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

Why Laurence Yep Was Stressful

…and a (partial) list of his many works by genre and series.

These posts always tend to stem from a review that gets far too long and I just want to talk about something. In this case it’s my experience as a reader, educator, librarian, and finally just a reader again encountering Laurence Yep. In case you are new here (and how did you land on this post first, go read my reviews or booklists first, they’re better), I’ll mention that I do enjoy and often recommend his books, although they have sometimes caused me some hassle.

I have a long, often fraught relationship with the works of Mr. Yep. He has written a lot of books, and is probably best known for either his Golden Mountain historical fiction series or his fantasy novels. He worked with major publishers so his books could be found at the library. The major pre-internet problem we had, though, was that many of his historical fiction works have dragon in the title. And some of his magical books give no indication that they are magical. And he also has historical fantasy. And sometimes the books would randomly get retitled.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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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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”