New Release Spotlight: April 16, 2019

As of today, we have exactly 50 days left in the 2018-2019 school year! My school goes all the way through to the end of June, nearly a month later than my library and teaching friends in Texas get out of school.

Last week, we asked our students color 50 summer-themed paper chains, and starting this afternoon, we will clip one paper chain each day. I am so excited to get to the last paper chain! That will mean that my school librarian position has officially ended, and I will be able to focus on homeschooling my boys and growing MrsReaderPants FULL-TIME! I keep calling it “early retirement,” but in reality, I’ll still be plenty busy with homeschool and growing my blog. I am sooo excited about the possibilities for this blog–my head is overflowing with ideas!

I’ve found 14 notable new releases this week, mostly in the YA and picture book categories. As a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe (thanks, Dad!), I can’t wait to read The Raven’s Tale, which gives Lenore in “The Raven” her own voice! How cool is that?! And there’s also a middle grade book featuring a backdrop of shark study and marine biology (I also love sharks!).

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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Wreck: A Novel (Kirstin Cronn-Mills )


Set on the shores of Lake Superior, Wreck follows high school junior Tobin Oliver as she navigates her father’s diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Steve’s life as a paramedic and a runner comes to an abrupt halt just as Tobin is preparing her application for a scholarship to art school. With the help of Steve’s personal care assistant Ike, Tobin attends to both her photography and to Steve as his brain unexpectedly fails right along with his body.

PAGES: 288
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: illness (parent), ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease, assisted suicide, right to die
READALIKES: Second Chance Summer (Matson), Dear Evan Hansen (Emmich)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Lake Superior is an important presence, serving as a key part of the recurring—and effective—metaphor of Tobin’s frozen-with-grief heart. A realistic take on ALS, caregiving, loss, and loyalty, with an appealing main character.” (Kirkus, 1 Mar 2019)

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Starworld (Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner)


Sam Jones and Zoe Miller have one thing in common: they both want an escape from reality. Loner Sam flies under the radar at school and walks on eggshells at home to manage her mom’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. Popular, people-pleasing Zoe puts up walls so no one can see her true self: the girl who was abandoned as an infant, whose adoptive mother has cancer, and whose disabled brother is being sent away to live in a facility. When an unexpected encounter results in the girls’ exchanging phone numbers, they forge a connection through text messages that expands into a private universe they call Starworld.

PAGES: 335
GENRES: fantasy, romance
THEMES: LGBT, friendship, escapism
READALIKES: Since We Last Spoke (Rufener), Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Albertalli)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Readers seeking characters facing challenges with honesty, bravery, and kindness will appreciate this book with its reminder that our outward lives often don’t reflect who we really are.” (Kirkus, 15 Feb 2019)

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Serious Moonlight (Jenn Bennett)


Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver Daniel Aoki shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer–never before seen in public–might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

PAGES: 425
GENRES: mystery, romance
THEMES: teens at work, detective mystery, narcolepsy
READALIKES: Maybe This Time (West–publishes July 9, 2019), Wesley James Ruined My Life (Honeybourn)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The mystery theme is compelling (each chapter opens with a quote from a famous sleuth), but it’s the way Birdie and Daniel navigate an emotional and physical relationship—despite their sensitively handled issues—that’s truly memorable.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Feb 2019)

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The Raven’s Tale (Cat Winters)


Seventeen-year-old Edgar Poe counts down the days until he can escape his foster family–the wealthy Allans of Richmond, Virginia. He hungers for his upcoming life as a student at the prestigious new university, almost as much as he longs to marry his beloved Elmira Royster. However, on the brink of his departure, all his plans go awry when a macabre Muse named Lenore appears to him. Muses are frightful creatures that lead Artists down a path of ruin and disgrace, and no respectable person could possibly understand or accept them. But Lenore steps out of the shadows with one request: “Let them see me!”

PAGES: 361
GENRES: paranormal, supernatural, retellings
THEMES: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Raven”, biographical fiction
READALIKES: Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc (Elliott), Hamilton and Peggy!: A Revolutionary Friendship (Elliott)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This well-researched and darkly entertaining tale serves as an excellent introduction to Poe and his classic works, and it includes a memorable character in Lenore, whose own story of becoming cleverly parallels Edgar’s coming-of-age challenges.” (Publishers Weekly, 4 Mar 2019)

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The Meaning of Birds (Jaye Robin Brown)


Jess has always struggled with the fire inside her. But when she meets Vivi, everything changes. As they fall for each other, Vivi helps Jess deal with her anger and pain and encourages her to embrace her artistic talent. And suddenly Jess’s future is a blank canvas, filled with possibilities. When Vivi unexpectedly dies, Jess’s perfect world is erased. As she spirals out of control, Jess pushes away everyone around her and throws out her plans for art school. Because art is Vivi and Vivi is gone forever.

