New Release Spotlight: March 26, 2019

One more week until…Spring Break! Spring is in beautiful full bloom here in Shanghai! I always say how much I love the pink and white flowering trees here. They are everywhere and so pretty! I am really ready for this drab, polluted winter to be out of my life forever.

I’m bringing back the New Release Giveaway this week! I never really meant to stop it; it just kind of happened when we had all those VPN issues a few weeks ago. Anyway, there is much to choose from on this week’s list, so be sure to enter at the bottom!

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.

Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc (David Elliott)

Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc’s life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood), this book offers a…perspective on…this young woman. Along the way it explores timely issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power. Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired.





PAGES: 195
GENRES: historical fiction, free verse, biographical fiction
THEMES: feminism, war, religion
READALIKES: Bull (Elliott)
STARS AND AWARDS: BCCB starred, Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The ingenuity in utilizing people, objects, and concepts affiliated with Joan to aid narration enhances the novel.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Jan 2019)

Out of Salem (Hal Schrieve)

Debut author! Genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth has to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie after waking from death from a car crash that killed their parents and sisters. Always a talented witch, Z now can barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf.



PAGES: 443
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 7-adult
GENRES: supernatural, horror
THEMES: zombies, werewolves, witches, LGBT+
READALIKES: The Last 8 (Pohl), Warm Bodies (Marion)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Although a few story threads are left unresolved and some elements of fat-shaming creep in, the narrative serves as an apt metaphor for current real-world debates around immigration and gender- and sexual-identity politics.” (Booklist, 15 Feb 2019)

Once & Future (Amy Rose Capetta, Cori McCarthy)

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur. Now I’m done hiding. My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.


PAGES: 354
GENRES: science fiction, adventure, retelling
THEMES: King Arthur, Merlin, knights, wizards
READALIKES: The Once and Future King (White), King of Scars (Bardugo)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “All hail this worthier-than-ever, fresh, and affirming reincarnation of the legendary king and her round table of knights which dazzles with heroic flair, humor, and suspense.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Jan 2019)

Dig (A.S. King)

The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family’s maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a seven-figure bank account–wealth they’ve declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grandchildren. As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings’ precious suburban respectability begins to spread, the far-flung grandchildren gradually find their ways back to one another, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.



PAGES: 400
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: prejudice, racism
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, BCCB starred, Hornbook starred, VOYA starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This visceral examination of humanity’s flaws and complexity, especially where the adult characters are concerned, nevertheless cultivates hope in a younger generation that’s wiser and stronger than its predecessors.” (Booklist starred review, 15 Dec 2019)

Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? (Ally Carter)

In this book consisting of real writing questions from real teens, in-depth answers in Ally’s voice, and occasional, brief answers from guest authors, Ally Carter gives teens the definitive how-to guide on writing their first novel. From getting started, to creating conflict, all the way through to a guide to the publishing industry, Ally covers it all.





PAGES: 336
GENRES: collected biography
THEMES: writing process
READALIKES: On Writing (King), Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories (Metcalf)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, VOYA starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “With scant writing resources for teens, especially this in-depth, Carter’s guide fills a needed gap. And with valuable advice for beginning writers of all ages, adult collections should also consider a copy.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Feb 2019)

Captured: An American Prisoner of War in North Vietnam (Alvin Townley)

Naval aviator Jeremiah Denton was captured in North Vietnam in 1965. As a POW, Jerry Denton led a group of fellow American prisoners in withstanding gruesome conditions behind enemy lines. They developed a system of secret codes and covert communications to keep up their spirits. Later, he would endure long periods of solitary confinement. Always, Jerry told his fellow POWs that they would one day return home together. Although Jerry spent seven and a half years as a POW, he did finally return home in 1973 after the longest deployment in U.S. history.




PAGES: 256
GENRES: narrative nonfiction
THEMES: prisoners of war, Vietnam War, survival
READALIKES: Vietnam series (Lynch), I Am a SEAL Team Six Warrior: Memoirs of an American Soldier (Wasdin)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This excellent description of this episode of U.S. history should be among first purchases.” (SLJ, 1 Feb 2019)

Tree of Dreams (Laura Resau)

Prepare for a journey into a world filled with what so many crave — the sweet savoring of a chocolate drop. A drop that can melt even the most troubled realities. But in this nuanced, heartrending story, before good can emerge, there is destruction, the bombarding of a people, their culture, heritage, sacred beliefs, and the very soul that drives their traditions. This novel takes readers into the ugly realities that surround the destruction of the Amazon rain forest and its people.




