Rhonda's Book Reviews

Intimacies: A Novel By Katie Kitamura Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: July 28, 2022

This intriguing novel immerses you in the reflective voice of an anchorless woman who moves to the Hague to interpret for the International Criminal Court and to search for a place to call home.  Blending the personal and the political, Intimacies ask provocative questions about the nature of language and its relationship to power, violence, and love. Mesmerizing and masterful. 

My Broken Language: A Memoir By Quiara Alegría Hudes Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: June 26, 2022

Quiara AlegrÍa Hudes, who wrote In the Heights, sings the body electric in this lyrical memoir. The child of a spiritual Puerto Rican mother and a Jewish atheist father, Hudes dives deep into issues of identity, class, culture, and language. The language! Striking. Alive. Gorgeous. it kept me turning the pages late into the night. 

Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie's Place, the Nation's First Shelter for Women By Christine McDonnell, Victoria Tentler-Krylov (Illustrator) Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: April 25, 2022

Who decides who gets the condo and who gets the cardboard box?” asks Kip Tiernan, the founder of the first shelter for women in the U.S. This inspiring story about a fierce and compassionate social activist who tenaciously fought City Hall to create a dignified sanctuary for homeless women and their children in Boston is a must-read biography for our times. 

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake By Tiya Miles Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: January 31, 2022

This is a treasure  – a nontraditional history of black women’s lives inspired by a cotton sack packed by Rose, an enslaved woman in 1850’s South Carolina, for her nine-year-old daughter, Ashley. The sack, filled with a tattered dress, 3 handfuls of pecans, and a braid of Rose’s hair, was handed down through three generations of Black women, an enduring testament of survival, resilience and love. How do you write the history of lives that have been erased from conventional historical archives? In this extraordinary book, Miles brilliantly shows us how to fill in gaps and “embrace the space between the stitches” to discover the remarkable story of generations of black women “who dared to insist on love.” 

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?: A Caldecott Honor Award Winner By Steve Jenkins, Steve Jenkins (Illustrator), Robin Page, Carlos Calvo (Translated by) Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: January 30, 2022

This interactive picture book will keep kids guessing about the amazing things animals do with their tails, feet, noses, mouths and other body parts. The combination of fascinating facts and Jenkin's spectacular collage illustrations make this book a standout that kids will reach for again and again.  Look for Creature Features, Actual Size and other great science picture books by Steve Jenkins, a master creator who sadly passed away this month. 

The Year We Learned to Fly By Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López (Illustrator) Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: December 26, 2021

This companion to Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez’s beautiful picture book, The Day You Begin, follows a sister and brother through each of the four seasons as they face different challenges and obstacles. Dazzling and detailed illustrations show the siblings as they follow their grandmother’s advice to leave their anger and boredom behind and take a trip outside of their minds. An uplifting book about nurturing our strength, resilience, and imagination—just right for the 2022 new year.  

Detransition, Baby: A Novel By Torrey Peters Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: December 26, 2021

This groundbreaking novel, written by a trans woman, explores the intersecting lives of two trans woman (one who decides to de-transition) and a cis-woman who consider what it would mean to parent a child together as a family.  It examines issues of gender, sexuality, relationships, and motherhood, posing complex questions that linger long after it draws to a close.  A bold, provocative and original work that delves deeply into the interior lives of its characters. 

The Night Watchman: Pulitzer Prize Winning Fiction By Louise Erdrich Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: November 28, 2021

The Night Watchman is a marvel of historical fiction, based on the life of Erdrich’s grandfather who successfully led the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in their fight against termination during the 1950s. I immediately felt the magical pull of a master storyteller whose beautiful writing and deep love of her characters animates every page.  I loved every moment of reading this extraordinary, humanity-affirming novel. - Rhonda 

Dream Street By Tricia Elam Walker, Ekua Holmes (Illustrator) Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: November 12, 2021

Gorgeous! This loving tribute to the Roxbury neighborhood where cousins Ekua Holmes and author Tricia Elam Walker grew up, went to school, and nurtured their dreams gives children everywhere the inspiring message: “Dreams do come true (with lots of hard work along the way)!” With its stunning illustrations and joyous celebration of community, DREAM STREET is a perfect gift for the holidays.

In December, Belmont Books and Roxbury’s Frugal Bookstore are partnering to virtually bring this creative team and their powerful message to Belmont- and Roxbury-area schools. Consider contributing to our READ IT FORWARD program to donate copies of DREAM STREET to Boston public school students. Click here to donate and to find out more information about the DREAM STREET event and READ IT FORWARD. 

 

The Wrong End of the Telescope By Rabih Alameddine Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: October 28, 2021

I was immediately engrossed in the fascinating mediation on the Syrian refugee crisis, told through the lens of Mina—a trans lesbian woman and an American doctor of Lebanese-Syrian origin--called to the island of Lesbos, Greece to provide medical support to refugee families.  I loved Mina and the other unique and complex characters, especially Mina’s big-hearted brother who travels from Lebanon to Lesbos to reunite with his sister; Mina’s compassionate and wise wife; and Sumaiya, a strong Syrian mother holding her family together while dying of cancer in the refugee camp. Passionately told in short chapters introduced with evocative titles, this is a mind-opening tapestry of a novel, beautifully told. 

Ground Zero By Alan Gratz Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: August 28, 2021

This gripping novel will help kids and adults understand many of the complex issues surrounding the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and what led to the tragic events we see unfolding every day in the news. Gratz alternates between two page-turning parallel stories. Nine-year old Brandon’s story takes place on September 11, 2001, and puts us in the middle of the attack on the World Trade Center as we follow Brandon’s and his father’s harrowing struggle to escape with their lives. 11-year-old Reshmina’s story takes place on September 11, 2019, and takes us to a remote village in Afghanistan where Reshmina and her family struggle to survive the devastating violence between the Taliban and the U.S. military that has torn her family apart. You won’t want to stop reading until you find out what happens to Brandon and Reshmina and their families. In the end, Reshmina’s determination to find a different path, rejecting both the Taliban and the U.S. government, offers a glimmer of hope. Suspenseful, heartbreaking, and important.  Grades 4 - 8  -- Rhonda 

Unbound: The Life and Art of Judith Scott By Joyce Scott, Brie Spangler, Melissa Sweet, Melissa Sweet (Illustrator) Cover Image
Reviewed by: Rhonda
Posted: August 28, 2021

 

This book is a treasure!  A biography of Judith Scott, a renowned fiber artist born deaf with Down Syndrome, is lovingly told by her twin sister Joyce. To Joyce’s great sorrow, Judith is institutionalized at age 7. Thirty-five years later, Joyce arranges for Judith to leave the institution and move in with Joyce's family in California. She enrolls Judith in creative arts school, where Judith's artistic talent unwinds and flourishes as she creates intricate wrapped sculptures out of found objects with secrets hidden inside. The sculptures, and Melissa Sweet's illustrations, are colorful, fascinating, and beautiful. A moving and inspiring story about the power of art and the power of sisterhood.  – Rhonda 

Pages