PAGES: 363
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: art, death, grief
READALIKES: How to Make Friends With the Dark (Glasgow), Lies We Tell Ourselves (Talley)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Told in alternating “then” and “now” chapters, the moving narrative captures well the nonlinear progression of Jess’ grief and emotional growth.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Feb 2019)

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Last Girl Lied To (L.E. Flynn)


Fiona claims she doesn’t remember anything about the night her best friend Trixie left a party and walked into the ocean. It’s ruled a suicide, but Fiona doesn’t believe her Trixie is really dead–and she is determined to find out why Trixie would want everyone to think she is.Fiona enlists the help of Trixie’s former best-friend-with-benefits, and their search for the truth leads them toward another suicide case in their small, ocean-side town. But the closer Fiona gets to finding out what happened, the more she realizes that she might not have known her best friend at all.

PAGES: 350
GENRES: thriller, mystery
THEMES: suicide, friendship
READALIKES: One of Us Is Lying (McManus), You Owe Me a Murder (Cook)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A bit melodramatic, but this novel could find a place in larger collections where YA mysteries are popular.” (SLJ, 1 Apr 2019)

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Earth to Charlie (Justin Olson)


Convinced his mother has been abducted by aliens, Charlie Dickens spends his nights with an eye out for UFOs, hoping to join her. After all, she said the aliens would come back for him. Charlie will admit that he doesn’t have many reasons to stick around; he doesn’t get along well with his father, he’s constantly bullied at school and at work, and the only friend he has is his 600-pound neighbor Geoffrey, and Geoffrey’s three-legged dog, Tickles. Then Charlie meets popular, easy-going Seth, who shows him what real friendship is all about. For once, he finds himself looking around at the life he’s built, rather than looking up. But sooner than he expected, Charlie has to make a decision: should he stay or should he go?

PAGES: 288
GENRES: realistic fiction, humor
THEMES: alien abduction, friendship, bullying
READALIKES: The Opposite of Always (Reynolds), You Asked for Perfect (Silverman), The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried (Hutchinson)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Olson’s story is one of losing something and finding it again, told in the voice of an easily relatable protagonist as he faces the ups and downs of friendship and family. Poignant yet hopeful, this is a lesson in grief, loneliness, and what it means to truly dream.” (Booklist, 15 Mar 2019)

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Pirate Queen: The Legend of Grace O’Malley (Tony Lee, Sam Hart)


A true daughter of the fearsome O’Malley clan, Grace spent her life wishing to join the fight to keep Henry VIII’s armies from invading her homeland of Ireland–only to be told again and again that the battlefield is no place for a woman. But after English conspirators brutally murder her husband, Grace can no longer stand idly by. Leading men into battle on the high seas, Grace O’Malley quickly gains a formidable reputation as the Pirate Queen of Ireland with her prowess as a sailor and skill with a sword. But her newfound notoriety puts the lives of Grace and her entire family in danger and eventually leads to a confrontation with the most powerful woman in England: Queen Elizabeth I.

PAGES: 128
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grade 5-adult
GENRES: graphic novel, retelling, historical fiction
THEMES: Irish history, female heroes, King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I
READALIKES: Pirate Queen of Ireland: The Adventures of Grace O’Malley (Chambers)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “While Lee and Hart’s previous volumes tackled more widely known figures (such as Joan of Arc and Robin Hood), discovering the legend of Grace O’Malley feels like unearthing a hidden gem.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Mar 2019)

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The Line Tender (Kate Allen)


Debut author! Wherever the sharks led, Lucy Everhart’s marine-biologist mother was sure to follow. In fact, she was on a boat far off the coast of Massachusetts, collecting shark data when she died suddenly. Lucy was seven. Since then Lucy and her father have kept their heads above water-thanks in large part to a few close friends and neighbors. But June of her twelfth summer brings more than the end of school and a heat wave to sleepy Rockport. On one steamy day, the tide brings a great white-and then another tragedy, cutting short a friendship everyone insists was ‘meaningful’ but no one can tell Lucy what it all meant.

PAGES: 384
GENRES: realistic fiction
THEMES: grief, marine biology, sharks
READALIKES: The Thing About Jellyfish (Benjamin), Counting By 7s (Sloan)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, BCCB starred, Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Allen tackles the complexities of grief with subtly wry humor and insight in this richly layered middle grade debut about the power of science and love.” (Publishers Weekly starred review, 18 Mar 2019)

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Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound
(Kathleen Cornell Berman and Keith Henry Brown, ill.)


