Reviews of the Week with Shelly Anand, Zen Cho, Asha Bromfield, and More!

The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of March 22 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Kafka and the Doll, by Larissa Theule and read by Adam Alexi-Malle. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Monday, March 22

Fred Gets Dressed, by Peter Brown

Fred is a little white boy with brown hair, an electric glow to his hot-pink aura, and an undeniable joie de vivre. One way he expresses the latter is by cavorting in the nude. Smiling, he streaks across the living room as his parents read on the sofa. Brown’s no slouch when it comes to letting loose (Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, 2013), but this story takes an interesting turn—into Fred’s parents’ closet. Of his own volition, Fred wanders in and looks over his dad’s side of the closet (boring) and then his mom’s (much more exciting), ultimately trying on one outfit from each. When Fred’s happily wearing his mom’s pink blouse as a dress and exploring his makeup and jewelry options, his parents walk in. Brown draws out this tense moment with a wordless two-page spread, but their surprise gives way to smiles, with a truly delightful sequence of them all doing their hair and makeup together.

Tuesday, March 23

Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America, by Scott Borchert

Poet W. H. Auden characterized the Depression Era’s Federal Writers’ Project as “one of the noblest and most absurd undertakings ever attempted by a state.” Borchert’s comprehensive history of that project’s American Guides series amply bears out Auden’s assessment. Determined to give Americans a sense of the nation from one ocean to the other and encourage travel, these guides didn’t cater to tourists by passing out stars to hotels and restaurants along America’s growing highway system. But they did capture a sense of a nation coming to terms with ordinary citizens’ needs and aspirations. Designed in part to put authors and editors back to work after the economic crisis caused book printing to plummet, the Project gave great writers gainful employment. Borchert focuses on a few of the most notable writers. From the DC headquarters, Henry Alsberg struggled to keep far-flung creative souls from expressing their politics or offering little beyond local boosterism. 

Wednesday, March 24

Laxmi’s Mooch, by Shelly Anand and illustrated by Nabi H. Ali

Laxmi, an Indian American girl, kicks off this story of affirmation by introducing herself—“Hi!”—along with her mooch, the faint hair above her lip, which she invites readers to take a closer look at. Laxmi discovered her mooch at recess, when a blonde girl playfully suggested that Laxmi should be a cat because of her whiskers. This made her deeply self-conscious, noticing little hairs all over her body, and Ali captures the anxiety through the girl’s expressive eyes and posture as she hides her mooch, while a crowd of imagined word bubbles of people whispering “meow” presses in around her. Back home—where both the text and art color scenes with Indian culture—she shares her distress, but her mom and dad, both rocking mooches, assure her that she descends from a long, proud line of women with moochay. “Everyone has a mooch, really.” Next recess, Laxmi spots the faint hairs coloring her blonde friend’s upper lip—to her delight. 

Thursday, March 25

Spirits Abroad and Other Stories, by Zen Cho

This new collection brings together a large selection of Cho’s short story work, divided into three sections. The first, “Here,” presents stories set in Cho’s birthplace of Malaysia, such as the excellent “The House of Aunts,” a story about the common theme of a teenager dealing with her loving but intrusive family, except in this case the family is made up of entrails-eating vampires. The stories in the second section, “There,” are all set in the UK, Cho’s current home, and include stories such as “The Mystery of the Suet Swain,” where a young Malaysian woman tries to help her best friend escape the attentions of a new fellow “student” who didn’t seem to exist a few weeks ago. The final section, “Elsewhere,” collects stories set in completely imaginary worlds, as in “The Four Generations of Chang E,” which updates the traditional story of the goddess who lives in the moon to a generational story of mothers and daughters on an alien-inhabited moon.  

Friday, March 26

Hurricane Summer, by Asha Bromfield

The one thing 18-year-old Tilla knows to be true is that, when it comes to her father, she and her family will always come second to Jamaica. So when she and her younger sister learn they’re spending the summer with him on the island, Tilla knows not to expect much but hopelessly vies for his attention anyway. Of course, he inevitably disappoints her, but Jamaica is brimming with more than succulent pineapples and idyllic waterfalls—there are also boys with intense gazes. A hurricane looms just beyond the horizon, but it’s not the only storm Tilla will encounter. Bromfield may have made a name for herself for her role on Riverdale, but with this debut, about a volatile father-daughter relationship and the discovery of ugly truths hidden beneath even the most beautiful facades, she is establishing herself as a promising writer.'

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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