Reviews of the Week with Areli Morales, Bethany C. Morrow, Katie Kitamura, 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 28 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, A Song Everlasting, by Ha Jin. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Monday, June 28

Areli Is a Dreamer, by Areli Morales and illustrated by Luisa Uribe

Areli loves the mountains and sun of her Mexico home, her abuela and her cousins, and school friends. The only part of her life that is missing is her parents, who are in New York and will soon send for her and her brother. When Areli’s turn arrives to make the journey to America, she is forced to leave all that she loves behind to travel to a new, faraway home, where she faces a difficult language barrier and the uncertainty of not being here legally. This beautifully illustrated picture book presents hardships that many undocumented children face when making the journey to America, in a way that will allow children to understand what others are going through or to find solace in the fact that they are not alone. 

Tuesday, June 29

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, by Quentin Tarantino

Oscar-winning director Tarantino explored Hollywood fairy tales circa 1969 in his most recent movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). He now deepens that inquiry in his first novel, which was inspired, in part, by his fondness for typical movie novelizations. While the book’s publication as a 1970s-style mass-market paperback emulates that subgenre, Tarantino goes far beyond its usual parameters in this vividly interiorized, ardently researched, and far-reaching portrayal of individuals spellbound and endangered by Hollywood’s dream factory. Most notable is Tarantino’s delving into the backstory and psyche of cocky and invincible stuntman Cliff Booth to reveal the source of Cliff’s cool and toughness via glimpses into his harrowing combat experiences in WWII.

Wednesday, June 30

A Chorus Rises, by Bethany C. Morrow

Morrow returns with a breathtaking follow-­up to A Song below Water (2020). After wrecking Tavia’s and Effie’s lives, Naema Bradshaw embarks on a journey to repair her image and tell her side of the story. Formerly, the teen influencer had it all: glitz, fame, beauty, and the magical gift of song that makes her an Eloko. But now that the world knows she’s the one who exposed Tavia’s siren powers, a lot of the people who were in her corner before are disparaging her. It leaves her feeling lost and isolated. However, nobody knows the entire truth, and Naema is determined to restore her image. In the midst of all this, new online fans start targeting Black girls to “help” Naema, forcing her to grapple with these new fans’ toxicity and keep them from harming others.  

Thursday, July 1

Intimacies, by Katie Kitamura

New to The Hague, an unnamed interpreter works in the International Court, her job “to ensure that there would be no escape route between languages.” Describing herself as “guarded,” she has one close friend and dates Adriaan, who’s in a protracted separation from his wife and children. The day before his departure, Adriaan informs the interpreter that he must visit his family in Lisbon and will be gone for a week, maybe more. As a week becomes a month and his communication with her wanes, she’s assigned the high-profile case of a former president accused of election tampering and ethnic cleansing. The defense team for the accused, inured by now to descriptions of his crimes, in addition to requiring her interpretation skills, exploits her emotions as a barometer for the court’s reaction to them. 

Friday, July 2

What Strange Paradise, by Omar El Akkad

Eight-year-old Amir Utu has recently moved to Egypt from war-torn Syria, after his family sold everything to gain passage. But when Amir’s uncle mysteriously boards a ramshackle boat in the dark of night, the boy follows. He’s bound for the Greek island of Kos, the only one in his boat who will survive the trip. And it’s hardly paradise once he lands. A retired colonel, bent on chasing down refugees, sets his sights on poor Amir. Fortunately, the boy finds an ally in teen Vänna Hermes. Through another kind soul on the island, the kids now have a new mission: keep Amir safe for two days until he can get on a ferry to the mainland.'

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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