Reviews of the Week with Rajia Hassib, Brandy Colbert, Benjamin Moser, and More!

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

A step-by-step collection of projects for young makers; an Egyptologist’s investigation into a family tragedy and the guarded secrets it reveals; another fresh coming-of-age story from one of YA’s most talented authors; a deeply researched and respectfully insightful biography of literary icon Susan Sontag; the much-anticipated final installment in a beloved series. Inquisitive minds and strong voices thread through the Reviews of the Day, posted between June 10 and June 14, below.

Monday, June 10

Make This! Building, Thinking, and Tinkering Projects for the Amazing Maker in You, by Ella Schwartz

The book’s subtitle covers its content, and with 160 pages, that’s a lot. The book is divided into chapters covering simple machines, acoustics, optics, energy, systems, and forces, and it features projects such as a rolling-pin pulley, string phone, color kaleidoscope, and balloon car. Some of the projects are common enough in similar books that readers will already be familiar with them, but this casts a wider net, though some of the projects seem oddly simplistic. For instance, rescuing a dinosaur involves putting a plastic dino in water, freezing it, and after removing it from the cup, deciding “how you will rescue the dinosaur.” Executing the projects is explained clearly, step-by-step, and the informational color insets make absorbing extra information easy.

Tuesday, June 11

A Pure Heart, by Rajia Hassib

In the wake of her sister’s death, Rose, an Egyptologist at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, begins searching for answers. Gameela, who stayed in Cairo after Rose immigrated to the U.S., was killed in a suicide bomb blast. But the chain of events that led to that day can be traced back to an interview that Gameela set up for Rose’s husband, a journalist, with a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer. From her parents’ home, Rose spirits away some items that belonged to Gameela to try to understand her better, using her own archaeologist’s eye to attempt to find secrets from the very recent past.



Wednesday, June 12

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, by Brandy Colbert

Colbert (Finding Yvonne2018) delivers another poignant coming-of-age tale in her newest novel, which will resonate with teens struggling to balance their own desires with parental expectations. Birdie is successful at being “the perfect daughter,” making honor roll and staying out of trouble, until Booker blows into her life. She keeps their whirlwind romance a secret because she knows her strict parents would never accept her dating him. When Birdie’s aunt, who struggles with addiction, returns to town, Birdie’s life is further complicated. As Birdie grows closer to Booker and her aunt, she has to make decisions about the type of person she wants to be, who she wants to live for, and whose happiness is important. In the midst of this, a huge family secret is exposed that rocks the foundation of Birdie’s life.

Thursday, June 13

Sontag: Her Life and Work, by Benjamin Moser

In all the complex splendor of her brilliance and controversial intrepidness, Sontag has inspired numerous profiles and explications. Moser, whose superb Why This World (2009) cast new light on writer Clarice Lispector, draws on all of it in this watershed biography of “America’s last great literary star,” and breaks new ground by virtue of his access to private archives, sagacious close-readings of Sontag’s radical writings, and conducting of hundreds of interviews. Moser discerns fresh significance in Sontag’s venturesome life and troubled psyche, from her precocious ardor for books and her youth in Hollywood to her sadomasochistic relationship with her alcoholic mother, her disassociation from her body, her lifelong reluctance to fully acknowledge her lesbianism, and her deep insecurity behind the glamorous façade of her renown.

Friday, June 14

Beverly, Right Here, by Kate DiCamillo

DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale (2016) and Louisiana’s Way Home (2018) told the stories of two of three good friends. Now it’s Beverly Tapinski’s turn. Beverly, 14, runs away from home; her beloved dog is dead, and her mother doesn’t mind much that she’s gone. She hitches a ride that drops her at a seaside restaurant, where she gets a job busing tables and finds a home with an elderly woman who needs someone to drive her to bingo games. (DiCamillo has a penchant for heroines who can drive big cars at young ages.) When Beverly sees seemingly random words written on a telephone booth—“in a crooked little house by the crooked little sea”—this chance discovery comes to describe her new home.

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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