As a young musician, Miles Davis heard music everywhere. This biography explores the childhood and early career of a jazz legend as he finds his voice and shapes a new musical sound. Follow his progression from East St. Louis to rural Arkansas, from Julliard and NYC jazz clubs to the prestigious Newport Jazz Festival. Rhythmic free verse imbues his story with musicality and gets readers in the groove.

RECOMMENDED FOR: ranges from Grades 1-7–versatile!
GENRES: picture book biography
THEMES: music, jazz, Jim Crow laws, racial segregation, overcoming adversity
READALIKES: Trombone Shorty (Andrews), Jazz (Myers), Guitar Genius: How Les Paul Engineered the Solid-Body Electric Guitar and Rocked the World (Tomsic)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A stirring, soulful, well-researched look at the groundwork that informed Miles’ signature sound, offering an entry point to a towering, complicated figure who reshaped 20th-century music again and again.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Feb 2019)

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My City (Joanne Liu)


A young boy discovers the excitement and unexpected delight of exploring his city – and so will readers of this vibrant picture book. Max is asked to mail a letter for his mother. As he walks through his neighborhood in search of a mailbox, he encounters all sorts of interesting things like falling leaves dancing in the wind, skyscrapers towering in the distance, and junk being piled into a garbage truck. All around him adults hurry on their various errands, too busy to appreciate these wondrous details. His walk through the city leads Max to discover that the mailbox is actually right next door to his own house.

GENRES: picture book
THEMES: mindfulness, noticing the little things, observation, busy city
READALIKES: Last Stop on Market Street (de la Pena), My Museum (Liu)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Liu transforms a mundane walk to the mailbox into an exceptionally delightful visual treat.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

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Popcorn Country ( Cris Peterson and David R. Lundquis, Photographer)


My favorite food! This would be fun to pair with YouTube video of extremely slow-motion popcorn popping.

With photographs illustrating every stage, readers get a behind-the-scenes view of how popcorn is planted, grown, harvested, processed, tested, and finally shipped to stores and movie theaters all over the world. Back matter delves into the history of popcorn and how it became so popular in the United States.

GENRES: nonfiction picture book
THEMES: food, popcorn, how it’s made, farming
READALIKES: Popcorn! (Landau), No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas (Bolden)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This look at popcorn production will appeal to readers interested in food, farming, or science, and to educators. A suggested purchase for most collections.” (SLJ, 1 Apr 2019)

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The Little Red Stroller (by Joshua Furst and Katy Wu, ill)


When Luna is born, her mommy gives her a little red stroller. It accompanies her and her mommy through all the activities of their day, until she outgrows the stroller and is able to pass it down to a toddler in her neighborhood who now needs it. And so the stroller lives on, getting passed from one child to the next, highlighting for preschool readers the diversity of families- some kids with two mommies, some with two daddies, some with just one parent, and all from different cultures and ethnicities.

GENRES: picture book
THEMES: community, generosity, family, diversity, sharing
READALIKES: Thank you, Omu! (Mora)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Pair an array of characters that vary in gender, color, age, religion, size, and shape with a variety of settings, and you have a powerful message of inclusivity and diversity.” (Kirkus, 15 Feb 2019)

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The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng
(by Sophia Gholz and Kayla Harren, ill.)


Need a new book for Earth Day next week? Check this one out! Pair it with Wangari’s Trees of Peace (Winter).

As a boy, Jadav Payeng was distressed by the destruction deforestation and erosion was causing on his island home in India’s Brahmaputra River. So he began planting trees. What began as a small thicket of bamboo, grew over the years into 1,300 acre forest filled with native plants and animals.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Kindergarter-Grade 5
GENRES: picture book biography
THEMES: environment, conservation, trees, India, Earth Day books
READALIKES: One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (Paul), Seeds of Change (Johnson), The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever (Hopkins)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Lush, realistic illustrations document young Jadav’s sadness, fear, determination, and eventual success as readers watch the barren, disintegrating island transform into a living forest supporting all manners of life.” (SLJ, 1 Mar 2019)

This week’s sequels (YA):


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

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



    • Thanks, shades! It's funny how much more creative I feel in this last stretch! Less stress, maybe?

  • Wait, what's this about early retirement and staying home to homeschool your boys??? Does that mean you are moving back to Texas this summer?

    So glad you are planning to grow your blog! I love Mrs. ReaderPants and read every post and constantly refer to your reviews and new-release lists.

    • Hi, LangeMSmedia,
      We are staying in Shanghai for at least two more years. My husband works here and has just signed on for another two years. After this two years, we will see. We have no plans to move back to Texas, but we may end up going somewhere else. Or, we may stay in Shanghai even longer (we do love it here!). We'll see…


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