New Release Spotlight: March 19, 2019

I know March has brought (or will bring) spring break for lots of you, so I hope you are able to get out and read in the beautiful sunshine! In China, we don’t have an official “spring break,” but we do have a week off in early-April for the Qing Ming Festival. In English, it’s called Tomb-Sweeping Day, a day for families to visit and clean the tombs of their ancestors. This year, Qing Ming is Friday, April 5.

This week brings us a nice, juicy list with plenty of variety! There’s a little something for everyone, but With topics ranging from inventions to artists to refugees to playing outside, I think the picture books look most interesting this week.

NOTE: Titles start with YA and go down in age to picture books at the end. Scroll to the bottom for sequels. Titles highlighted in purple are those that received two or more starred professional reviews.

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Fear of Missing Out (Kate McGovern)

When Astrid learns that her cancer has returned, she hears about a radical technology called cryopreservation that may allow her to have her body frozen until a future time when–and if–a cure is available. With her boyfriend, Mohit, and her best friend, Chloe, Astrid goes on a road trip in search of that possibility. To see if it’s real. To see if it’s worth it. For fear of missing out on everything.

PAGES: 312
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: cancer, cryonics, road trips
READALIKES: Field Notes on Love (Smith), Life in a Fishbowl (Vlahos), Everything, Everything (Yoon)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The poignancy is tempered by humor, the science Astrid so loves, and by her determination to take what control she can over her painfully shortened life. McGovern’s impeccable writing carries readers through an incredible journey of self-exploration.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Feb 2019)

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The Weight of the Stars (K. Ancrum)

Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the ‘wrong’ side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends. One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the girls are brought together despite themselves–and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

PAGES: 384
GENRES: realistic fiction, romance
THEMES: poverty, LGBT, space exploration
READALIKES: We Set the Dark on Fire (Tehlor), The Opposite of Always (Reynolds), Red, White, and Royal Blue (McQuiston)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Ancrum plunges readers into a story with a lush, dark atmosphere; heartbreaking circumstances; bright, new love that blossoms from ugliness; and vividly real, magnetic characters.” (Booklist starred review, 15 Feb 2019)

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Inspection (Josh Malerman)

From the author of Bird Box. J is a student at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world. J is one of only twenty-six students, all of whom think of the school’s enigmatic founder as their father. J’s peers are the only family he has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, and their life at the school is all they know—and all they are allowed to know. But J suspects that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s beginning to ask questions.

PAGES: 400
RECOMMENDED FOR: adults, but I plan to get this for my HS students (Bird Box is a hit in my school!)
GENRES: thriller
THEMES: gender, psychology
READALIKES: Bird Box (Malerman), The Institute (King)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Malerman makes the horror of this impossible experiment appear completely plausible while thoughtfully contemplating grand issues like nature versus nurture, gender roles, and scientific ethics—all of that, plus he manages to create a satisfyingly oppressive atmosphere.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

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Internment (Samira Ahmed)

Rebellions are built on hope. Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

PAGES: 387
GENRES: realistic fiction, dystopia
THEMES: Muslim-Americans, Holocaust, prejudice, revolution
READALIKES: Black Enough (Zoboi), The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali (Khan), Illegal (Colfer)
STARS AND AWARDS: FIVE starred reviews from: Booklist, Kirkus, SLJ, School Library Connection, Publishers Weekly

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Though it might recall dystopian novels of the recent past, this carries so much more weight and is infinitely more terrifying, since its setting—a near-future U.S.—could very well exist today, tomorrow, or only a handful of years from now.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Feb 2019)

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Night Music (Jenn Marie Thorne)

Ruby has always been Ruby Chertok- future classical pianist and daughter of renowned composer Martin Chertok. But after her horrendous audition for the prestigious music school where her father is on faculty, it’s clear that music has publicly dumped her.

Oscar is a musical genius. Just ask any of the 1.8 million people who’ve watched him conduct on YouTube–or hey, just ask Oscar. But Oscar is not the type to jeopardize his chance to study under the great Martin Chertok–not for a crush on his benefactor’s white daughter.

