New Release Spotlight: October 29, 2019

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Only one Spotlight list this week–less work for me! The book that looks most interesting to me is Randi Pink’s Girls Like Us, mainly because it reminds me a bit of Girls on the Verge, which I read a few months ago.

Books with a * beside the title received two or more starred professional reviews. I didn’t forget to add them this week; no books fit that definition. These titles have also been added to The Ginormous, a growing spreadsheet of titles, themes, genres, recommended grade levels, and number of starred reviews. Be sure to bookmark it–access to The Ginormous is 100% free!

All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell

Raped at age nine, 17-year old Ava still struggles not to let that rape define her. But Ava’s deep scars are both physical (a razor line down her face) and emotional. She opens up to no one apart from her best friend Syd, who hides secrets of her own.

One snowy night, Ava goes for a walk in the woods and stumbles upon the body of a young woman. Not wanting to subject the deceased woman to any more trauma or exposure, Ava does not call the police. Instead, Ava investigates the murder on her own.

BCCB starred review.

  • Genre(s): thriller, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: rape, PTSD, , detectives, murder, LGBT, Maine, physical scars

Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland

We all have souls. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers–like Kamai and her mother–can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep. But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it. Kamai has touched the door; it was warm and beating, like it had a pulse. She has put her ear to it; she heard her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: She opens the door.

Some reviewers say this is a bit melodramatic, but all the professional reviews I read praise the book’s character development and world-building. Pair this with Levithan’s Every Day or Hodge’s Cruel Beauty. The front cover is gorgeous, but it looks too similar to the Cruel Beauty cover.

  • Genre(s): dark fantasy, paranormal
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: souls, asexuality, murder, transgender characters

A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

Debut author! Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of blood and marrow–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.

Give this to fans of Blake’s Three Dark Crowns. Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Africa, fairies, magic, sisters, royalty

Rewind by Carolyn O’Doherty

Debut author! Sixteen-year-old Alex is a Spinner–she has the ability to rewind time to review past events. Hated and feared because of their ability to find the truth, the small population of Spinners is restricted to Centers–compounds created to house and protect them. Alex’s society uses the Spinners’ skills to solve major crimes, but messing with time comes with consequences: no Spinner lives past the age of twenty. At sixteen, Alex is in her prime–until time sickness strikes early. When she is offered an experimental treatment, Alex sees a future for herself for the first time. But the promising medication offers more than just a cure–it also brings with it dire consequences.

I wish that front cover were more interesting! I’ve added this book to my TBR after reading the reviews and summary, but as a reader browsing library shelves, I probably would have given this a pass because the cover is so boring. Pair this with Derting’s The Body Finder series.

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller, paranormal
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: time travel, police, murder, detectives, organized crime, human experimentation

The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah

Debut author! In the last days of the twenty-first century, sea creatures swim through the ruins of London. Trapped in the abyss, humankind wavers between fear and hope-fear of what lurks in the depths around them, and hope that they might one day find a way back to the surface.

When sixteen-year-old submersible racer Leyla McQueen is chosen to participate in the city’s prestigious annual marathon, she sees an opportunity to save her father, who has been arrested on false charges. The Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. But the race takes an unexpected turn, forcing Leyla to make an impossible choice.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, dystopia
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: climate change, fathers, racing, false arrest, post-apocalypse, government corruption, London, England

Girls Like Us by Randi Pink

Set in 1972. Four teenage girls. Four different stories. What they all have in common is that they’re dealing with unplanned pregnancies. In rural Georgia, Izella is wise beyond her years, but burdened with the responsibility of her older sister, Ola, who has found out she’s pregnant. Their young neighbor, Missippi, is also pregnant, but doesn’t fully understand the extent of her predicament. When her father sends her to Chicago to give birth, she meets the final narrator, Susan, who is white and the daughter of an anti-choice senator.

I enjoyed Sharon Biggs Waller’s Girls on the Verge, and I’ve already added Girls Like Us to my Goodreads TBR. Books like these are super-important in the American political climate, where people who are not affected by certain political issues have considerable voice and control over it. SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: teen pregnancy, abortion, women’s rights, PTSD, sexual abuse, incest, politics, African-Americans, rural Georgia, friendship

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Debut author! Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time…well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react. And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Another needed topic in our high school libraries! Librarians need to be aware that this is a sex-positive novel, with frank discussions about masturbation and vibrators.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: discrimination, HIV, AIDS, LGBT parents, African-Americans, San Francisco, California

Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot (Author) and Cara McGee (Illustrator)

Thirteen-year-old Dinah Lance knows exactly what she wants, who she is, and where she’s going. First, she’ll win the battle of the bands with her two best friends, then she’ll join the Gotham City Junior Police Academy so she can solve crimes just like her dad. Who knows, her rock-star group of friends may even save the world, but first they’ll need to agree on a band name. When a mysterious figure keeps getting in the way of Dinah’s goals and threatens her friends and family, she’ll learn more about herself, her mother’s secret past, and navigating the various power chords of life.

