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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 October 25 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, The Loft Generation, Edited by Edith Schloss & Mary Venturini. For more Reviews of the Week and other exciting lists check out the always freely available Booklist Blog.
Monday, October 25
★ Borders, by Thomas King, illustrated by Natasha Donovan
Adapted from King’s 1993 short story from the collection One Good Story, That One, this pithy graphic novel showcases the preposterousness of border bureaucracy. The unnamed narrator recounts the story of traveling from Canada to Salt Lake City to visit his sister, who left their home on the reserve against their mother’s wishes. When they arrive at the border and the guard asks for their citizenship, the narrator’s stoic mother says “Blackfoot.” The guard won’t let them cross without knowing whether they’re American or Canadian, so he sends them back to the Canada side, and those guards won’t let them back in based on the same question. For days, the narrator and his mother are stuck in the limbo area of the border, spending their days in the guard offices and their nights watching the stars from the hood of their car, and all the while, his mother will only say she’s Blackfoot.
Tuesday, October 26
Renegades: Born in the USA, by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen
Renegades is based on the Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama podcast, Higher Ground, a dialogue between two very famous but very different men. They did not so much interview each other as engage in conversation: conversations between friends who became closer over the years despite their respective fame and busy schedules. Now it has been transformed into a coffee table book featuring more than 350 photographs that range from intimate personal family portraits to all sorts of pop culture visual references. The two men met on the campaign trail in 2008. Soon, they started a friendship, and that relationship has continued over the years, rooted in long and honest conversations about music, race, money, love, family, masculinity, what it means to be an American, and other complex topics. They talk also about their similarities and their differences (such as growing up in Honolulu versus small-town New Jersey). Both consider themselves outsiders in their own way. Even readers who think they know everything there is to know about them might be surprised.
Wednesday, October 27
★ Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South, by Wade Hudson
In 1988, author Wade Hudson founded a publishing company with his wife, Cheryl Hudson, to provide the books for Black children and young adults that he wished he’d had as a young Black boy growing up in Mansfield, Louisiana. This admirable memoir is a welcome addition to those works. Hudson begins by recounting how, shortly after finishing university, he finds himself in solitary confinement in a Baton Rouge jail, accused of conspiracy to murder the mayor and other officials; he was falsely targeted because of his civil rights activism and leadership of an organization that helped Black kids. He then flashes back to his 1950s and ’60s childhood, playing football and baseball and idolizing icons like Jackie Robinson. He loved writing poetry and short stories but never imagined becoming a writer because he thought that was only for white people. He recalls how civil rights activists of the time inspired his own activism, and his explanation of his desperate plan to avoid the Vietnam War draft is especially riveting.
Thursday, October 28
★ Oksi, written and illustrated by Mari Ahokoivu, translated by Silja-Maaria Aronpuro
Poorling doesn’t fit in with her bear mother and brothers. Instead of paws and a snout, she walks upright, and two giant eyes float in her pitch-black, flame-shaped head. Soon after Poorling learns to conjure fire, her story takes a sharp turn into tragedy. Mother, horrified by Poorling’s abilities, abandons Poorling to protect her other cubs and later has her fears validated in the worst way possible. Writer-artist Ahokoivu impressively utilizes negative space in this tale from Finnish mythology, emphasizing Poorling’s solitude and Mother’s desolation through black backgrounds and white, tree-shaped gaps between panels. Ahokoivu sprinkles in watercolors sparingly, such as when she contrasts the neon of an aurora borealis against an inky night sky, and the result is both fanciful and ominous, beautiful and unnerving—an effect she continues throughout. Another mother figure, for example, is reminiscent of No-Face from Spirited Away, and her translucent shadow “children” don similar, eerie masks. Ahokoivu depicts magic as black and yellow swirls that resemble ancient, blocky textiles.
Friday, October 29
★ A Snake Falls to Earth, by Darcie Little Badger
Before nine-year-old Nina’s great-great grandmother Rosita passes, she dictates a mysterious story in Lipan (partly lost in translation) about a fish girl in a well, which Nina is unable to forget as she grows into her teens. Meanwhile, in the Reflecting World (the land of spirits and monsters), Oli—a cottonmouth snake boy—is venturing out into the world alone for the first time, making enemies with other animal people but also friends in what seems like equal measure. What Nina and Oli don’t know is that their lives are about to converge when Oli learns his toad friend, Ami, is dying. His species is on the verge of extinction on Earth (which is inextricably linked to their world) due to, no surprise, environmental destruction caused by humans. While on Earth, Oli and his friends help Nina as her world becomes more precarious, answering the questions she has for so long wondered about.
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