Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or high-demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from February 1–5 below, so you can revisit the best of the week.
Monday February 1
The Black Calhouns, by Gail Lumet Buckley
Although it was illegal to teach a slave to read and write, Dr. Andrew Bonaparte Calhoun wanted a “sophisticated” butler, and so Moses Calhoun, Buckley’s great-great-grandfather, became literate and, upon emancipation, a highly successful Atlanta businessman. Lacing her assiduously researched and gracefully written family history into the very fabric of the Republic, Buckley captures the brief sense of possibility for African Americans after the Civil War and the vicious backlash that spawned the Ku Klux Klan (officially designated as a terrorist group in 1870) and Jim Crow (the model for Hitler’s race laws).
Tuesday February 2
Thunder Boy Jr, by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Thunder Boy, an adorable American Indian tyke in rolled-up yellow overalls, is named after his father, and he hates it! Not because it’s not a normal name or because he doesn’t like his father, though; he wants a name that better reflects who he is. On energetic pages in bold, brassy color, Thunder Boy tries to pick a more suitable name. He climbed a mountain once, so how about Touch the Clouds? He likes garage sales—Old Toys Are Awesome—and powwow dancing—Drums, Drums, and More Drums!
Wednesday February 3
Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Sittenfeld (Sisterland, 2013) transplants the beloved characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from nineteenth-century Regency England to contemporary Cincinnati, Ohio, in this fun, frothy modernization. The Bennet family has similarly fallen on hard times here, thanks to exorbitant medical bills, reckless spending, and the perpetual underemployment of four of the five Bennet daughters.
Thursday February 4
There is a Tribe of Kids, by Lane Smith
Clad in a leafy tunic and little stick horns, a boy embraces a blue mountain goat before it wanders up a nearby cliff. Left alone, he casts off his horns and wanders on until running into a penguin, who leads him to a penguin colony. This is the first of many groups that the boy joins in Smith’s tribute to collective nouns. A smack of jellyfish, a parade of elephants, an unkindness of ravens, a turn of turtles—all are lushly depicted in nearly wordless spreads in which the boy frolics with his animal comrades.
Friday February 5
Lazaretto, by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
Opening in Philadelphia on the eve of Lincoln’s assassination and ending over two decades later, McKinney-Whetstone’s (Trading Dreams at Midnight, 2008) vibrant historical novel traces the lives of several intertwined families as they navigate the early years of Reconstruction. A young, black servant arrives at the midwife’s too late for the abortion her white employer, the father of the child, had hoped for. She is told the baby died, but the midwife’s assistant secretly spirits the infant boy away to a nearby orphanage, where another boy soon arrives.