Illustrations are in color, heavy with pinks, blues, and purples. In my libraries, some students prefer colorful graphic novels over black and white illustrations. My seventh grade son and I tend to prefer them as well. Give this to readers who have outgrown Hale’s Princess in Black series.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: superheroes, strong girls, musicians, Battle of the Bands

Surprise Lily by Sharelle Byars Moranville

Growing up on the farm it was always just Rose and grandma, working the land that had been in the Lovell family for generations. She doesn’t miss her mother, Iris, a bit. In fact, when Iris shows up, ten-year old Rose is furious. But when an ugly argument between her mother and grandmother reveals painful truths about their family history, Rose runs away…and inadvertently discovers her secret little sister, Lily.

I love that the chapters alternate among previous generations of Lovell women who have lived on the farm.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: mothers and daughters, grandparents, family secrets, farm life, multigenerational, Illinois

Overview, Young Explorer’s Edition: A New Way of Seeing Earth by Benjamin Grant and Sandra Markle

When astronauts look down at our planet and see its vibrant surface shining against the blackness of space, they experience the Overview Effect–a sense of awe, an awareness that everything is interconnected, and an overwhelming desire to take care of our one and only home.

Overview- Young Explorer’s Edition, newly adapted for young readers from the adult book Overview, captures this sense of wonder and shares it with readers without having to leave the ground. Extraordinary aerial photographs reveal Earth’s natural beauty and show the surprising, fascinating, and destructive ways humans have impacted our environment.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3+
  • Themes: space, Earth, conservation

Henry and Bea by Jessixa Bagley

This book sounds like a great way to help students understand that their friends aren’t always “mad” at them just because they seem down or are not talking. Too often, kids (and let’s face it, adults) conclude that their friend must be mad at them if they aren’t talking. Communication is important for all of us, no matter our age.

Henry and Bea have always been inseparable…until one day Henry suddenly stops talking to Bea. He won’t chat with her in class, and he won’t sit with her at lunch. Bea can tell something’s going on, and she’s determined to find out what it is. Then their teacher announces that the class is taking a field trip to a farm, and Bea hopes that this might be her chance to reconnect with Henry. When Henry finds an old cat collar at the farm and starts to cry, he finally reveals his secret to Bea: his cat Buddy died last week. Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: friendship, hurt feelings, communication, death, grief

The Wizard’s Tears by Maxine Kumin (Author), Anne Sexton (Author), and Keren Katz (Illustrator)

Everything is going wrong in the town of Drocknock until the new wizard arrives. He is very young, and he is lonely, and very nervous too; but he knows just where to find the right spells to stop the chicken pox epidemic and bring back the twenty cows that had disappeared. The drought is the town’s most important problem, however. The new wizard needs five of his own tears to bring rain, but he is so happy in Drocknock he cannnot cry!
“Peel an onion,” the old wizard advises. “But,” he warns, “beware, beware…a wizard’s tears are powerful. They can make strange magic…”

Title sounds familiar? This is a remake of a 1975 picture book. Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: fairytales, magic

Chapter Two is Missing by Josh Lieb (Author) and Kevin Cornell (Illustrator)

Do not be alarmed, but the second chapter of this book appears to be missing! It was here a minute ago, but now it seems to have simply walked off. Not only that, but some of the punctuation has gone topsy-turvy, a bunch of letter Ms are hiding in Chapter 5, and Chapter 45 appears to be from another book entirely! The narrator is going to need some assistance getting things in order, especially with the unhelpful detective who keeps butting in and that shifty janitor lurking about. Luckily he has you–the reader–to help!

Give this to fans of The Book with No Pictures. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, mystery
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: detectives, puns, word play

The Thank You Letter by Jane Cabrera

Grace writes charming and humorous letters to thank relatives and friends for her birthday presents. But why stop there? To who else can she give thanks? Grace thanks Mr. Jones for teaching her to read, her dog for his waggy tail, and the sky for being so blue. Soon showers of thoughtful letters and notes are circulating through the town. When Grace returns home, a gatefold reveals that the inside is decorated from floor to ceiling with notes, cards, and letters responding to her thoughtful missives.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: manners, thank you notes, kindness, gratitude

The Space Walk by Brian Biggs

Astronaut Randolph Witherspoon wants to take a walk–a space walk, that is! But Ground Control has other ideas. Randolph must eat some lunch, get some exercise, and then he can go outside, provided he dresses warmly and doesn’t talk to strangers. But Randolph’s mission doesn’t exactly go to plan, leading to an unexpected new friend.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: space, aliens, astronauts






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  • Thank you so much for posting these lists. They are so helpful for finding new and exciting books for our middle school.

    • You’re welcome, Kelly! I enjoy putting them together each week, and they help me, too!

  • Some of these look good, but I can’t wait for next week’s!!! SUPERNOVA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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