Reviews of the Week with Alda P. Dobbs, Francine Prose, Pik-Shuen Fung, 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 June 1 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Chibi-Usagi: Attack of the Heebie-Chibis, written and illustrated by Stan Sakai and Julie Fujii Sakai. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Tuesday, June 1

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, by Alda P. Dobbs

Each day in the village of Esperanzas—in 1913, during the Mexican Revolution—12-year-old Petra chops wood to sell. After Mama passed away and Papa was taken, forced to become a soldier for the Federales in the revolution, Petra has worked hard to keep her family safe, as she promised she would. But when Federales descend on them, her siblings and their abuela barely escape with their lives, and Petra is forced to leave behind the home she has always known, clinging to the hope that one day Papa will find them. Journeying on foot, Petra and her family come across others who are fleeing to America for safety. Along the way, Petra endures incredible hardships but also forges new friendships, comes to terms with her grief and loss, and discovers her own strength and capability to make her dreams of learning to write come true. 

Wednesday, June 2

The Vixen, by Francine Prose

Newly graduated from Harvard as a folklore and mythology major, Simon returns to his Jewish family’s Coney Island apartment, where they watch coverage of the June 19, 1953, execution of convicted spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in horror. Simon’s migraine-assaulted mother knew Ethel when they were girls. With the intervention of his well-connected uncle, Simon is hired by a posh publishing house, where he is thrown into a moral quagmire when the intimidating publisher makes him editor of an atrocious potboiler loosely based on the Rosenberg case, The Vixen, the Patriot, and the Fanatic. How can Simon betray his family and his values by inflicting this travesty on the world? How can he risk his fledgling career? He certainly can’t resist the flamboyantly seductive young author.

Thursday, June 3

Ghost Forest, by Pik-Shuen Fung

Perhaps what is most noticeable upon opening Fung’s elegiac debut is all the white space. Paragraphs, phrases, words, even detached letters float across the pages, undoubtedly an ethereal reflection of lost chances, missing time, stolen opportunities, and spaces impossible to fill. For most of her life, the unnamed narrator has had an “astronaut family” after she, her mother, sister, and grandparents moved to Vancouver just before the British withdrew from Hong Kong in the 1997 handover while her father stayed in Hong Kong to work, flying in and out for annual visits. As an adult, she seldom sees him, their visits remembered for harsh judgments and slamming doors. And then he falls ill, and only then do the two parents and two daughters gather regularly in his hospital rooms, finally together as they could have, should have been. Little by little, love is finally released. 

Friday, June 4

The Ugly Cry, by Danielle Henderson

Just when it seemed seven-year-old Henderson, her older brother, and their mom had found a new level of stability, her mom met Luke, whose arrival marked the beginning of the end for their little family. He terrorized the kids, including molesting the author, while their mom worked long hours. After Luke’s horrifying abuse of his own son landed him in jail, Henderson and her brother were sent to their grandparents’ house. They’d previously spent plenty of time with their granddad and their smoking, cursing, horror-movie-watching, Nintendo-playing grandma, but this move would turn out to be permanent. Henderson—a TV writer, podcast host, and the genius inventor of the viral Feminist Ryan Gosling meme—recalls growing up in 1980s upstate New York, usually as the only Black kid navigating a sea of whiteness, with focus, crystal clarity, humor, and care.'

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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