PAGES: 416
GENRES: adventure
THEMES: science, nature, environmental protection
READALIKES: The Bitter Side of Sweet (Sullivan), The Sweetest Spell (Selfors)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “An enchanting novel that raises valuable real-life questions while reminding readers to recognize the magic that connects all life.” (SLJ, 1 Mar 2019)

The Rambling (Jimmy Cajoleas)

Buddy Pennington is headed to river country, hoping his luck might change. He’ll be better off with his daddy, a wandering soul and a local legend for his skills at Parsnit, a mysterious card game of magic, chance, and storytelling. But no sooner are Buddy and his pop reunited than some of Pop’s old enemies arrive to take him away. Boss Authority, the magical crime lord who has held the rivers in his grasp for years, is ready to collect on an old debt Buddy’s father owes. Now Buddy must set out on a dangerous rescue mission, learning to play Parsnit with the best of them as he goes.




PAGES: 304
GENRES: fantasy, scary stories
THEMES: crime, magic
READALIKES: Hideout (Watt Key), Everlasting Nora (Cruz)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Buddy’s frank, distinct voice narrates, and the novel’s mysterious atmosphere leads to some wonderfully creepy moments, as well as tender ones.” (Booklist, 1 Mar 2019)

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding (Jennifer Robin Barr)

In 1930s Philadelphia, twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank and his best friend Lola live across the street from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. Their families and others on the street make extra money by selling tickets to bleachers on their flat rooftops, which have a perfect view of the field. However, falling ticket sales at the park prompt the manager and park owner to decide to build a wall that will block the view. Jimmy and Lola come up with a variety of ways to prevent the wall from being built, knowing that not only will they miss the view, but their families will be impacted from the loss of income. As Jimmy becomes more and more desperate to save their view, his dubious plans create a rift between him and Lola, and he must work to repair their friendship.



PAGES: 272
GENRES: historical fiction, sports fiction
THEMES: friendship, baseball
READALIKES: Keeping Score (Linda Sue Park), Baseball Genius (Green)
STARS AND AWARDS: School Library Connection starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Quotes from the 1934 Sporting News that head many chapters further illuminate the actual events.” (Kirkus, 1 Jan 2019)

The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins (Gail Shepherd)

Lyndie B. Hawkins loves history, research, and getting to the truth no matter what. But when it comes to her family, her knowledge is full of holes. Like, what happened to her father in the Vietnam War? Where does he disappear to for days? And why exactly did they have to move in with her grandparents? Determined to mold recalcitrant Lyndie into a nice Southern girl even if it kills her, her fusspot grandmother starts with lesson number one- Family=Loyalty=keeping quiet about family secrets.





PAGES: 304
GENRES: historical fiction, realistic fiction
THEMES: alcoholism, PTSD, juvenile crime
READALIKES: Towers Falling (Rhodes)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Publishers Weekly starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Noteworthy for its strong narrative voice and dramatic character development, including well-drawn secondary figures, this book depicts both the troubling and uplifting vicissitudes of family and camaraderie with unflinching honesty and humor.” (Publishers Weekly starred review, 28 Jan 2019)

Tin (Kenny Pádraig)

In an alternative England of the 1930s where the laws of mechanics govern even the most talented engineers, a mismatched group of mechanicals want nothing more than to feel human. Under the guardianship of the devious and unlicensed Gregory Absalom, an engineer who creates mechanical children, they have no choice but to help him in his unlawful practice. But through his unethical work, Absalom winds up creating a loyal and lively group of friends who will go to the ends of the Earth for one another. When the story’s protagonist, Christopher, discovers a devastating secret about himself and the friends are torn apart, it’s up to his friends to find him.



PAGES: 352
GENRES: science fiction, adventure
THEMES: robots, friendship
READALIKES: Robot Dreams (Varon), The Wild Robot (Brown)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This inventive, emotionally compelling fantasy is a strong fit for school and public library middle grade collections alike, and would be an excellent choice for book discussions.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry)

(Gary Golio, Ed Young)

Once there was a little slip of a boy who roamed the streets of London, hungry for life (and maybe a bit of bread). His dad long gone and his actress mother ailing, five-year-old Charlie found himself onstage one day taking his mum’s place, singing and drawing laughs amid a shower of coins. There were times in the poorhouse and times spent sitting in the window at home with Mum, making up funny stories about passersby. And when Charlie described a wobbly old man he saw in baggy clothes, with turned-out feet and a crooked cane, his mother found it sad, but Charlie knew that funny and sad go hand in hand.



