New Release Spotlight: May 14, 2019

It’s another huge week of new book releases! This week’s Spotlight of 20 new releases started out with over 80 titles, so I really had to be brutal with the cuts to get this to a manageable list. Some of the books on this week’s list have multiple starred reviews. Because I’m still working out all the ins and outs of my new blog format (and still need to figure out how to create shadow boxes), I’ve put a * next to titles that received two or more starred professional reviews. Most of this week’s books received at least one star, but I did include a handful of titles that did not receive any stars because I still think they will be popular with students or are simply needed in our libraries.

And finally, I’ve included a new release giveaway this week! Since I missed it last week due to the new blog migration, we will have two winners this week. Scroll to the bottom to enter!


Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Isabelle is one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters, who cut off her toes in an attempt to fit into the glass slipper; but there is more to her story than a maimed foot, for the Marquis de la Chance is about to offer her a choice and the opportunity to change her fate–there will be blood and danger, but also the possibility of redemption and triumph, and most of all the chance to find her true self.

PAGES: 342
GENRE: fantasy, retelling (“Cinderella”)
THEMES: second chances, fate, jealousy
READALIKES: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Kemmerer)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This first-rate fairy-tale retelling effectively portrays female strength and determination and will resonate with readers who want to be valued for who they are, not what they look like.” (SLJ>, 1 May 2019)

Testimony from Your Perfect Girl by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Annie Tripp has everything she could ever want or need, but all that changes when her father is accused of scamming hundreds of people out of their investments. Annie knows her dad wasn’t at fault, but she and her brother are exiled to their estranged aunt and uncle’s house in a run-down part of Breckenridge–until the trial blows over.

Life with her new family isn’t quite up to Annie’s usual standard of living, but surprisingly, pretending to be someone else offers a freedom she’s never known. As Annie starts to make real friends for the first time, she realizes she has more in common with her aunt and uncle than she ever wanted to know.

PAGES: 271
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: family problems, crime
READALIKES: Defending Taylor (Kenneally)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “With complex family dynamics, friendship woes, and a touch of romance, this is a story about how uncovering one’s family’s truth can lead to finally figuring out one’s true self.” (SLJ, 1 May 2019)

There’s Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Told in two voices. Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After being dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So Ash challenges them to set him up. The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl–under contract.

Sweetie Nair is a formidable track athlete, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s parents, this last detail is the kiss of death. Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat.

PAGES: 378
GENRE: realistic fiction, romance
THEMES: Indian-American families, arranged romance, overweight persons
READALIKES: When Dimple Met Rishi (Menon), Somewhere Only We Know (Goo)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Fans of Menon will not be disappointed and will be excited to see cameos of Rishi and Dimple.” (SLJ, 1 May 2019 )

Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard by Alex Bertie

Long before he became known for his YouTube videos, Alex Bertie was an isolated, often-afraid transgender teenager looking for answers. In this revolutionary memoir and valuable resource, Alex recounts his life, struggles, and victories as a young trans man. Along the way, he provides readers with accessible, highly researched explanations of gender, sexuality, and transitions. He explores without judgment how complicated all these things can be, and how many equally authentic ways there are to live as yourself and find happiness.

PAGES: 305
GENRE: memoir, biography
THEMES: LGBT+, YouTube, being oneself
READALIKES: Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen (Andrews)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Throughout Bertie is an affable, conscientious, and informed guide who writes well and gives his readers an invaluable, potentially life-changing and -saving book. It is highly recommended.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Feb 2019)

*We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra

Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and devastating family secrets, Jonathan and Kurl struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their relationship…and each other.

PAGES: 385
GENRE: realistic fiction
READALIKES: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Sáenz), Bloom (Panetta)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Graphic toxic masculinity, familial abuse, drug use, and sexual betrayal are balanced (not obliterated) by the beauty of love between two boys who never expected the best from each other. Your reason to root for love—and the power of the pen.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

Fatima lives in the city of Noor, on the Silk Road, which is currently protected by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, from attacks by the violent and ruthless Shayateen djinn–but Fatima was infused with the fire of the Ifrit who died saving her when she was four years old, and when one of the most important Ifrit dies she finds herself drawn into the intrigues of the court, the affairs of the djinn, and the very real dangers of a magical battlefield.