GENRES: romance
THEMES: music, privilege
READALIKES: On the Come Up (Thomas), Eleanor & Park (Rowell), The Sun Is Also a Star (Yoon)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Ruby and Oscar’s sweet and intense romance sparkles. Readers will root for them not just as a couple, but as individuals trying their best to understand their gifts and passions while facing pressures from the adult world. A smart, funny, engrossing romance with a social conscience.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Jan 2019)

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Beast Rider (Tony Johnston, Maria Elena Fontanot de Rhoads)

Twelve-year-old Manuel leaves his small town in Mexico to join his older brother in Los Angeles. To cross the US border, he must become a “beast rider”–someone who hops on a train. The first time he tries, he is stopped by the Mexican police, who arrest and beat him. When he tries again, he is attacked by a Mexican gang and left for dead. Just when Manuel is ready to turn back, he finds new hope. Villagers clothe and feed him, help him find work, and eventually boost him back onto the train. When he finally arrives in LA and is reunited with his brother, he is elated. But the longer he’s there, the more he realizes that something isn’t right.

PAGES: 192
GENRES: realistic fiction, adventure
THEMES: immigration, Mexico, survival
READALIKES: The Border (Schafer), Internment (Ahmed), Esperanza Rising (Ryan)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Without shying away from the cruel and often crude journey that migrants experience, the authors deliver a captivating story of travelers dreaming a better future and their incandescent fight to achieve it. A beautiful, visceral plunge into the perils that the train-jumping migrant brotherhood experiences.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Jan 2019)

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Rising Water The Story of the Thai Cave Rescue (Marc Aronson)

On June 23, 2018, twelve members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were exploring the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand when disaster struck. A rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them as they took shelter on a shelf of the dark cave. Eight days of searching yielded no signs of life, but on July 2 they were discovered by two British divers. The boys and their coach were eventually rescued in an international operation that took three days. What could have been a terrible tragedy became an amazing story of survival.

PAGES: 160
GENRES: narrative nonfiction
THEMES: survival, caving, diving
READALIKES: The Boys in the Cave: Deep Inside the Impossible Rescue in Thailand (Gutman)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A commentary on media depiction and partial truths is especially resonant and highlights the importance of news literacy.” (SLJ, 1 Mar 2019)

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The Tornado Scientist (Mary Kay Carson, Tom Uhlman)

Robin Tanamachi has been captivated by tornadoes and extreme weather her entire life. When she realized people researched weather for a job, she was hooked. She now studies tornadogenesis, or how tornadoes form, and what causes them to get weaker versus strengthen. For her, driving around in a Doppler radar truck aiming towards storms is a normal day in the office.

GENRES: nonfiction
THEMES: science, weather, meteorology, tornadoes, STEM
READALIKES: The Elephant Scientist (O’Connell), Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code (Cherrix)

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The Wizenard Series: Training Camp (Kobe Bryant)

Magic doesn’t seem possible for the West Bottom Badgers. They’re the lowest-ranked basketball team in their league, and they live in the poorest neighborhood in Dren. Nobody expects them to succeed at anything. Plus, every kid on the team has secret struggles of his own. When a new coach named Professor Wizenard arrives on the first day of training camp, the Badgers can’t explain the magical-seeming things they see and hear. Every player experiences unique and strange visions–visions that challenge everything they thought they knew about basketball, and about their lives and their secrets off the court.

PAGES: 592
GENRES: sports, fantasy
THEMES: basketball, poverty
READALIKES: Mamba Mentality: How I Play (Bryant), Nikki on the Line (Roberts)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Solid, authentic basketball action with plenty of food for thought, colored with elements of fantasy.” (Kirkus, 1 Mar 2019)

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Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir
(Julie Bertagna, William Goldsmith)

John Muir led an adventurous life, starting with his wild and playful boyhood in Scotland to his legendary exploits in America, where he became an inventor, a global explorer, and the first modern environmentalist–and even made friends with a president! His heart was always in the outdoors and he aimed to experience all he could. Most importantly, though, John Muir told the world about the wonders of nature. His words made a difference and inspired people in many countries to start protecting planet Earth–and they still do.

