New Release Spotlight: August 27, 2019

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Oy, it is supremely hot here this week! I’ve been going walking in the mornings, and every day, I return a hot, sweaty, drippy mess. The sun comes up pretty early here–by about 5:30, it’s fully daylight. The earlier I get out and get back, the better. That’s why I chose a snow scene for the Pinterest pin for this post. Fall doesn’t come to Shanghai until about mid-October, but I am so incredibly ready for it!

This week brings a lot of new releases, but I’d say the middle grades look the best this week. The book I’m most likely to read this week is Last Meeting of the Gorilla Club by Josh Nickerson. I always love creepy horror stories and am thrilled to see the recent uptick in horror novels for middle grades. Students ask for horror all the time, and it’s nice to have some new ones to recommend! I’m also excited for Dough Boys and a new book by the ever-popular April Henry.

The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sarah Miller

When the Dionne Quintuplets were born on May 28, 1934, weighing a grand total of just over 13 pounds, no one expected them to live so much as an hour. Overnight, Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Emilie, and Marie Dionne mesmerized the globe, defying medical history with every breath they took. In an effort to protect them from hucksters and showmen, the Ontario government took custody of the five identical babies, sequestering them in a private, custom-built hospital across the road from their family–and then, in a stunning act of hypocrisy, proceeded to exploit them for the next nine years.

PAGES: 309
GENRE: narrative nonfiction, biography
THEMES: multiple births, Canada, exploitation
READALIKES: Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz (Kor), Tom Thumb: The Remarkable True Story of a Man in Miniature (Sullivan)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “An altogether fresh, perceptive, well-written chronicle of this cautionary tale.” (Kirkus, 15 Jun 2019)

Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry

When a shooting breaks out in a Portland shopping mall, six teen misfits are trapped. Many of them are hiding impossible secrets, and all of them have a lot at stake. Can they set aside their differences and band together to fight for survival? This standalone YA thriller tells the story of how these misfit teens make it–or don’t–through a terrifying ordeal.

PAGES: 248
GENRE: thriller, survival
THEMES: mass shootings, secrets
READALIKES: This Is Where It Ends (Nijkamp), Hate List (Brown)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Well-done character development, even pacing, and the gripping premise will keep teens turning pages.” (SLJ, 1 Apr 2019)

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

When Deena’s wild older sister Mandy goes missing, presumed dead, Deena refuses to believe it’s true. Especially when letters start arriving–letters from Mandy–which proclaim that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions but a curse, handed down to women from generation to generation. Mandy’s gone to find the root of the curse before it’s too late for Deena. But is the curse even real? And is Mandy still alive? Deena’s desperate, cross-country search for her beloved sister–guided only by the notes that mysteriously appear at each destination, leading her to former Magdalene laundry sites and more–is a love letter to women and a heartbreaking cathartic journey.

PAGES: 315
GENRE: magical realism
THEMES: LGBT+, teen pregnancy, Ireland, curses
READALIKES: Bone Gap (Ruby), House of Salt and Sorrows (Craig)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Though the story loses an ounce of its tautness when the magical realism moves into the foreground, it remains an astonishingly potent offering to women who break the mold.” (Booklist starred review, Jul 2019)

Mind Games by Shana Silver

Arden sells memories. Whether it’s becoming homecoming queen or studying for that all important test, Arden can hack into a classmate’s memories and upload the experience for you just as if you’d lived it yourself. Business is great, right up until the day Arden whites out, losing fifteen minutes of her life and all her memories of the boy across the school yard. The boy her friends assure her she’s had a crush on for years. Arden realizes that her own memories have been hacked, but they haven’t just been stolen and shared… they’ve been removed. And she’s not the only one: her mysterious crush, Sebastian, has lost ALL of his memories. But how can they find someone who has the power to make them forget everything they’ve learned?