PAGES: 416
GENRE: fantasy, action-adventure
THEMES: genies, identity, magic
READALIKES: We Hunt the Flame (Faizal), Sorcery of Thorns (Rogerson)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Based on Islamic mythology and Arabic folklore, debut author Azad’s descriptive storytelling and complex characters give the novel a certain richness and texture missing from solely plot-based narratives; readers can vicariously taste foods from different cultures and partake of the sights, smells, and sounds of the city of Noor where Hindus and Muslims live side by side in peace and harmony.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Mar 2019 )

On a Scale of One to Ten by Ceylan Scott

Tamar is admitted to Lime Grove, a psychiatric hospital for teenagers. Lime Grove is home to a number of teenagers with a variety of problems: anorexia, bipolar disorder, behavior issues. Tamar will come to know them all very well. But there’s one question she can’t… won’t answer: What happened to her friend Iris? As Tamar’s emotional angst becomes more and more clear to her, she’ll have to figure out a path to forgiveness. A shocking, moving, and darkly funny depiction of life in a psychiatric world.

PAGES: 288
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: mental health, grief, death
READALIKES: How It Feels to Float (Fox), Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl (Pershall)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “An important book and a very impressive, ultimately hopeful, treatment of mental illness.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Mar 2019 )

Road Tripped by Pete Hautman

Steven Gerald Gabel–a.k.a. Stiggy–needs to get out of Minnesota. His father recently look his own life, his mother is a shell of the person she used to be, and his sort-of-girlfriend ghosted him and skipped town. What does he have left to stick around for? Armed with his mom’s credit card and a tourist map of Great River Road, Stiggy sets off in his dad’s car. The only problem is, life on his own isn’t exactly what he expected and, soon enough, he finds himself at a crossroads: keep running from his demons, or let them hitch a ride back home with him.

PAGES: 330
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: road trips, family problems, grief, suicide
READALIKES: The Astonishing Color of After (Pan), I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Sánchez), All the Bright Places (Niven)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “True-to-life conversations, a keen sense of Midwestern topography, and sharply detailed supporting characters round out this superb road trip novel. By turns introspective and humorous.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

*We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Debut author! Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man to brave the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed compassion, his father would brutally punish him. War is brewing in Arawiya, and when Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover an artifact that can restore magic and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter.

PAGES: 472
GENRE: fantasy
THEMES: curses, Middle East, magic
READALIKES: An Ember in the Ashes (Tahir), Shadow and Bone (Bardugo), Children of Blood and Bone (Adeyemi)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, SLJ starred, BCCB starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: ” Layering high-stakes action with moods ranging from casual humor to raw anguish, Faizal bends fantasy tropes to her will to tell a fresh and gripping story about love, honor, and self-discovery that will leave readers scrambling for more.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Apr 2019)

The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman

This book is about the Stonewall Riots, a series of spontaneous, often violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBTQ+) community in reaction to a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The Riots are attributed as the spark that ignited the LGBTQ+ movement. The author describes American gay history leading up to the Riots, the Riots themselves, and the aftermath, and includes her interviews of people involved or witnesses, including a woman who was ten at the time.

PAGES: 196
GENRE: nonfiction
THEMES: LGBT+, activism
READALIKES: Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution (Sanders), Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag (Sanders), A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo (Bundo)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The story of the riots is retold in quite a few segments, but each narration provides a slightly different perspective.” (Booklist, 1 May 2019)

Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse by Susan Vaught

Alternates between the detective work of middle-schooler Jesse and her new friend, Springer, after her father is accused of stealing, and post-tornado rescue efforts of Jesse and her Pomeranian, Sam-Sam.

PAGES: 309
GENRE: mystery
THEMES: autism, bullying, tornadoes
READALIKES: See You in the Cosmos (Cheng), The Misfits Club (Crowley)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Edgar-winning Vaught, a neuropsychologist, has both personal and professional experience to draw on in crafting a narrator who is admirably smart and resilient despite an “itchy” brain and a compulsion to count things.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Apr 2019 )

*A Place to Belong Cynthia Kadohata

World War II has ended, but while America has won the war, twelve-year-old Hanako feels lost. To her, the world, and her world, seems irrevocably broken. America, the only home she’s ever known, imprisoned then rejected her and her family–and thousands of other innocent Americans–because of their Japanese heritage, because Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan, the country they’ve been forced to move to, the country they hope will be the family’s saving grace, where they were supposed to start new and better lives, is in shambles because America dropped bombs of their own.