PAGES: 128
GENRES: nonfiction, graphic novel, biography
THEMES: nature, conservation
READALIKES: Thoreau at Walden (Porcellino), Great White Shark Adventure (Cousteau)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The author often relies on the subject’s own words (a list of sources can be found at the end), and the result is a quick but deeply personal glimpse at a legendary figure.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Feb 2019)

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Sweeping Up the Heart (Kevin Henkes)

Amelia Albright dreams about going to Florida for spring break like everyone else in her class, but her father–a cranky and stubborn English professor–has decided Florida is too much adventure. Now Amelia is stuck at home with him and her babysitter, the beloved Mrs. O’Brien. The week ahead promises to be boring, until Amelia meets Casey at her neighborhood art studio. Amelia has never been friends with a boy before, and the experience is both fraught and thrilling. When Casey claims to see the spirit of Amelia’s mother (who died ten years before), the pair embarks on an altogether different journey in their attempt to find her.

PAGES: 183
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: family, father-daughter relationships, budding relationships
READALIKES: Merci Suárez Changes Gears (Medina), The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise (Gemeinhart)
STARS AND AWARDS: Hornbook starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This smooth, compact, emotionally nuanced novel with relatable characters should be a first purchase for every library where readers’ hearts are ready to melt.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

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The Space Between Before and After (Sue Stauffacher)

One morning 10-yeaer-old Thomas’s mother tells him about a dream she had about taking a trip by herself–which is odd because lately his mother has been too depressed to even leave the house. But when Thomas gets home from school, she’s gone. The police search everywhere, and although they find her car, they can’t find her. Thomas’s neighbor helps him cope with his anxiety by having him think up a fantasy about where she might have gone. As time passes, Thomas takes charge of the story sending his mother on a quest in the astral plane. With the help of this narrative journey, his family, and his friends, Thomas begins to realize that even if his mother never comes back, he can still hold a place for her in his heart and mind.

PAGES: 276
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: depression, anxiety, mental illness, grief
READALIKES: The Afterwards (Harrold), Mostly the Honest Truth (Little), Far Away (Graff)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Unfortunately, Thomas’ father believes his reliance on his fantasy storytelling is more harmful than helpful, which should spark conversations about emotional intelligence and stereotypes of masculinity.” (Booklist, 1 Mar 2019)

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The Great Jeff (Tony Abbott)

Companion to: Firegirl. Life hasn’t been great for Jeff Hicks. After years at his beloved St. Catherine’s, he’s forced to spend eighth grade in the public middle school, which he hates. He’s no longer speaking to his former best friend, Tom Bender, because of “that burned girl” Jessica Feeney. But worst of all, his family is changing, and it’s not for the better. When his mom comes home announcing that she’s lost her job, Jeff begins to worry about things far beyond his years: How will they pay the rent? Will his absentee dad step up and save the day? Is his mom drinking too much? And ultimately, where will they live?

PAGES: 278
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: homelessness, poverty, single parent families, absentee parents
READALIKES: Firegirl (Abbott), New Kid (Craft)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “While the story works as a standalone, readers of Firegirl will find resolution to some prior storylines as familiar characters cross paths with Jeff.” (SLJ, 1 Mar 2019)

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The Afterwards (A.F. Harrold, Emily Gravett)

Ember and Ness are best friends, completely inseparable. Ember can’t imagine what life would be without Ness. Until Ness dies, in a most sudden and unexpected way. Ember feels completely empty. How can this even be real? Then Ember finds a way into the afterworld-a place where the recently dead reside. She knows there must be a way to bring Ness back, so she decides to find it. Because that’s what friends do: rescue each other. But the afterworld holds its own dangers. How far will Ember go to make things the way they were again?