PAGES: 311
GENRE: thriller, science fiction
THEMES: computer hacking, memory, privacy
READALIKES: All Rights Reserved (Katsoulis), Genesis Girl (Bardsley)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The complex plot, the occasional twists, and the quick pacing make this a difficult read to put down.” (SLJ, 1 Jul 2019)

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, but when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince. Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen–and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

PAGES: 424
GENRE: fantasy
THEMES: murder, royal court, forbidden love
READALIKES: Three Dark Crowns (Blake), The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Carson)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Despite some predictability, it’s a fun read, as the tempo canters along. In tropical Varenia, citizens have a wide range of hair and skin colors and value them all as beautiful. A fun and adventurous bit of fantasy romance.” (Kirkus, 1 Jul 2019)

The Spinner of Dreams by K.A. Reynolds

Annalise Meriwether–though kind, smart, and curious–is terribly lonely. Cursed at birth by the devious Fate Spinner, Annalise has always lived a solitary life with her loving parents. She does her best to ignore the cruel townsfolk of her desolate town–but the black mark on her hand won’t be ignored. Not when the monster living within it, which seems to have an agenda of its own, grows more unpredictable each day. There’s only one way for Annalise to rid herself of her curse: to enter the Labyrinth of Fate and Dreams and defeat the Fate Spinner. So despite her anxiety, Annalise sets out to undo the curse that’s defined her–and to show the world, and herself, exactly who she is inside.

PAGES: 408
GENRE: fantasy
THEMES: fate, destiny, curses, labryinths
READALIKES: Sorcery of Thorns (Rogerson), There Will Come a Darkness (Pool)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Adventurous readers of all ages will fall in love with this tale of hope, courage, and friendship.” (SLJ, 1 Jul 2019)

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi

In the summer of 1984, 12-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet makes the trip from Huntsville, Alabama, to Harlem, where she’ll spend a few weeks with her father while her mother deals with some trouble that’s arisen for Ebony-Grace’s beloved grandfather, Jeremiah. Jeremiah Norfleet is a bit of a celebrity in Huntsville, where he was one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA two decades earlier. Though Ebony-Grace struggles to make friends among her peers, she can always rely on her grandfather and the imaginary worlds they created together. In Harlem, however, she faces a whole new challenge. Harlem in 1984 is an exciting and terrifying place for a sheltered girl from Hunstville, and her first instinct is to retreat into her imagination.

PAGES: 250
GENRE: historical fiction
THEMES: African-Americans, space race, segregation, racism, Harlem, friendship, grandparents
READALIKES: Some Places More Than Others (Watson), Blended (Draper)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Zoboi excels at resurrecting 1980s Harlem in her middle grade debut, expertly sprinkling in nostalgia-fueled references to break dancing, rap battles, and the rise of female MCs.” (Publishers Weekly, 27 May 2019)

Last Meeting of the Gorilla Club by Sara Nickerson

Eleven-year-old Josh Duncan has never had much luck making friends–not the real kind, anyway. Moving to a new town is supposed to be a chance to leave behind the problems that plagued Josh at his last school. Problems like Big Brother, Josh’s favorite and best friend. Because, as Josh’s parents tell him, he’s too old to still have imaginary friends. But even before the first day of school is over, Big Brother reappears–and he’s not alone. Only this time one of Josh’s imaginary friends seems to be interacting with another boy at school, Lucas Hernandez. Can Lucas see them, too?

PAGES: 290
GENRE: realistic fiction, scary stories
THEMES: imaginary friends, grief, depression, mental health
READALIKES: Friends for Life (Norriss), The Imaginary (Harrold)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Readers can dive in and get lost in ambiguous, creepy elements that will prepare them for the horror of Stephen King. Strange and genuinely introspective.” (Kirkus, 1 Aug 2019)

Dough Boys by Paula Chase

Deontae “Simp” Wright has big plans for his future. Plans that involve basketball, his best friend, Rollie, and making enough money to get his mom and four younger brothers out of the Cove, their low-income housing project. Long term, this means the NBA. Short term, it means being a dough boy–getting paid to play lookout and eventually moving up the rungs of the neighborhood drug operation with Rollie as his partner.

