New Release Spotlight: June 11, 2019

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It’s new book releases day, and the countdown to the last day of school continues! My students and I still have 14 school days left. It’s a busy 14 days though, and I know it will fly by in a blur of inventory, final library lessons, summer checkout, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning!

This week’s list is a tad shorter than normal, but it has several titles that received one or two starred reviews. Enjoy!

*Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight-A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win. Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead–Sana. There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.

PAGES: 312
GENRE: romance, humor
THEMES: LGBT, movies, cheerleaders
READALIKES: I Wish You All the Best (Deaver), These Witches Don’t Burn (Sterling)
STARS AND AWARDS: Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A beautifully diverse cast, a hopeful look at growing up, and a blossoming spring romance between well-developed characters are sure to spark joy in teen readers.” (Publishers Weekly starred review, 6 May 2019)

The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined by Stephanie Hemphill

Jehanne was an illiterate peasant, never quite at home among her siblings and peers. Until one day, she hears a voice call to her, telling her she is destined for important things. She begins to understand that she has been called by God, chosen for a higher purpose–to save France. Through sheer determination and incredible courage, Jehanne becomes the unlikeliest of heroes. She runs away from home, dresses in men’s clothes, and convinces an army that she will lead France to victory. As a girl in a man’s world, at a time when women truly had no power, Jehanne faced constant threats and violence from the men around her. Despite the impossible odds, Jehanne became a fearless warrior who has inspired generations.

PAGES: 492
GENRE: free verse, historical fiction
THEMES: French history, Joan of Arc, girl power, Hundred Years’ War
READALIKES: Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc (Elliott), White Rose (Wilson)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “It’s not easy to both tell a story and explain history, but Hemphill does both beautifully.” (Booklist starred review, 1 May 2019)

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

“Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off–after all, her sex life, her terms–but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the center of a national scandal. Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has.

PAGES: 343
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: coming of age, slut-shaming, rumors, gossip
READALIKES: Asking for It (O’Neill), Just a Girl (Mesrobian), The Truth About Alice (Mathieu)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Essential for opening and fueling dialogue about a culture that normalizes slut-shaming and promotes toxic masculinity.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Apr 2019)

*This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

It’s the night of the annual Autumn Equinox Festival, when the town gathers to float paper lanterns down the river. Legend has it that after drifting out of sight, they’ll soar off to the Milky Way and turn into brilliant stars, but could that actually be true? This year, Ben and his classmates are determined to find out where those lanterns really go, and to ensure success in their mission, they’ve made a pact with two simple rules: No one turns for home. No one looks back. The plan is to follow the river on their bikes for as long as it takes to learn the truth, but it isn’t long before the pact is broken by all except for Ben and (much to Ben’s disappointment) Nathaniel, the one kid who just doesn’t seem to fit in.

PAGES: 329
GENRE: graphic novel, adventure, magical realism
THEMES: friendship, magic,
READALIKES: Fortunately, the Milk (Gaiman), Pie in the Sky (Lai)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This is a charming read, thanks to adventurous Nathaniel, who remains steadfast and self-assured despite enduring verbal bullying from the other boys, in contrast to insecure, timid Ben.” (SLJ, 1 June 2019)

Mother Steals a Bicycle: and Other Stories by Shruti Buddhavarapu (Author), Salai Selvam (Narrator), and Tejubehan (Artist)

Did Amma really steal a bicycle, and is it even possible to wrestle your shadow?” Did you ever wonder how your parents were as kids? Were they up to mischief? Did they get into trouble a lot? Then read these stories about a mother who tells her child about her strange and exciting adventures growing up in a village in South India. Look carefully at the beautiful illustrations… and imagine yourself in this fantastic world of midnight feasts, roving hyenas, shrieking peacocks, buzzing insects and stolen bicycles…does it sound unbelievable? And yet…could it all be true?”

GENRE: short stories, magical realism
THEMES: rural India, poverty, magic
READALIKES: Speaking Up for Each Other: A Collection of Short Stories for Tweens and Middle Grade Readers (Spark, et. al.)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A beautifully designed and expertly narrated introduction to childhood in the southern Indian countryside.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Apr 2019)

*The Magnificent Migration: On Safari with Africa’s Last Great Herds by Sy Montgomery

Sibert medalist Sy Montgomery takes readers on a staggering, emotional journey alongside the greatest land migration on earth–that of the wildebeest across the Serengeti–to provide a you-are-there account of one of nature’s most fascinating occurrences. Montgomery explores the wonder of migration, asking questions like, how do migration patterns sculpt the environment? Why do animals migrate? And how do they know where to go? With lyrical prose, abundant facts, and the inclusion of other species who undertake remarkable migrations, Montgomery makes a journey of thousands of miles fly by–but not without leaving its mark. Full color photography.

