New Release Spotlight: January 8, 2019

I’m seeing stars this week! After a two-week hiatus from my weekly Spotlights, it’s finally January! I have my work cut out for me on the New Release Spotlights this month. January is always a big month for new book releases, and you won’t believe the number of starred reviews on this week’s list. There are new titles from Malala Yousefzai, Kiersten White, Ibi Zoboi, Carole Boston Weatherford, Patricia McKissack, Jonah Winter…and let’s not forget a little sequel from the author whose writing I’ve called “buttercream frosting”…Holly Black. In total, there are FIVE TITLES (!!!) this week that received three (or more) starred reviews, and nearly all of them received one or two starred reviews. I feel like I’m in a Lucky Charms commercials with all those purple stars I’m seeing!

Back in December, I tried doing a New Release Spotlight giveaway each week. I loved doing that! The New Release giveaways have been super-easy to arrange, so I plan to continue them in January. I can’t promise to do them forever, but for now, I’m going to keep them going each week. I really enjoy seeing what everyone selects as their book, and I always love giving back to my readers. If it weren’t for you guys, I’d be talking to an empty room right now. Not that that’s so unusual for me, but still.

The giveaway is at the bottom of this post–don’t forget to enter by Sunday night (CST)!

*cracks knuckles* On to the spotlight!

NOTE: Titles start with YA and go down in age to picture books at the end. Sequels are usually at the bottom, but I didn’t find any sequels for this week other than The Wicked King, which is so big that I’ve given it a spot on the regular spotlight. Titles highlighted in purple are those that received two or more starred professional reviews.

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The Wicked King (Holly Black)

The Folk of the Air, book 2. I have been on pins-and-needles waiting for The Wicked King! This is the sequel to The Cruel Prince, a story about two human sisters raised by the faerie king.

I am not going to put any kind of summary here because if you haven’t read The Cruel Prince the summary will give away spoilers. And trust me, The Cruel Prince is not to be missed or spoiled. Don’t believe me? Just check out the reviews: Booklist, SLJ, VOYA, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus all starred this title. That’s a whopping FIVE starred reviews!

PAGES: 336
GENRES: fantasy
THEMES: faeries
READALIKES: The Iron King (Kagawa), The Darkest Part of the Forest (Black)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Oct 2018)

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Slayer (Kiersten White)

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. At Watcher’s Academy, the sisters are being trained as guides for Slayers–girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. She prefers to follow her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic. Until the day Nina’s life changes forever. Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One–she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

PAGES: 416
GENRES: Fantasy, supernatural, thriller
READALIKES: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein (White)
STARS AND AWARDS: Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Resplendent with quirky, endearing characters and imagination-sparking details, this novel feeds the soul of Buffy devotees, keeping the Buffy spirit alive.” (Publishers Weekly starred review, 12 Nov 2018)

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Black Enough: Stories of Being Black and Young In America
(Ibi Zoboi, ed.)

Edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi, and featuring some of the most acclaimed bestselling Black authors writing for teens today–Black Enough is an essential collection of captivating stories about what it’s like to be young and Black in America.

Seventeen contributors include: Renee Watson, Varian Johnson, Justina Ireland, Rita Williams-Garcia, Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, Coe Booth, Tracey Baptiste, Ibi Zoboi, Brandy Colbert, Kekla Magoon, and many more.

PAGES: 407
GENRES: realistic fiction, short stories anthology
THEMES: overcoming adversity, feminism, police brutality, friendship, grief, sexuality, sexual assault
READALIKES: Well-Read Black Girl (adult book, Idim), On the Come Up (Thomas)
STARS AND AWARDS: FOUR STARRED REVIEWS (Booklist, SLJ, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: ” No collection could represent the entire spectrum of blackness, however, the presence of trans, Afro-Latinx, and physically disabled characters is missed: a clarion call for more authentic black-centric collections. A breath of fresh air and a sigh of long overdue relief. Nuanced and necessary.” (Kirkus, 1 Nov 2018)

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We Are Displaced (Malala Yousefzai)

Malala’s experiences visiting refugee camps caused her to reconsider her own displacement – first as an Internally Displaced Person when she was a young child in Pakistan, and then as an international activist who could travel anywhere in the world except to the home she loved. In this book, Malala explores her own story, as well as the personal stories of some of the incredible girls she has met on her journeys. These are girls who have lost their community, relatives, and often the only world they’ve ever known.

