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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 June 6 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Cursed, by Marissa Meyer. For more Reviews of the Week and other exciting lists, check out the always freely available Booklist Blog.
Monday, October 24
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, read by a full cast
The clever absurdism of Stoppard’s twentieth-century classic comes through loud and clear in this full-cast production. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are friends of Hamlet, minor characters in Shakespeare’s play, but the main characters here, puzzling out the events of Hamlet from their own vantage. Brief narrative explanations help set the stage and indicate action when dialogue is absent in the play, and well-placed sound effects (coins being tossed, water gently lapping on the hull of a boat) enhance particular scenes thanks to the foley artistry of Jeff Gardner. Production effects allow the listener to hear conversation in the distance, know when characters are approaching, and generally feel as if they are in a theater and not just listening to a straight reading of the play.
Tuesday, October 25
★ The Snail, written and illustrated by Emily Hughes
“No!” an old man yells into the phone when asked to represent America in an art exhibition. Readers learn that this sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, was American and Japanese, yet he was rejected by both countries. As a result, “Isamu felt like a snail and called himself one.” In this sophisticated picture-book biography, Hughes combines contrasts (yes/no, in/out, American/Japanese) in spare text and soft, repeating spirals. Together, they describe Isamu’s childhood, caught between cultures with an American mother and Japanese father; how the tragedies of both nations shaped his artistic vision; and the eventual creation of his akari, or paper lanterns. The last section of the book, “Out Again,” reinforces the snail metaphor and celebrates Isamu’s change of heart, as he ultimately says yes to the art exhibition where, at the age of 81, he shows his beautifully unique akari.
Wednesday, October 26
★ Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern, by Neil Baldwin
Just as she determined every element of her revolutionary modern-dance performances, Martha Graham hoped to control her life story by destroying letters and other materials, but seasoned biographer Baldwin, an emeritus professor of theater and dance, mined a trove of archival treasures to construct this enlightening, engrossing, and richly illustrated portrait. We meet Graham as a girl in Pittsburgh struck by her doctor-father’s pronouncement: “Movement never lies,” and as a teen in California enthralled by a performance by Ruth St. Denis. Vividly anchoring Graham and her singular achievements to the larger dance world, Baldwin profiles her numerous collaborators, beginning with composer Louis Horst, her most significant accompanist in art and life.
Thursday, October 27
★ Only the Best: The Exceptional Life and Fashion of Ann Lowe, by Kate Messner and Margaret E. Powell and illustrated by Erin Robinson
This picture-book biography features a determined Black woman who succeeded professionally despite widespread discrimination. When Ann Lowe was growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, her mother and grandmother made dresses in their tiny shop. Many Black women worked as seamstresses, but none designed couture clothing at the pinnacle of the fashion industry. Lowe reached those heights through a combination of forces: her powerful work ethic (learned from her mother), her appreciation for craftsmanship, her irresistible designs, and her will to succeed on her own terms. When her New York studio workroom flooded, ruining a bride’s and her bridesmaids’ dresses 10 days before a notable wedding, she and her staff worked around the clock to recreate the gowns. This near-disaster became a triumph when Lowe personally delivered the flawless dresses in time for the Bouvier-Kennedy wedding.
Friday, October 28
★ Draw Me After, by Peter Cole
It is rare for a poet to produce a book as memorable as The Invention of Influence (2014) and then bring forth another title that is just as distinct and remarkable. MacArthur fellow and renowned translator Cole’s sixth collection marks a breaking out or through to new lyric powers. Of the five sections, the only one named, “One Being Drawn,” is dedicated to the abstract painter Terry Winters and central to the book. Ekphrasis, the Greek word for rendering a work of art in words, is a kind of translation eminently suited to Winters’ work. Just as Winters’ drawings are battles to a draw between representation and the doodle, so do these poems realize their own integrity as they move between lyric and abstract statement.
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