GENRES: picture book biography
THEMES: poverty, humor, performing arts
READALIKES: Hedy and Her Amazing Invention (Wahl), For Audrey With Love (Hopman)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “An afterword provides further showbiz context and facts, resources, citations, and relevance (he showed “us how someone small could be clever and strong”); a bottom-corner page flip animates the Tramp’s signature walk; and the entire package will indeed bring a smile.” (Booklist starred review, 15 Feb 2019)

Over the Moon (Natalie Lloyd)

Twelve-year-old Mallie knows better than to dream. In Coal Top, you live the story you’re given: boys toil in the mines and girls work as servants. Mallie can’t bear the idea of that kind of life, but her family is counting on her wages to survive. It wasn’t always this way. Before the Dust came, the people of Coal Top could weave starlight into cloth. They’d wear these dreaming clothes to sleep and wake up with the courage to seek adventure…or the peace to heal a broken heart. But now nothing can penetrate Coal Top’s blanket of sorrow.

So when Mallie is chosen for a dangerous competition in which daring (and ideally, orphaned) children train flying horses, she jumps at the chance. Maybe she’ll change her story. Maybe she’ll even find the magic she needs to dream again.


PAGES: 304
GENRES: fantasy
THEMES: poverty, coal mining, taking risks
READALIKES: A Snicker of Magic (Lloyd)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Strong themes of friendship and loyalty drive Lloyd’s story, which soars under Mallie’s heroic lead. Her fiery and bighearted nature pierce the Dust and deceit covering Coal Top, and her physical disability never holds her back.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

The Mighty Heart of Sunny James (Ashley Herring Blake)

When Sunny St. James receives a new heart, she decides to set off on a New Life Plan: 1) do awesome amazing things she could never do before; 2) find a new best friend; and 3) kiss a boy for the first time. Her New Life Plan seems to be racing forward, but when she meets her new best friend Quinn, Sunny questions whether she really wants to kiss a boy at all. With the reemergence of her mother, Sunny begins a journey to becoming the new Sunny St. James.





PAGES: 384
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: heart transplants, LGBT+, friendship
READALIKES: Drum Roll, Please (Bigelow), Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World (Blake)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A heartwarming and engaging tale that treats Sunny’s emerging sexual identity with care, authenticity, and age appropriateness.” (SLJ, 1 Feb 2019)

Focused (Alyson Gerber)

Clea can’t control her thoughts. She knows she has to do her homework…but she gets distracted. She knows she can’t just say whatever thought comes into her head…but sometimes she can’t help herself. She know she needs to focus…but how can she do that when the people around her are always chewing gum loudly or making other annoying noises?





PAGES: 304
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: ADHD, difficulty in school
READALIKES: Braced (Gerber), Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (Jack Gantos)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, School Library Connection starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Author Gerber, who has ADHD herself, is able to compassionately and realistically convey the experience in this sweetly appealing story, which concludes with a list of helpful resources.” (Booklist starred review, 15 Feb 2019)

Because of the Rabbit (Cynthia Lord)

On the last night of summer, Emma tags along with her game warden father on a routine call. They’re supposed to rescue a wild rabbit from a picket fence, but instead they find a little bunny. Emma convinces her father to bring him home for the night. The next day, Emma starts public school for the very first time after years of being homeschooled. More than anything, Emma wants to make a best friend in school. But things don’t go as planned. On the first day of school, she’s paired with a boy named Jack for a project. He can’t stay on topic, he speaks out of turn, and he’s obsessed with animals. Jack doesn’t fit in, and Emma’s worried he’ll make her stand out. Emma and Jack bond over her rescue rabbit. But will their new friendship keep Emma from finding the new best friend she’s meant to have?


PAGES: 192
GENRES: realistic fiction, animal stories
THEMES: rabbits, autism
READALIKES: Forget Me Not (Terry), Rules (Lord)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, Booklist starred, Publishers Weekly Annex starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “From Emma’s relationship with her brother to her insecurities about attending school to her procrastination in calling a family that’s lost a rabbit, her emotions are mixed but layered and evident to readers. A heartfelt chapter book with broad appeal.” (Booklist starred review, 15 Feb 2019)

Sweety (Andrea Zuill)

Sweety is awkward, even for a naked mole rat. She has protruding front teeth, thick glasses, and some very unusual hobbies, including interpretive dance and fungus identification. She’s intense and passionate–and her peers don’t always get her. But surely there are other mushroom lovers out there? As Sweety sets out to find them, she comes to realize–with a little help from her cool Aunt Ruth– that being Sweety is actually pretty awesome.



GENRES: picture book
THEMES: friendship, self-esteem
READALIKES: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates (Higgins)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This kind but snarky, winningly honest story about being a square peg is sure to appeal to misfits and queen bees alike.” (Kirkus, 15 Nov 2018)

Sweet Dreamers (Isabelle Simler)

Countless cozy animals are settling in for the night, but they all sleep in different ways. A bat dreams upside down, a hedgehog snuggles into a pile of leaves, and a humpback whale spins in its sleep like a ballerina.






