Reviews of the Week with Wendy Williams, Caren Stelson, Earl Johnson, and More!

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

Celebrating #FACTS (and apparently long subtitles) inspired both our latest issue (featuring a Spotlight on Series Nonfiction) and this week’s #ReviewsOfTheWeek. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, March 30

The Language of Butterflies: How Thieves, Hoarders, Scientists, and Other Obsessives Unlocked the Secrets of the World’s Favorite Insect, by Wendy Williams

This entertaining look at “the world’s favorite insect” tells about butterflies’ captivating beauty, and the ways these bugs have fascinated people throughout history.  Almost half of the book is devoted to enthusiasts from previous centuries, a group of dedicated and occasionally eccentric individuals (one questing collector wound up being eaten by cannibals). Accessible chapters explore past assumptions (e.g., butterflies are created through spontaneous generation, just magically appearing and fluttering around); relate how butterflies played an important role in helping prove Darwin’s theory of evolution; and explain butterfly physiology: how they eat, procreate, and, most importantly, how they achieve their brilliant color.



Tuesday, March 31

A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story, by Caren Stelson and illustrated by Akira Kusaka

This nonfiction picture book about a Japanese family’s resilience before and after the Nagasaki bombing maintains a sensitive touch without straying from its terrible truth. Sachiko’s family has always shared meals served out of her grandmother’s green bowl. As war disrupts their daily lives, they always take the time to sit at the table and say “Itadakimasu” (“We humbly receive this food”). One day, while Sachiko is playing outside, a nuclear bomb drops on her city. Every year on the anniversary of the bombing, she fills the green bowl with ice, watching it melt to remember her family’s experience, and decades later, she still shares her story with others, advocating for peace.


Wednesday, April 1

Finding Comfort during Hard Times: A Guide to Healing after Disease, Violence, and Other Community Trauma, by Earl Johnson

There have been both natural and man-made disasters throughout history, but fires, floods, and mass shootings seem to be daily events in the twenty-first century. On the scenes of catastrophes are men and women willing to hand out coffee and blankets, provide medical attention, put out fires, and listen to the survivors. Johnson, an openly gay hospital chaplain and one of the founders of the Spiritual Care function in the American Red Cross, has himself comforted survivors at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, counseled AIDS patients, and provided spiritual help to 9/11’s first responders. In this thoughtful book, he uses his experiences to lay out guidelines for offering solace and support to victims and caregivers alike the first day, first week, even the first year following a disaster.

Thursday, April 2

Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation, by Candy Cooper and Marc Aronson

People in Flint, Michigan first noticed their tap water turning brown in 2014. This coincided with their state-appointed city manager’s decision to save money by using water from the Flint River instead of more expensive water from Lake Huron. Thus began two years of worsening health issues: rashes, infections, and spikes in lead poisoning and Legionnaires’ Disease, all compounded by continuing denials from local authorities. It was early 2016 before state and national emergencies were declared and donations of bottled water began to flow into the city. This is a story with heroes, from a mom-turned-investigator to an EPA whistle-blower to a pediatrician who finally caught the attention of the national media.

Friday, April 3

On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African American Voting Rights, by Lawrence Goldstone

On the cusp of a pivotal U.S. presidential election, in which the African American vote will play a critical role, a close look at the checkered history of voting rights is welcome indeed. Constitutional-law historian Goldstone traces the Supreme Court’s shameful collusion with white racists to suppress black suffrage right from the start of Reconstruction. Although the Constitution originally gave states wide latitude in managing elections, resulting in laws that restricted suffrage by wealth, race, and gender, the Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868, was intended to affirm both universal citizenship and universal suffrage.

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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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