Roland “Rollie” Matthews used to love playing basketball. He loved the rhythm of the game, how he came up with his best drumbeats after running up and down the court. But playing with the elite team comes with extra, illegal responsibilities, and Rollie isn’t sure he’s down for that life. The new talented-and-gifted program, where Rollie has a chance to audition for a real-life go-go band, seems like the perfect excuse to stop being a dough boy. But how can he abandon his best friend?

PAGES: 327
GENRE: realistic fiction, sports
THEMES: basketball, urban life, African Americans, drugs, gangs, friendship
READALIKES: Ghost (Reynolds), Nikki on the Line (Roberts)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Chase displays her signature flair for conveying black youths’ language of intimacy even as she refuses the inaccurate yet popular theory that complex ethical entanglements cannot be engaged in middle-grade fiction.” (Kirkus, 15 May 2019)

Archimancy by J.A. White

Shadow School, book 1. Cordelia Liu knew Shadow School was going to be different. Still, she didn’t expect the school grounds to be filled with ghosts. Cordelia soon realizes she’s not the only one who can see the ghosts; her new friend Benji can too. Together with super-smart Agnes, the trio are determined to find out why the ghosts are there, and whether there’s a way to set them free. But the school was created with more sinister intentions, and someone is willing to go to extreme lengths to ensure that the ghosts remain trapped forever.

PAGES: 291
GENRE: fantasy, scary stories, paranormal
THEMES: ghosts, new kid at school, middle school
READALIKES: Spirit Hunters (Oh), The Thickety series (White)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A fun addition to the growing genre of scary books for middle graders; readers will be eager to see more of this smart and spunky trio in further spooky adventures.” (Kirkus, 1 Jun 2019)

The Women Who Caught The Babies: A Story of African American Midwives by Eloise Greenfield (Author) and Daniel Minter (Illustrator)

This book highlights important aspects of the training and work of African-American midwives and the ways in which they have helped, and continue to help, so many families by “catching” their babies at birth. The blend of Eloise Greenfield’s poetry and Daniel Minter’s art evokes heartfelt appreciation of the abilities of African-American midwifes over the course of time. The poem “Africa to America” begins the poetic journey. The poem “The Women” both heralds the poetry/art pairing and concludes it with a note of gratitude. Also included is a piece titled “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” which pays tribute to the midwife who caught newborn Eloise.

GENRE: picture book, poetry
THEMES: midwives, US history, African-Americans
READALIKES: Show Way (Woodson), Henry’s Freedom Box (Levine)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Greenfield also includes black-and-white photographs of her childhood self, a nod to “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” the midwife who “caught” her in 1929. Rites of passage incandescently brought to light.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Aug 2019)

*A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein (Author) and Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)

Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin. No, he said. The hardest part is knowing where to end. “It’s terrible to be circling up there without a place to land.”

Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speech writers, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once.

GENRE: picture book biography
THEMES: Martin Luther King, Jr., speeches, civil rights
READALIKES: Dreamers (Morales), I Have a Dream (King, Nelson), Freedom Song: Young Voices and the Struggle for Civil Right (Turck)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Pinkney’s trademark illustrations dramatize this and the speech, adding power and further illuminating the sense of historical importance. Gives readers a fresh and thrilling sense of what it took to make history.” (Kirkus, 15 Jul 2019)

Hoax for Hire by Laura Martin

The McNeil family has always been professional hoaxers–tricking bystanders into believing they’re seeing legendary creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Unlike the rest of his family, twelve-year-old Grayson hates hoaxing and wants nothing to do with the business–even when the McNeils land a huge job and must pull off four sea monster hoaxes in a week. But when things go disastrously wrong and Dad and Gramps go missing, Grayson and his brother, Curtis, are the only people who can finish the job and save their family.

