Reviews of the Week with Kristen Meinzer, Ruta Sepetys, Oge Mora, 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 culturally rich coming-of-age story in which a teen reconnects with her Haitian homeland; a lively how-to on starting your own podcast; a dramatic historical fiction from a YA bestseller; the chronicle of a Filipino family and their global migration to provide for loved ones left behind; the beautiful depiction of a Saturday spent with a close relative. Unforgettable characters and reporters find their voices through history, technology, and familial bonds in this week’s Reviews of the Day, posted between July 29 and August 2, below.

Monday, July 29

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Sisters Maika and Maritza Moulite deliver a phenomenal coming-of-age story with this stunning novel. The reader is treated to a contemporary story lightly threaded with superstition that refreshingly veers away from the traditional white, Western gaze and places a Haitian American, her immigrant family, and the land of her heritage at the fore. Alaine Beauparlant is a high-school journalist who gets suspended from her private school after a prank goes wrong. She travels to Haiti, a world away from her ritzy private school, to spend her suspension at her family’s estate, where her aunt and distant mother await her. Alaine’s punishment is to work for her aunt’s charity that provides help to Haitian children in need. During her time in Haiti, Alaine’s life is transformed as she unearths family histories and secrets that allow her to get to know the ailing mother, who has been absent from a large part of her life.

Tuesday, July 30

So You Want to Start a Podcast: Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Story, and Building a Community That Will Listen, by Kristen Meinzer

Everyone thinks the hard part about starting a podcast is the technology—microphones, editing software, etc.—but, according to Meinzer, none of that matters if the foundation for your podcast isn’t sound (ha). Fortunately, this guide breaks down the steps necessary for anyone with a story to share to do so in podcast form, based on her years of experience as a podcast host and producer (she is currently the co-host of By the Book). To oversimplify: start with defining both the “what” and “why” of the show, nail down a structure, then pick a host (or two), invite great guests, and grow your audience. Each big step is broken down into smaller pieces, made to seem manageable by Meinzer’s jaunty, affirming writing style.

Wednesday, July 31

The Fountains of Silence, by Ruta Sepetys

It’s 1957 and aspiring photographer Daniel Matheson is visiting Spain with his Texas oil tycoon father. Daniel is eager for the opportunity to flesh out his portfolio for a photography contest—what would be more prize-­worthy than photos of daily life in notoriously secretive Spain?—but he gets repeated warnings, some quite aggressive, against looking too closely. Another thing Daniel doesn’t bank on is Ana, an arrestingly beautiful maid at the Castellana Hilton, where he’s staying with his parents. As their affection deepens, so, too, do their differences: Ana, daughter of executed anti-Fascists, lives a tightly constrained existence, and Daniel has unprecedented freedom in her country and can’t quite wrap his head around the danger he puts her in. In another meticulously researched novel, Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2015) offers a captivating glimpse into Franco’s Spain, a region awash in secrets and misinformation. As Sepetys slowly unspools hard truths about the era, such as the prevalence of babies stolen from poor, Republican families, the facts become increasingly impossible to ignore, both for the reader and for Daniel.

Thursday, August 1

A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century, by Jason DeParle

In 1987, journalist DeParle (American Dream, 2004) moved in with Tita Comodas’ family in a slum in Manila while reporting on poverty. The author and his host quickly became friends, and over the following three decades, he observed the family as they exemplified the flow of global migration in the late twentieth century. All of Tita’s five children worked abroad in the Middle East and the U.S., sending remittances home to the Philippines that allowed the family to move into the middle class. DeParle follows Rosalie in particular, whose drive to work as a nurse in the U.S. takes her through Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and finally to Galveston, Texas. Setting the family’s story within the political and social context of twentieth- and twenty-first-century immigration, the author explores the Philippine government’s commitment to Overseas Filipino Workers, hailed as heroes for the nation’s economy.

Friday, August 2

Saturday, written and illustrated by Oge Mora

Saturdays are special. Ava’s mother works every other day, but on her only day off, mom and daughter do all sorts of fun things—go to story hour, get their hair done, lounge in the park—and this Saturday is extra special because they have tickets for a one-night-only puppet show. But this Saturday gets off to a bad start and rolls downhill: the story hour is cancelled; their freshly done hair gets drenched by a puddle as a car speeds by; and worst of all, they arrive at the puppet show without their tickets. Ava’s mom is heartbroken, but the little girl tells her not to worry: all Saturdays, even this one, are special “because I spend them with you.” The simple yet heartfelt story tugs at the emotions, but it’s the paper collage artwork that really packs a punch.

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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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