PAGES: 176
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 5-adult
GENRE: narrative nonfiction
THEMES: extinction, Africa, migration
READALIKES: Great Migrations: Whales, Wildebeests, Butterflies, Elephants, and Other Amazing Animals on the Move (Carney)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Estes’ passion for these astonishing animals makes this illuminating, information-rich account an adventure that may just inspire a gnu generation of ecological heroes.” (Booklist starred review, 15 May 2019)

*Destination Moon: The Remarkable and Improbable Voyage of Apollo 11 by Richard Maurer

For the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2019, this propulsive nonfiction charts the history of the Apollo program and puts it in its larger context. Only now, it is becoming clear how exceptional and unrepeatable Apollo was. At its height, it employed almost half a million people, many working seven days a week and each determined that “it will not fail because of me.” Beginning with fighter pilots in WWII, Maurer traces the origins of the Apollo program to a few exceptional soldiers, a Nazi engineer, and a young eager man who would become president.

PAGES: 387
GENRE: narrative nonfiction
THEMES: science, moon landing, Apollo 11
READALIKES: Moon Mission: The Epic 400-Year Journey to Apollo 11 (Brouwer)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: ” This comprehensive history of the Space Race is a solid addition to any collection where literary nonfiction and/or space-related books are popular.” (SLJ, 1 June 2019)

Groundbreaking Guys: 40 Men Who Became Great by Doing Good by Stephanie True Peters (Author), Shamel Washington (Artist)

Our history books are full of great men, from inventors to explorers to presidents. But these great men were not always good men. It’s time for our role models to change. This book pays tribute to Mr. Rogers, Barack Obama, Hayao Miyazaki, and more: men whose masculinity is grounded in compassion and care. These men have varying worldviews and are accomplished in a range of fields, but they share important commonalities. They served their communities. They treated people with respect. They lifted others up. And they went on to create change, inspire others, and, indeed, do great things–not in spite of their goodness, but because of it.

GENRE: narrative nonfiction, biography
THEMES: community, service
READALIKES: Akira to Zoltan: Twenty-six Men Who Changed the World (Chin-Lee), Boys Who Rocked the World: Heroes from King Tut to Bruce Lee (McCann)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Pure gold for readers in search of role models who buck conventional masculine expectations.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 May 2019)

*Max Attacks by Kathi Appelt

Max is a cat. He attacks. From socks to strings to many a fish, attacking, for Max, is most de-lish. But how many of these things can he actually catch? Well, let’s just say it’s no even match.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: cats, rhyming
READALIKES: Bad Kitty (Bruel)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Clearly a paean to the pleasures of having a cat companion, this catalog of Max’s actions should win plenty of accolades” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Apr 2019)

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers

All Jamie wants is to spend some time alone at the beach and finish her art project in the sand. But everyone around keeps asking her pesky questions she doesn’t know how to answer- what are you making? Aren’t you clever? Jamie does her best to tune it all out and focus on her creation…until she finds a like-minded friend. Widely respected artist Matt Myers makes his debut as an author in this story that celebrates creativity, introversion, and the beauty of a little peace and quiet.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: solitary play, creativity
READALIKES: The Most Magnificent Thing (Spires), The Dot (Reynolds)
STARS AND AWARDS: Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This day-at-the-seashore tale also serves as a celebration of creative play and artistic exploration, and a reminder to stop and smell the roses.” (SLJ, 1 June 2019)

Go for the Moon: A Rocket, a Boy, and the First Moon Landing by Chris Gall

The Apollo 11 astronauts have prepared carefully for their attempt to be the first men to land on the moon. The young narrator of this book has prepared carefully, too: he explains the design of the spacecraft, the flight from the earth to the moon, and the drama of touching down–while shadowing the astronaut’s voyage with one of his own. Go for the Moon captures the fascinating detail and inspiring adventure of the moon landing. It is a captivating celebration of one of humankind’s greatest technical achievements and most extraordinary feats of exploration.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: space, moon landing, Apollo 11
READALIKES: Margaret and the Moon (Robbins), Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (Floca)
STARS AND AWARDS: Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Gall uses approachable analogies to illuminate STEAM concepts, and an author’s note recalls Gall’s experience watching the moon landing as a child, further personalizing this edifying and heartfelt story.” (Publishers Weekly, 8 Apr 2019)

Ghost Cat by Kevan Atteberry

There’s something oddly familiar about this ghost cat–it does lots of things that remind the boy of the cat he used to have. The boy’s not sure why the ghost cat never stays for more than a few moments, or why the ghost cat has visited him in the first place. He follows the ghost cat all over his house, until finally it leads him to something new and wonderful.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: cats, death of a pet, grief
READALIKES: I’ll Always Love You (Wilhelm), Bambino and Mr. Twain (Maltbie)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Though the youngster misses his pet, the story is not sad and could be helpful for parents discussing the loss of a pet with a child.” (Booklist starred review, 15 May 2019)


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