Reviews of the Week with Salvador Gómez-Colón, Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, Eva V. Gibson, 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 April 5 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Phase Six, by Jim Shepard. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Monday, April 5

Hurricane: My Story of Resilience, by Salvador Gómez-Colón

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, Salvador Gómez-Colón had just turned 15. That was old enough to help, he decided. This is his first-person account of weathering that devastating storm and helping those in his community and surrounding cities in its aftermath. In the days following Maria, Salvador quickly recognized that two things people were in desperate need of were light and clean clothes, seeing as much of the island was without power. Thus began the young teen’s first nonprofit endeavor: Light and Hope in Puerto Rico, a crowdfunded campaign to buy and distribute solar lamps with phone chargers and hand-powered washing machines. Compellingly written with an emphasis on compassion, this entry in the I, Witness series (2 titles) is a fantastic way of connecting teens with activism and current events in a very real way.

Tuesday, April 6

The Personal Librarian, by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Every element of this blockbuster historical novel is compelling and revelatory, beginning with the bedazzling protagonist based with awestruck care on Belle da Costa Greene. Hired in 1905 when she is her twenties, over the years Belle boldly oversees J. P. Morgan’s world-class collection of rare books and illuminated manuscripts, strategically acquires treasures with witty charm and ruthless bargaining, and becomes the feared financier’s most trusted confidante. She attains international renown while secretly navigating the severe risks involved in presenting herself as an olive-skinned white woman of Portuguese descent when she is, in fact, African American. To fully explore the reasons for and anguish of Belle’s precarious double life, Benedict, who is white and the author of best-selling biographical novels featuring remarkable, overlooked women, and best-selling and remarkably versatile fiction-writer Murray, who is Black, joined forces to create a novel of enthralling drama, humor, sensuality, and insight. 

Wednesday, April 7

My Life with Blindness, by Mari Schuh and illustrated by Isabel Muñoz

Meet Kadence, a girl with limited vision. She attends a school for the blind, where she learns practices that enable her to be independent. Written in first person from Kadence’s point of view, the clear, concise text indicates the variety of her activities, from baking to crossing the street to playing a team sport called goalball. Each double-page spread introduces a topic that helps readers understand the practical implications of blindness and some of the tools and techniques that enable people to function well despite limitations on their sight. Muñoz’s inviting artwork illustrates the writing and reflects its positive tone.

Thursday, April 8

The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles and read by Nicky Diss, Sarah Feathers, and Esther Wane

In 1979 Montana, pre-teen Lily is curious about her neighbor, the mysterious Odile Gustofson. All Lily knows is that Odile lived in Paris during WWII and that she still speaks with a captivating French accent. In an attempt to get to know her, Lily decides to interview Odile for a school project that leads to French lessons and a life-saving friendship. In chapters alternating between 1939 Paris and 1970s Montana, Odile’s past is revealed. As a young woman, Odile worked as a librarian at the American Library in Paris. Her love of books and libraries shines through the dialogue read by Sarah Feathers in a charming French accent. Reader Nicky Diss picks up Lily’s narrative, giving her a youthful American sound that contrasts with Feathers’ tones. She handles the older Odile’s French words with ease. Esther Wane fills in assorted characters’ chapters, sounding appropriately English, and the author reads the historical notes at the end of the recording.

Friday, April 9

Where Secrets Lie, by Eva V. Gibson

Amy has spent nearly every summer at her grandparents’ home in River Run, Kentucky. This summer, though, there is a rift among Amy and her closest friends—her cousin Ben and their mutual best friend, Teddy—due to the events of the previous summer. It looks as if it will be a long, cold summer, until all differences are thrown aside when Teddy’s 10-year-old sister, Nat, disappears. She is found drowned, and Ben refuses to believe that her death was an accident. He doggedly pursues his own investigation, dragging Amy and Teddy along. The more they piece together, the more secrets and lies they uncover about their families and the town itself, leading to a wrenching denouement. Amy’s first-person narrative weaves the events of the previous summer through the story, revealing the reason for the rift and adding to the emotional punch of the text. Gibson’s aptly titled novel evokes a sleepy small town with terrible buried secrets and a population in possession of a keen sense of social mores undergirded by a skillful deployment of sugar-coated venom.'

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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