PAGES: 311
GENRE: adventure, fantasy, humor
THEMES: family, hoaxes, photography
READALIKES: The Loch Ness Monster (Peabody), The Bigfoot Book: The Encyclopedia of Sasquatch, Yeti and Cryptid Primates (Redfern)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Martin weaves a wonderful adventure of hoaxes, legendary monsters, and the importance of family connections.” (SLJ, 1 Aug 2019)

This Book of Mine by Sarah Stewart (Author) and David Small (Illustrator)

This Book of Mine is a celebration of the power of reading, of the ways in which books launch our adventures, give us comfort, challenge our imaginations, and offer us connection. From new mothers to fantasy lovers, butterfly hunters to musicians, the readers of This Book of Mine all share a common passion for favorite books–whether freshly discovered at the library or bookstore or saved from childhood and reread across a lifetime. A unique gift for bibliophiles young and old, This Book of Mine trumpets a simple truth: A well-loved book in hand brings color to any reader’s life.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: books, love of reading, imagination, libraries
READALIKES: It’s a Book (Smith), The Worst Book Ever (Gravel)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Bibliophiles unite. This is a glorious first-purchase for all libraries.” (SLJ starred review, 1 Aug 2019)

*A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

It’s just an ordinary stone. But it isn’t just a stone—to the animals that use it, it’s a resting place, a kitchen, a safe haven…even an entire world. With stunning illustrations in cut paper, pencil, collage, and paint, and soothing rhythms that invite reading aloud, A Stone Sat Still is a gorgeous exploration of perspective, perception, sensory experience, color, size, function, and time, with an underlying environmental message that is timely and poignant.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: environment, perception, nature
READALIKES: They All Saw a Cat (Wenzel), Stick and Stone (Ferry)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Publishers Weekly starred, Library Journal starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The wonderful mixed-media creatures and their encounters entertain, while bigger ideas suggest all kinds of conversations about perception and perspective, wildlife and habitat, local and global change, and eternity and evanescence.” (Publishers Weekly starred review, 13 May 2019)

*Squeak! y Laura McGee Kvasnosky (Author) and Kate Harvey McGee (Illustrator)

Early one morning, a gentle breeze tickles the ear of a small mouse, and he wakes up with a squeak! That squeak wakes up the some chipmunks, who rattle tree branches and knock pine cones into the river. Those pine cones wake the trout, who splash around and wake up an elk on the riverbank.

And so goes the story of Squeak!, a chain-reaction story set in a beautiful, rolling landscape with animals who are all woken up one by one with the rising of the sun.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: animals, mice, morning, nature
READALIKES: The Mitten (Brett), Before Morning (Sidman)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Rich details reward repeated, careful readings, and a sharp eye will find hints on each spread of the next creature to wake up. A surefire hit for storytime, one-on-one reading, and gift giving.” (Booklist starred review, July 2019)

Once Upon a Goat by Dan Richards (Author) and Eric Barclay (Illustrator)

Once upon a time, a very prim and proper king and queen begged their fairy godmother for a child. They’d prefer a boy, with glowing skin, bright eyes, and two roses for lips…but any kid will do. When they find themselves gifted with a baby goat (also known as a kid) instead, they can’t imagine how he’ll fit into their lives. But of course, it isn’t long before he’s part of the royal family.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: families, acceptance, fairy tales, goats
READALIKES: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (Steig), A Bear Came Along (Morris)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A corner is chomped out of the right front endpaper, revealing a picture of the lovable little goat eating the missing piece. A fresh, amusing, kindhearted picture book.” (Booklist starred review, 15 May 2019)





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  • Thanks for the book reviews. I’m putting the April Henry book on my next book order for school right now! Not as hot in Colorado as in China but still pretty toasty. Envious you can enjoy the AC and a good book! Labor day is approaching so that is my plan, too.


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