past is part of the problem.

While we do soften or avoid some topics with young or particularly sensitive children, downplaying the Holocaust, lynchings, or apartheid stops us learning from those horrible events and working to prevent them.  This can be done on a developmentally appropriate level, although it does take a bit more effort and education as a parent and teacher.

I will continue to mention instances of slurs or especially swears as I notice them in books, so that parents or teachers can make their own informed choices.  However for historical fiction and nonfiction, that will no longer impact my overall opinion the same way.

Thanks for listening,

CBR

Web: Bright April and More

Found an article by librarian and author Vaunda Micheux Nelson, detailing how influential the book Bright April was for her.  She also talks about the process of weeding (where minority books might be lost if a circulation-based weeding policy is followed) and how important it is to keep reading and promoting backlist diverse books.  All important points that we agree with here at CBR!  Nikki Grimes has a similar point in this older post about celebrity authors who overlook the backlist of diverse books (and she gives a great list of authors).

Booktoss has An Open Letter to Well-Meaning White Women which ties nicely into this article by Tracey Baptiste about the need for intersectionality.

It’s an older article, but Wheelchair Users in Fiction: Examining the Single Narrative is sadly still very relevant.

Finally, via Reading in Winter, this article by one of the authors about the gender breakdown of Canada Reads winners.

What articles have you read lately?