Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup: March 1-5, 2021


Book Cover
Brenna Thummler
Oni Press
Softcover $14.99 (320pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Marjorie Glatt, the main character of the popular graphic novel Sheets, returns in Brenna Thummler’s Delicates.

Marjorie lives a strange and secret life, attending school like a typical teenager, but also befriending the ghosts who congregate at her family’s laundromat. In her attempts to keep those worlds separate, she begins to alienate her best ghost friend, Wendell.

Marjorie, who finds herself accepted among the popular kids at school, also keeps her distance from Eliza Duncan, an odd classmate who’s into photography—photographing ghosts, in particular. But soon Marjorie reevaluates what it means, and what it costs, to be considered “cool.”

The word “delicate” is used both as a reference to laundry and in Eliza’s description of the film-developing process, but it also corresponds to the fragility of Marjorie, Eliza, and other adolescents finding their place in the school hierarchy and in life. The writing is sensitive and nuanced throughout, as Marjorie grapples with her problems and the aftermath of her mother’s death. Convincing adult characters have their own struggles, and even the story’s primary bully is dimensional, as the book reveals her home life and the insecurities that drive her behavior.

The book’s full-color art is a treat, from detailed renderings of cameras and bicycles, to the marvelous, wordless, page-sized images that establish settings or moods. Wood grains on doors, reflections in puddles and on polished tile floors, Eliza’s different-colored socks, and telephone lines connected to old houses all contribute to the realism and the beauty of the book.

Delicates is a sophisticated, beautiful graphic novel that gets to the heart of being a teenager.

PETER DABBENE (February 22, 2021)

Phoenix Flame

Havenfall, Book Two

Book Cover
Sara Holland
Hardcover $18.99 (400pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

A teenage girl fights to save her family and an entire realm in Sara Holland’s young adult fantasy novel, Phoenix Flame.

Maddie always thought that the inhabitants of Solaria were an evil, dangerous race. Now that she knows the truth—that they are no better or worse than anyone else—she is determined to save them from the soul trade, a terrible practice that forces Solarians to transfer parts of their souls into objects. To do this, Maddie must risk everything—and everyone—she loves on an impossible journey between worlds.

The stakes could not be higher: not only must Maddie shut down the despicable soul trade, she has to confront shocking truths about her family, who are all involved in stopping the trade in their own ways. As if that wasn’t enough, Maddie’s love life has hardly begun and it is already a mess. She has fallen for a handsome soldier from another world, but their differing ideals may spell the end of their nascent romance. Meanwhile, a girl whom Maddie thought lost to her returns, bringing Maddie’s buried feelings for her back to the surface.

Part of a series, this entry can stand on its own and includes helpful summaries of places and events from the previous installment. From her magical home base in the Colorado Rockies, Maddie travels to the beautiful, snow-covered world of Fiordenkill, which is home to a wealthy soul trader. After a series of daring missions and surprise encounters, Maddie and her friends resort to a desperate gamble that will either reunite her broken family and bring her one step closer to ending the slave trade…or destroy worlds.

With action, adventure, and romance, Phoenix Flame is an epic young adult fantasy novel about the importance of doing what you know to be right.

EILEEN GONZALEZ (February 22, 2021)

Wife | Daughter | Self

A Memoir in Essays

Book Cover
Beth Kephart
William Sulit, illustrator
Forest Avenue Press
Softcover $16.00 (250pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Beth Kephart’s multifaceted memoir Wife | Daughter | Self is about the relationships that shaped who she is and how she sees herself.

In these exploratory essays, Kephart writes about her marriage, her husband, her aging father, her students, and her son. Each entry peels at the truth of who Kephart is, giving glimpses of different parts of her life, until larger pieces of the entirety she chooses to show are visible. Though they are not always chronological and at times are tangential, the entries explore and explain how family ties shape and define women.

The memoir first tackles Kephart’s identity as a wife; this is its shortest section, and also its most distant, though it includes portions of tenderness. In exploring Kephart’s role as daughter, the book is more compelling, tackling what family means, and what it was like for her to care for her aging father, with the increasing demands and complex emotions that such care brought. The section is poignant and present, the book’s most forthright and complete work. In exploring her self, Kephart again touches on her roles as a mother, a teacher, and a wife—still often addressing her being in relation to others.

The book evinces an eye for detail, though sometimes its prose is restrained. The book hits its stride when writing about Kephart’s father’s decline, about how their relationship evolved over time, and about the emotions involved in both. Glimpses of her childhood complement her present day well, adding depth and nuance to her story.

Wife | Daughter | Self is a resonant memoir in essays, in which Beth Kephart stops to wonder how others shaped her, and how the bonds of family make her who she is.

JAIME HERNDON (February 22, 2021)

Arthur and the Forgetful Elephant

Book Cover
Maria Girón
Flyaway Books
Hardcover $18.00 (48pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

A young boy befriends an elderly elephant in this tender tale that works to make the experience of memory loss accessible to children. Sparse language and illustrations make poignant use of void spaces, emphasizing Arthur’s small stature and the elephant’s girth. Starting with a muted palette of reds, grays, and greens, the story gains more color as the two new friends build a connection despite their differences, demonstrating that love and friendship are not things easily forgotten.

DANIELLE BALLANTYNE (February 22, 2021)

Thunder in the Soul

To Be Known by God

Book Cover
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Robert Erlewine, editor
Susannah Heschel, contributor
Plough Publishing House
Softcover $12.00 (152pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

The image of Abraham Joshua Heschel walking in pace with Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma is seared into the consciousness of every American Jew. Drawing on the Talmud, Jewish prophecy, and interreligious connections, he viewed God as vulnerable to the deeds of humans; as such, he also protested Vietnam, influenced Nostra aetate, formed a friendship with Reinhold Niebuhr, and became an inspiration to believers of all stripes.

Thunder in the Soul is a compendium of the radical rabbi’s teachings, compiled with his emphases on social justice, prophecy, prayer, and spirituality in mind. It draws from, among other works, The Sabbath, God in Search of Man, and The Prophets (a translation of his dissertation, written before he fled WWII Europe for the US). Its dual introductions help to center Heschel’s work in the concerns of today, including of racism, war, and poverty—ills credited with diminishing our humanity.

The book maintains the poetic cadences and relentless spirit of inquiry that dominated all of Heschel’s work, but distills his lovely and provocative arguments into snack-sized helpings for the seeker on the go. “The world … is crammed with marvel,” Heschel wrote; the same is true of this humble introduction to his work.


Barbara Hodge

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