Reviews of the Week with Cicely Tyson, Jon Klassen, Vendela Vida, and More!

The Review of the Day has always been a brief, early way to spotlight exceptional upcoming titles 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.

A new year brings new sought-after titles to this week’s #ReviewsOfTheDay. Snap these titles up now—they will certainly make an impact in 2021. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, January 4

Just As I Am, by Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson is a living treasure; at 96, she remains passionately outspoken about nationalaffairs, politics, and the entertainment world. Her enthusiasm, intelligence, and wit sparkle across the pages of this engaging and lively memoir. Born in 1924 to Caribbean immigrants, Tyson rose above an imprudent early marriage to become a hardworking single mother. Spotted in a crowd and encouraged to try modeling, she poured her trademark energy and work ethic into this new career, eventually becoming an actor. Along the way, she befriended a who’s who of Black talent: Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Maya Angelou, and, most notably, Miles Davis, with whom she had a tempestuous and ultimately tragic on-again, off-again marriage. With steely determination and confidence, she pioneered in notable television roles, defied beauty standards by wearing her natural hair, and fought for meaty parts she was deemed “too sexy” to play.

Tuesday, January 5

The Rock from the Sky, by Jon Klassen

Turtle has a favorite spot to stand in, but his friend Armadillo has a bad feeling about it and isn’t sure why. It may have something to do with the huge rock hurtling through the sky toward that exact spot. In this latest book from Caldecott medalist Klassen, the reader follows three hat-wearing creatures through five related stories as they narrowly escape death (but are really quite zen about it), navigate friendship and jealousy, and imagine the future together (which may or may not include aliens). A savant of deadpan storytelling, Klassen offers a long-form picture book that is high in suspense and humor. Using the wonderful technique of color-­coding the sparse and cheeky dialogue so readers know instinctively who is speaking, this book feels every bit as theatrical as the Hat trilogy.

Wednesday, January 6

We Run the Tides, by Vendela Vida

“I am a daring enigma,” states precocious, 13-year-old Eulabee as she gives us a tour of mid–1980s Sea Cliff, a tony San Francisco neighborhood with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, celebrities, houses with dark histories, fog, and a steep, rocky promontory separating two beaches that Eulabee and her best friend, Maria Fabiola, know how to scurry across between high tides. Eulabee’s family is not wealthy. Her city native father owns a gallery, her Swedish mother is a nurse, but Eulabee attends the nearby all-girls’ private school, biding her time with teachers lacking her level of mordant and mischievous intelligence. She relies on her friends, but tectonic forces shift when Maria suddenly turns alarmingly beautiful, and Eulabee, possessed of audacious integrity, refuses to go along with Maria’s increasingly dangerous fabrications. 

Thursday, January 7

Game Changer, by Neal Shusterman

At first, Ash attributes the buzzing in his head to a concussion sustained during a football game. Slowly, he notices more things askew, such as blue stop signs that everyone considers normal. After another rough tackle on the field, Ash discovers that he is hopping from dimension to dimension each time he gets hit. At first, he marvels at how different his life is in these alternate realities. But when he travels to a reality where the civil rights movement never happened, the significance of his power comes into focus. He must learn to harness it to both right wrongs in other worlds and return to his own before he messes things up. The conceit behind Shusterman’s latest is truly unique. While it exhibits the author’s usual storytelling aplomb, it also manages to delve into more serious and timely subject matter, such as racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Friday, January 8

The Witch’s Heart, by Genevieve Gornichec

“Long ago, when the gods were young and Asgard was new, there came a witch from the edge of the worlds.” Thus begins Gornichec’s debut, a feminist reimagining of the Norse myths surrounding Ragnarök. Angrboda, a sorceress with the gift of foresight, is incredibly old and hard to kill, but barely survives Odin’s wrath at her refusal to share any knowledge of the future. She is befriended by Loki who returns her speared heart, left behind on a smoking pyre during her getaway. She is further aided by the giantess Skadi, a hunter who makes a deal to trade Angrboda’s magical potions for the provisions she will need to survive alone in the wilderness during the long winters. The love that develops between Angrboda and trickster-god Loki results in the birth of three unusual children whom the gods will see only as beasts and a threat, yet Loki and Skadi accept them for what they are.

mruzicka@ala.org'

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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