PAGES: 405
GENRE: historical fiction
THEMES: Japanese internment, Hiroshima, aftermath of WWII, atomic bomb
READALIKES: The War that Saved My Life (Bradley), Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II (Warren)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, SLJ starred, Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Superb characterization and an evocative sense of place elevate this story that is at once specific to the experiences of Japanese-American expatriates and yet echoes those of many others.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Apr 2019)

Spark by Sarah Beth Durst

Storm beasts and their guardians create perfect weather every day, and Mina longs for a storm beast of her own. But when the gentle girl bonds with a lightning beast–a creature of fire and chaos–everyone’s certain it’s a mistake. Everyone but Mina and the beast himself, Pixit. Quickly enrolled in lightning school, Mina struggles to master a guardian’s skills, and she discovers that her country’s weather comes at a devastating cost–a cost powerful people wish to hide. Mina’s never been the type to speak out, but someone has to tell the truth, and, with Pixit’s help, she resolves to find a way to be heard.

PAGES: 308
GENRE: fantasy, adventure
THEMES: dragons, magic
READALIKES: The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread (Dicamillo), The Golden Compass (Pullman)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Durst’s fantasy is fascinating and powerful, requiring only a modicum of suspension of disbelief.” (Booklist starred review, 15 Apr 2019)

Time Sight by Lynne Jonell

Will Menzies and his younger brother Jamie are visiting relatives in Scotland where Will comes into possession of a magic book that enables him with the gift of “Far Sight”–the ability to see into the past. This “magical eye” proves especially dangerous when Jamie steps through a time portal into the Scotland of centuries long ago. Will and Nan have no choice but to leap through the portal to find Jamie. But time in the past moves more swiftly than real time. A whole year has gone by in the one day that Jamie has time traveled, and when Will and Nan catch up with him, Jamie no longer remembers them and refuses to return to the present.

PAGES: 404
GENRE: adventure, fantasy
THEMES: time travel, magic, Scotland
READALIKES: Going, Going, Gone (Time)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Gripping and thoughtful; readers will be left pondering their own connections to the past.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Mar 2019)

*Planet Earth Is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos

Twelve-year-old Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Challenger–it’s the first time a teacher is going into space, and kids across America will watch the event on live TV in their classrooms. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program. They planned to watch the launch together. But Bridget has disappeared, and Nova is in a new foster home.

PAGES: 235
GENRE: historical fiction
THEMES: astronomy, autism
READALIKES: See You in the Cosmos (Cheng), The Thing About Jellyfish (Benjamin)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The countdown’s multiple conclusions dovetail in an ending Nova might call “Crayola Pine Green”: a mixture of conflicting emotions that will linger long after the last page.” (Kirkus starred, 1 Mar 2019)

Glitch Sarah Graley

Izzy has an incredible secret — she can enter the world of her new video game! She meets Rae, a robot who says Izzy is destined to save Dungeon City form the Big Boss. How is this possible?! And how can she fight for this virtual world when she’s got a whole real life to keep up with: her family (though she could do without her mom’s annoying cat) and her best friend, Eric. Things get even weirder when Izzy loses a life while inside the game, and she starts to worry about what might happen if she gets a Game Over for good.

PAGES: 185
GENRE: graphic novel, humor
THEMES: gaming
READALIKES: The Cardboard Kingdom (Sell)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Graley’s bold, playful artwork keeps the humor front and center with over-the-top facial expressions and cartoonish character design. An epic win.” (Booklist, 15 Apr 2019)

When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex by by Toni Buzzeo (Author), Diana Sudyka (Illustrator)

From a very young age, Sue Hendrickson was meant to find things: lost coins, perfume bottles, even hidden treasure. Her endless curiosity eventually led to her career in diving and paleontology, where she would continue to find things big and small. In 1990, at a dig in South Dakota, Sue made her biggest discovery to date: Sue the T. rex, the largest and most complete T. rex skeleton ever unearthed. Named in Sue’s honor, Sue the T. rex would be placed on permanent exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

GENRE: picture book biography
THEMES: paleontology, fossils, dinosaurs
READALIKES: Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist (Keating), Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World (Ignotofsky)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Buzzeo’s considerable storytelling skills zero in on fascinating details, such as the experience of unearthing fossils, while Sudyka’s entrancing illustrations reflect this attention to detail and the passion Sue brought to her work.” (Booklist, 15 Mar 2019)

Waiting for Chicken Smith by David Mackintosh

Every year a young boy stays in the same cabin at the beach with his family. And every year his friend Chicken Smith stays in the next cabin over. But this year, something’s different: Chicken Smith hasn’t shown up yet. The boy’s little sister, MaryAnn, keeps trying to get his attention, but he’s too busy remembering all of his adventures with Chicken Smith — and thinking about everything they’re going to do this summer. Is Chicken ever going to show up?

RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades PreS-Grade 4
GENRE: picture book
THEMES: summer, friendship, siblings
READALIKES: Summer (Wenxuan), The Last Peach (Gordon)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Mackintosh’s text perfectly captures the timelessness of childhood summer, and his scribbly illustrations (done in pen, pencil, ink, watercolor, and kraft paper) conjure associations of a child’s project sketchbook, the handcrafted look underscored by the old-fashioned-typewriter typeface. Just wonderful. ” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Apr 2019)

*My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero (Author), Zeke Peña (Illustrator)

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her. But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: fathers and daughters, community
READALIKES: Grandma and Me at the Flea (Herrera), Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood (Campoy)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Hornbook starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Dialogue in speech bubbles incorporates both Spanish and English, and the gist of the conversation is easily followed; a fully Spanish edition releases simultaneously. Every girl should be so lucky as to have such a papi.” (Kirkus, 1 Apr 2019)

*Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer

What makes a good day? Daniel is determined to find out, and as he strolls through his neighborhood, he finds a wonderful world full of answers as varied as his neighbors. For Emma, a good day means a strong wind for kite flying. For the bus driver, a good day means pleases and thank-yous.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: community, manners, spring
READALIKES: Now (Portis), Daniel Finds a Poem (Archer)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This visually stunning book also embraces nontraditional gender roles, illustrates diversity within families, and advocates for the importance of giving children a level of independence and also welcoming them into the family circle after their adventures.” (Kirkus, 15 Mar 2019)






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Last week’s New Release Spotlight was also amazing! Check it out:


  • This summer I don’t know what I’m doing?!? I applied to work as a summer school librarian, but no one has heard anything yet.

    I will work on my backyard- making it more a hangout spot. Hooray!

    • Hi, Zee! Hangout spots are awesome! Bring on the shade though–those Texas summers are killer (yet somehow, I still miss them!).

  • Summer is coming and I look forward to the opportunity to read some great YA.
    Aurora Rising by Kaufman looks fantastic.

    • Yes! Space operas are my favorite, and I love Amie K and Jay K collaborations!

  • 5 weeks left of school here! No summer plans except to hang out with my kids.

    • No summer plans sounds like perfection to me. I love hanging out with my kids, too!

  • So excited for summer vacation! I finish next week and plan to read a ton, visit some family and just relax and enjoy some time off! : D

    • I think I will celebrate my first day of summer by reading all day long. I’ve seen something called #bookaday that I’ve wanted to try for years now. It’s where you read one book a day for a period of time. I need this in my life!

  • I will be immersed in two trainings – one to be a Trauma Sensitive Yoga teacher and one to become a Master Herbalist. Excited!

    My choice would be Planet Earth is Blue.


    • These trainings sound so interesting! I’ve never heard of Trauma Sensitive Yoga, but I love that that exists. We have a new yoga/pilates studio that just opened outside our apartment compound. It’s all in Chinese, but I think I may give it a whirl anyway.

    • Debunk–does that mean clear out/simplify? I really need to debunk my pantry. I found some potatoes in there that were growing their own potatoes.

  • Summer plans? Working, hanging out with the family and of course the beach!!

  • Will work one morning a week in the Library for my district’s Summer “Camp IRock” checking out books. And looking forward to my sister coming from Nebraska to visit! We’ll vacay in the mountains of Western NC!!

    • Western NC mountains is near my old stompin’ grounds! I grew up in Roanoke, VA. Beautiful area! My dad lives near Asheville.

  • 6 days until school’s out! This summer includes hurricane relief in west Florida, a family reunion in Tennesse, an RV adventure from Oklahoma to Kitty Hawk, NC, and celebrating my daughter’s completion of her OB/GYN residency in Cleveland OH before she relocates to Stockton CA to begin (finally!) her career!

    • Wow, that is a VERY busy summer! Lucky you to be out so soon! I’ve still got 31 school days left–last day is June 28.

  • School ends in 7 days! I plan to recover from heart surgery and relax. I hope to make it to the beach for a few days too!

    • Oh, goodness, you definitely need some R & R after heart surgery! I hope all heals up well and that you get the rest you need and deserve.

  • I forgot to say what I’m doing this summer! Our last day of school is June 28, so I still have several weeks left of school. After that, my husband and boys will travel to Texas for two weeks. I’ve decided to stay here this year and take that two weeks to work on my blog and TPT store. But when they get back, we will all go to Thailand for 10 days!

  • If I win “On a Scale of One to Ten,” I’ll spend some of my summer vacation reding it! I’ll also tend my daylily gardens, get in some camping and sneak in reading whenever I can.

  • I am the librarian for summer school the month of June. We have a few short trips planned (some around bucket list concerts!), but otherwise plan to tackle my ever-growing “to read” list and some projects for my library that I have found through wonderful blogs such as yours!


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