GENRES: picture book, poetry
THEMES: bedtime poems
READALIKES: Everybunny Dream! (Sandall), Good Night, Wind: A Yiddish Folktale (Marshall)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Share this exquisite offering as an introduction to the sleep habits of different animals, an imagination-stirring example for poetry writing, or a soothing bedtime story to inspire sweet dreams.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

Puddle (Richard Jackson, Chris Raschka)

Puddle sits despondently in the playground, observing the world around her as she is dimpled by rain, splashed by shoes, piddled on by a poodle, bounced by a basketball, and stirred up by an inquisitive seagull. But when the sun makes a sudden appearance, Puddle meets an admiring new friend who lifts her spirits and makes her feel loved.





GENRES: picture book
THEMES: personification, self-esteem
READALIKES: Sweety (Zuill), Linus, the Little Yellow Pencil (Magoon–releases June 9)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “With his willingness to experiment and the earnestness with which he applies each stroke of his brush, Raschka perfectly captures a child’s wonder and excitement in the world.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Jan 2019)

Music for Mister Moon (Philip C. Stead, Erin Stead)

A girl named Harriet longs to play her cello alone in her room. But when a noisy owl disrupts her solitude, Harriet throws her teacup out the window and accidentally knocks the moon out of the sky in frustration. Over the course of an evening, Harriet and the moon become fast friends. Worried that he’ll catch a chill, Harriet buys the moon a soft woolen hat, then takes him on a boat ride across a glistening lake, something he’s only dreamed of. But can she work up the courage to play her music for the moon?





GENRES: picture book
THEMES: cello, music, bashfulness
READALIKES: Bubbles (Chase), Hello, Monster! (Beauvais)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “It’s a deep, almost reverent look at how a child can use her imagination to create not just the world she wants, but the world she needs.” (Publishers Weekly, 11 Feb 2019)

Hey, Water! (Antoinette Portis)

Join a young girl as she explores her surroundings and sees that water is everywhere. But water doesn’t always look the same, it doesn’t always feel the same, and it shows up in lots of different shapes. Water can be a lake, it can be steam, it can be a tear, or it can even be a snowman. As the girl discovers water in nature, in weather, in her home, and even inside her own body, water comes to life, and kids will find excitement and joy in water and its many forms.





GENRES: picture book
THEMES: water, water cycle
READALIKES: I Am the Rain (Paterson), A Drop of Water (Wick)
STARS AND AWARDS: Hornbook starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A handsome picture book that’s well suited to reading aloud, especially for classroom units on water.” (Booklist, 1 Feb 2019)

This week’s sequels (YA):

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


  • I believe my students will like Out of Salem. I am in a high school 9-12.

  • My students in 5th and 6th can’t seem to get enough fantasy, Riders of the Realm #2: Through the Untamed Sky.

  • What a great set of new releases! Thank you for all of your reviews – I find your lists very helpful for my middle-grade library. And, hello from a fellow Texan!

  • My students would love Once & Future (Amy Rose Capetta, Cori McCarthy). My students are in grades 7-9.

  • My students would love "Focused" (Alyson Gerber) they have been patiently awaiting the release of "Focused" since they read "Braced" last year!

  • I look forward to your New Release Spotlight each week. I think my students are going to really enjoy reading Alyson Gerber's new book Focus! I have already added it to my acquisitions list!

  • I am really interested in getting Focused for my classroom. I teach remedial students and many of them struggle with this very same issue.

  • I work in a public library so my grade levels are babies all the way through 12th grade! Revenge of the Sis will probably be the most popular with the Tweens. But I am most excited about Music for Mister Moon because I love the Steads. 🙂

  • My 4-6 middle school students would benefit from reading Focused (Alyson Gerber). With the increasing number of ADHD students, I think this would be a relevant book.

  • Wow! Based on the comments so far, it looks like Focused is really going to be popular! I've been working on a book order this week, specifically focusing on middle grades this time. Focused and Braced are both on the list!

  • My middle school students (grades 6-8) will love The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James. We're always looking for LGBTQ stories for middle schoolers. Can't wait to read it!

  • I think "Captured: An American Prisoner of War in North Vietnam" will be the most popular, because I have a crowd that is always looking for books like this!

  • I'm in an all-girls secondary school (Years 7 – 12), and love to have in the collection books about strong and smart women. I think "Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc" would be a great book for the students here, as they're very much inspired by real-life stories!

    • I read David Elliott's Bull a couple of years ago, and that was also good. Yes, it is so important for all our students to read about strong, smart women.

  • "Captured" is going to be a hit with my 7/8th graders, especially the boys.


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