Reviews of the Week, with Kwame Alexander, Diana Khoi Nguyen, Craig Childs, and More!

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 March 19–23 below.


Monday, March 19

 The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce, read by Steven Hartley

Frank sells records: classical, jazz, pop—anything as long as it’s on vinyl. But it’s 1988, and CDs are being heavily promoted, so his sales are falling. Frank is committed to vinyl, though, and prides himself in his ability to “read” his customers and give them exactly the piece of music they need, even if they can’t express what they want. When he meets—and falls for—Ilse Brauchmann, who faints outside his shop, he discovers that, curiously, she emits no vibes. Their attraction grows as Frank teaches her (and us avid listeners) how to appreciate music. Can they relinquish their emotional baggage and secrets to find love?



Tuesday, March 20

 Atlas of a Lost World, by Craig Childs

Childs takes readers on a scintillating dual journey through the geography of modern and Ice Age America in this survey of some of the lands reached by the first voyagers across the Bering Sea Ice Bridge. With fully half the book set in Alaska, Childs provides a fascinating mash-up of scientific history and present-day travelogue as he journeys across the state’s various regions, surveying the land; visiting with scientists and Native scholars; and seeking out the place where anthropology, archaeology, and cultural history meet. While exploring the American West and ultimately embarking on a trip in a north Florida swamp, Childs maintains a self-deprecating humor and a boundless enthusiasm for his subject that makes this narrative an unexpected page-turner.


Wednesday, March 21

 Rebound, by Kwame Alexander

It’s the end of the school year in 1988, and Charlie Bell is flattened by the death of his father. Charlie tries to hide in the pages of his comic book collection, much to his mother’s despair. Finally she ships him off to stay with his grandparents for the summer. At first it’s just a fresh form of misery, as Charlie’s acidic grandfather goads him into physical activity in the stifling heat. Then his cousin Roxie coaxes him onto the basketball court. It’s the combination of family, friends, and mad new skills that finally help Charlie begin to rebound from his father’s death.




Thursday, March 22

Ghost Of, by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Two years before taking his own life, Nguyen’s brother severed himself from a series of family photographs. In this commanding first collection, winner of the Omnidawn Open, Nguyen presents black-and-white reproductions of these images, forging silhouette- and shard-shaped poems—as well as gaping fissures—from every incision. Haunting, incisive, and exceptionally spare, Nguyen’s shape-shifting poems confront death, displacement, and the emptiness within and around us.



Friday, March 23

 Whale in a Fishbowl, by Troy Howell, illustrated by Richard Jones

Wednesday is a whale who has always lived an isolated life in a giant glass bowl in the center of a seaside town. To break the monotony of her loneliness, Wednesday leaps out of her fishbowl and spots something blue behind the city’s tall buildings. She is somehow drawn to the aquamarine color: “Her heart leaped, too, when she saw it, though she didn’t know why.” The more Wednesday leaps, the more she can get a glimpse of the beautiful blue. Sometimes, when Wednesday doesn’t have the heart to jump, she spends her time at the bottom of the bowl. That is where she is one day when she hears a young girl tell her, “You don’t belong in there. . . . You belong in the sea!”



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