PAGES: 224
GENRES: memoir, narrative nonfiction
THEMES: war, refugees, displacement, human rights
READALIKES: I Am Malala (Yousefzai), Illegal (Colfer), Refugee (Gratz)
STARS AND AWARDS: Publishers Weekly Annex and Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The contributors’ strength, resilience, and hope in the face of trauma is astounding, and their stories’ underlying message about the heartbreaking loss of their former lives and homelands (and the resulting tangle of emotions that comes with leaving behind everything you know) is profoundly moving. ” (Publishers Weekly Annex, 24 Dec 2018)

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The Girl King (Mimi Yu)

Debut author! Sisters Lu and Min have always known their places as the princesses of the Empire of the First Flame: assertive Lu will be named her father’s heir and become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while timid Min will lead a quiet life in Lu’s shadow. Until their father names their male cousin Set his heir instead, sending ripples through the realm and throwing both girls’ lives into utter chaos.

PAGES: 491
GENRES: Fantasy
THEMES: sisters, Asian characters, strong female characters
READALIKES: Three Dark Crowns (Blake); Girls of Paper and Fire (Ngan)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Yu crafts a rich tale filled with detailed world-building that draws readers in. This mainly female-led ambitious adventure will appeal to fans of Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Oct 2018)

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Two Can Keep a Secret (Karen McManus)

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone has declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

PAGES: 331
GENRES: Thriller, mystery
THEMES: murder, missing girls, family secrets
READALIKES: One of Us Is Lying (McManus), The Cheerleaders (Thomas)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Masterfully paced with well-earned thrills and spooky atmosphere worth sinking into. ” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Oct 2018)

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White Stag (Kara Barbieri)

Debut author! Permafrost, book 1. As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke–as the only survivor–was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren. Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost.

PAGES: 368
GENRES: fantasy, survival
READALIKES: The Cruel Prince (Black)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Janneke’s epic journey to overcome past horrors and seize her rightful place in the world is packed with equally gripping action and emotion. Readers will flock to this compelling debut.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Nov 2018)

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The Field Guide to the North American Teenager (Ben Philippe)

Debut author! Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas. Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

PAGES: 373
GENRES: humor, realistic fiction
THEMES: school, relationships
READALIKES: When Dimple Met Rishi (Menon), Dumplin’ (Murphy)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Readers looking for a diverse, fun, coming-of-age tale need not look any further than this fantastic debut.” (Booklist, 15 Nov 2018)

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Inventing Victoria (Tonya Bolden)

As a young black woman in 1880s Savannah, Essie’s dreams are very much at odds with her reality. Ashamed of her beginnings, but unwilling to accept the path currently available to her, Essie is trapped between the life she has and the life she wants.

Until she meets a lady named Dorcas Vashon, the richest and most cultured black woman she’s ever encountered. When Dorcas makes Essie an offer she can’t refuse, she becomes Victoria. Transformed by a fine wardrobe, a classic education, and the rules of etiquette, Victoria is soon welcomed in the upper echelons of black society in Washington, D. C.

PAGES: 272
GENRES: historical fiction
THEMES: US Civil War Reconstruction, social class
READALIKES: The Belles (Clayton), Crossing Ebenezer Creek (Bolden), Dread Nation (Ireland)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus and SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The depiction of Washington, D.C.’s African-American elite is rich and complex, never shying away from negatives such as colorism and social climbing. A compelling and significant novel.” (Booklist, 15 Oct 2018)

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The Unsung Hero of Birdsong USA (Brenda Woods)

On Gabriel’s twelfth birthday, he gets a new bike–and is so excited that he accidentally rides it right into the path of a car. Fortunately, a Black man named Meriwether pushes him out of the way just in time, and fixes his damaged bike. As a thank you, Gabriel gets him a job at his dad’s auto shop. Gabriel’s dad hires him with some hesitation, however, anticipating trouble with the other mechanic, who makes no secret of his racist opinions.

PAGES: 208
GENRES: Historical fiction
THEMES: racism, civil rights, friendship
READALIKES: Zoe in Wonderland (Woods), To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Even readers who have been taught about segregation in the South are likely to deepen their knowledge of the nuanced history through the novel’s handling of how white and African-American veterans were treated differently after WWII.” (Publishers Weekly Annex, 10 Dec 2018)

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Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away (Young Readers Edition) (Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Kathleen Van Cleve)

Born into a life of slavery, Ona Judge eventually grew up to be George and Martha Washington’s “favored” dower slave. When she was told that she was going to be given as a wedding gift to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Ona made the bold and brave decision to flee to the north, where she would be a fugitive. From her childhood, to her time with the Washingtons and living in the slave quarters, to her escape to New Hampshire, this biography shares an intimate glimpse into the life of a little-known, but powerful figure in history, and her brave journey as she fled the most powerful couple in the country.