PAGES: 197
GENRES: fantasy, magical realism, paranormal
THEMES: death, grief
READALIKES: The Imaginary (Harrold), Bridge to Terabithia (Paterson), The Truth As Told By Mason Buttle (Connor)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Sensitive readers may need a hand to hold for the story’s darker moments, but Ember’s vibrant personality imbues the book with unfaltering warmth.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Feb 2019)

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Vanishing Colors
(Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen, Akin Duzakin)

As a young girl and her mother take shelter for the night in their war-torn city, the whole world appears muted and dark. When the girl wakes in the middle of the night to find a bird watching her, she knows it’s the one from her mother’s stories, who flies down from the mountains to protect people from harm. She tells the bird what her what her life used to be like, before the war and destruction—she describes her favorite dress, the open market stalls, her dad playing music on the roof. As she continues to remember, colors slowly seep back into her life, and with them comes the courage to hope for a new beginning.

GENRES: picture book
THEMES: refugees
READALIKES: Dreamers (Morales), A Different Pond (Bao Phi), Brothers in Hope (Williams)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A heart-penetrating, heartbreaking book with exceptional mastery in text and illustration.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Feb 2019)

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Otto and Pio (Marianne Dubuc)

Otto the squirrel is perfectly content living by himself in his treehouse in the forest, when a small creature, Pio, arrives on his doorstep, looking for his mother, and Otto invites him in. Pio eats all the hazelnuts, takes up the entire bed, and just gets bigger and bigger! Though Otto worries he may not be very good at caring for a little creature, Pio is very happy.

PAGES: unpaged
GENRES: picture book
THEMES: friendship, unwanted guests
READALIKES: Too Many Frogs (Asher), Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend (Watt)
STARS AND AWARDS: Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This engaging read-aloud will warm children’s hearts. It has a terrific message about the importance of family and how to care for those you love.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Feb 2019)

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How to Two (David Soman)

A child’s solitary day at the playground turns into a boisterous park-wide adventure as one boy on the slide becomes two kids on the see-saw, then three jumping rope. Before long, ten new friends are playing like they’ve known one another forever. With its deceptively simple text and a rich visual narrative, How to Two is a playful counting and reverse-counting concept book as well as an exuberant celebration of inclusive play, friendship, and community.

GENRES: picture book
THEMES: counting, outdoor play
READALIKES: 100 Bugs!: A Counting Book (Narita), On a Magical Do-Nothing Day (Alemagna)
STARS AND AWARDS: BCCB starred, Hornbook starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Children will easily see themselves in the many activities presented—and hopefully remember to count as well.” (Booklist, 1 Feb 2019)

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Dancing Through Fields of Color The Story of Helen Frankenthaler
(Elizabeth Brown, Aimée Sicuro)

They said only men could paint powerful pictures, but Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) splashed her way through the modern art world. Channeling deep emotion, Helen poured paint onto her canvas and danced with the colors to make art unlike anything anyone had ever seen. She used unique tools like mops and squeegees to push the paint around, to dazzling effects.

GENRES: picture book biography
THEMES: art, abstract painting
READALIKES: Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos (Brown), Through Georgia’s Eyes (Rodriguez)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A pitch-perfect expression of a little-known artist in text and illustration alike, this is a top-notch example of the picture book biography.” (SLJ, 1 Mar 2019)

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The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons (Natascha Biebow, Steven Salerno)

What child doesn’t love to hold a crayon in their hands? But children didn’t always have such magical boxes of crayons. Before Edwin Binney set out to change things, children couldn’t really even draw in color. This is the true story of an inventor who so loved nature’s vibrant colors that he found a way to bring the outside world to children – in a bright green box for only a nickel! With experimentation, and a special knack for listening, Edwin Binney and his dynamic team at Crayola created one of the world’s most enduring, best-loved childhood toys – empowering children to dream in COLOR!

GENRES:picture book
THEMES: inventions, crayons, STEM
READALIKES: The Day the Crayons Quit (Daywalt), Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions (Barton); Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines (Aronson)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A suitably colorful introduction to the life of a person whose name readers may not know but whose invention they all use.” (Kirkus, 1 Jan 2019)

This week’s sequels (YA):

This week’s sequels (Middle Grades):

This week’s sequels (Elementary and Picture Books):

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This list also appears on my New Releases–Weekly Board on Pinterest:

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