PAGES: 273
GENRES: biography
THEMES: slavery, US history, US presidents
READALIKES: Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus, SLJ, and BCCB starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The accessible narrative, clear context, and intricately recorded details of the lives of the enslaved provide much-needed understanding of the complexities and contradictions of the country’s founding. ” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Dec 2018)

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This Promise of Change One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality (Jo Ann Allen Boyce, Debbie Levy)

In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, 14-year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann–clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students—found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group.

PAGES: 320
GENRES: Free verse, autobiography, memoir
THEMES: civil rights, school segregation
READALIKES: The Lions of Little Rock (Levine), Loving Vs. Virginia (Powell)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus, Publishers Weekly Annex, and SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The poems (mostly free verse with a sprinkling of other forms) personalize this history, and interspersed newspaper headlines and quotes situate the response of the larger world. Generous back matter includes additional information about the Clinton 12, a time line, period photos, sources, and further reading. Engrossing, informative, and important for middle-grade collections.” (Booklist, 1 Nov 2018)

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Click (Kayla Miller)

Olive “clicks” with everyone in the fifth grade—until one day she doesn’t. When a school variety show leaves Olive stranded without an act to join, she begins to panic, wondering why all her friends have already formed their own groups…without her.

PAGES: 192
GENRES: graphic novel, realistic fiction
THEMES: friendship, school
READALIKES: Real Friends (Hale), Awkward (Chmakova), Drama (Telgemeier)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Those who enjoy Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, and the like will find this a lighter but welcome addition and be happy to hear Olive’s adventures will continue.” (SLJ, 1 Oct 2018)

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The Neighbors (Einat Tsarfati)

As a young girl climbs the seven stories to her own (very boring!) apartment, she imagines what’s behind each of the doors she passes. When the girl finally reaches her own apartment, she is greeted by her parents, who might have a secret even wilder than anything she could have imagined!

GENRES: picture book
THEMES: imagination
READALIKES: Press Here (Tullet)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A unique and vibrant choice that artfully displays the dynamism of the imagination.” (SLJ, 1 Dec 2018)

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The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop
(Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison)

The roots of rap and the history of hip-hop have origins that precede DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. Kids will learn about how it evolved from folktales, spirituals, and poetry, to the showmanship of James Brown, to the culture of graffiti art and break dancing that formed around the art form and gave birth to the musical artists we know today.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades K-4, but I’d buy this for middle school, too!
GENRES: picture book
THEMES: history of rap music, rhyming, rhythm, music
READALIKES: Hip-Hop Speaks to Children (Giovanni)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist, Kirkus, and SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The author captures a complex art form in just a handful of short stanzas; the extensive back matter fills in any gaps.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Nov 2018)

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What Is Given from the Heart (Patricia McKissack)

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving?

GENRES: picture book, historical fiction
THEMES: Valentine’s Day, Great Depression, poverty, giving
READALIKES: Potato: A Tale From the Great Depression (Lied); Born and Bred in the Great Depression (Winter)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The full faces of the characters and the muted palette and spare backgrounds reflect the dignity and joy to be found within black culture and community life even in lean times. ” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Oct 2018)

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Elvis Is King! (Jonah Winter)

Here’s the perfect book for anyone who wants to introduce rock ‘n’ roll and its king to the child in their lives. In single- page “chapters” with titles like “The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis” and “Shazam! A Blond Boy Turns into a Black-Haired Teenager,” readers can follow key moments in Presley’s life, from his birth on the wrong side of the railroad tracks in the Deep South, to playing his first guitar in grade school, to being so nervous during a performance as a teenager that he starts shaking…and changes the world!

RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 1-5 (though I would get this for MS and HS, too!)
GENRES: picture book biography
THEMES: Elvis Presley, rock and roll, music
READALIKES: Trombone Shorty (Andrews, Collier), When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop (Hill, Taylor)
STARS AND AWARDS: BCCB and Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Unique and artistic, this biography will not only entertain readers, but will also leave them with a deeper understanding of Elvis.” (SLJ, 1 Dec 2018)

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There Are No Bears In This Bakery (Julia Sarcone-Roach)

A tough gumshoe of a cat–the name’s Muffin–protects his territory: The Little Bear Bakery. But there are no bears here. Not on Muffin’s watch. One night, Muffin hears a suspicious noise. Mouse? Raccoon? Bat? Nope, not the usual suspects. But Muffin hears…growling. Could it be? Yup. A bear. Just a cub. Whose stomach is definitely growling. Muffin’s got this case solved–clearly this bear needs some donuts.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Preschool-Grade 2
GENRES: Picture book, humor
THEMES: hard-boiled detectives
READALIKES: The Bear Ate Your Sandwich (Sarcone-Roach)
STARS AND AWARDS: Publishers Weekly and SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This is not only a winning read-aloud, but also an excellent choice to introduce a mystery unit or a mini-lesson on onomatopoeia or simile.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Dec 2018)

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