New Release Spotlight: October 8, 2019 (Part II, Middle Grades)

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If you are looking for YA or picture books for this week, scroll to the bottom to see the links.

As always, titles with a * received two or more starred professional reviews.

*Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer L. Holm (Author) and Matthew Holm (Illustrator)

Okay, technically this should go at the bottom of this list because it’s a sequel. But I missed its release last week, and this is such a popular series that it deserves a spot at the top. I LOVE this series! The artwork is bright and colorful, and the story lines are the perfect mix of funny and serious. The Holm siblings really know their audience! Give this to the many fans of Roller Girl and Awkward.

Sunny’s just made it to middle school…and it’s making her life very confusing. All her best friend Deb wants to talk about is fashion, boys, makeup, boys, and being cool. Sunny’s not against any of these things, but she also doesn’t understand why suddenly everything revolves around them. She’s much more comfortable when she’s in her basement, playing Dungeons & Dragons with a bunch of new friends.

Three starred reviews.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: middle school, friendship, growing up, popularity, Dungeons & Dragons

*Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds (Author) and Alexander Nabaum (Illustrator)

I know I’m not the only librarian with a literary crush on Jason Reynolds. It seems he can do no wrong. His book Ghost even got my comic-obsessed seventh grader to read (and enjoy!) an actual fiction novel. Do I even need to give a description of this new book? We secondary librarians all know we’re going to buy it for our libraries ASAP.

This is a collection of ten stories (one per block) about what happens one day when school lets out. Early praise is extremely positive. It received FOUR starred professional reviews.

  • Genre(s): short stories, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: school, friends, life’s ups and downs

Friend or Fiction by Abby Cooper

I don’t believe that this will be the most popular book in your school, but I do think it could be the exact book that someone in your school needs right now. We have a young girl dealing with her father’s cancer diagnosis. She’s withdrawing from her family and friends and life in general. Is it any wonder that she discovers an imaginary friend (that she invented and controls)?

In the pages of her notebook, soon after her father is diagnosed with cancer, Jade invents an imaginary best friend she can depend on–Zoe; but when Zoe somehow magically shows up in real life, Jade wonders how genuine their friendship can possibly be if Jade’s controlling Zoe through what she writes in her notebook.

  • Genre(s): magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-6
  • Themes: Colorado, cancer, imaginary friends

The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery on Earth by Ian Lendler (Author) and C.M. Butzer (Illustrator)

Dinosaurs existed. That’s a fact we accept today. But not so long ago, the concept that these giant creatures could have roamed Earth millions of years before humans was unfathomable. People thought what we know as dinosaur bones were the bones of giant humans. Of large elephants. Of angels, even.

So, how did we get from angel wings to the T-Rex? The First Dinosaur tells the story of the idea of dinosaurs, and the chain of fossil discoveries and advances in science that led to that idea. Be prepared to meet eccentric men and overlooked women who uncovered the pieces to a puzzle so much bigger than themselves, a puzzle far stranger and more spectacular than they could have ever imagined.

I first thought this might be a picture book, but at 224 pages, it isn’t. Give this to fans of Bragg’s How They Croaked or Albee’s Bugged. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-9
  • Themes: dinosaurs, scientists, theories

Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems by Margarita Engle (Author) and Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez (Illustrator)

From Juana Briones and Juan Ponce de Leon, to eighteenth century slaves and modern-day sixth graders, the many and varied people depicted in this moving narrative speak to the experiences and contributions of Latinos throughout the history of the United States, from the earliest known stories up to present day. It’s a portrait of a great, enormously varied, and enduring heritage.

As with The First Dinosaur above, I checked to see if this one was a picture book. It isn’t; it has 208 pages. I’m sure the release date is no accident: Indigenous Peoples Day is October 14th, and Hispanic Heritage Month goes through October 15. This title is perfect for libraries looking to increase their Latinx and indigenous peoples titles.

  • Genre(s): poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: Hispanic-Americans, history, indigenous peoples

Fighting for the Forest: How FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps Helped Save America by P. O’Connell Pearson

The Civilian Conservation Corps–FDR’s favorite program and “miracle of inter-agency cooperation”–resulted in the building and/or improvement of hundreds of state and national parks, the restoration of nearly 120 million acre of land, and the planting of some three billion trees–more than half of all the trees ever planted in the United States.

Fighting for the Forest tells the story of the Civilian Conservation Corp through a close look at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia (the CCC’s first project) and through the personal stories and work of young men around the nation who came of age and changed their country for the better working in Roosevelt’s Tree Army.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: Great Depression, FDR, US national forests and parks, Civilian Conservation Corp

Banjo by Graham Salisbury

I get it–the cover looks very 1980s. But so many students love books like Because of Winn Dixie and Where the Red Fern Grows, I think this could still be quite popular. I know I would have read it when I was a kid–I real all the dog stories!

Thirteen year-old Danny Mack is a rising rodeo star in rural Oregon. He lives on a ranch with his older brother, their dad, and his faithful border collie, Banjo. Late one night, Danny is awakened by gunshots. Banjo has been wounded. The neighbors claim he was going after their livestock, which gives them the right to shoot the dog or have him put down. Dad reluctantly agrees. They must obey the law. Danny knows Banjo is innocent, and comes up with a desperate plan to save him–but something goes terribly wrong.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: dogs, animal stories, rodeo, ranch life, Oregon

*Suffragette: The Battle for Equality by David Roberts

American women have had the right to vote for just less than 100 years. It’s crazy for me to think about how hard-fought this battle was. How was women voting not the obviously-right thing to do? Is this what people will say in 100 years about the legalization of gay marriage? That it’s also the obviously right thing to do? Or with civil rights and discrimination legislation? Why on earth should the idea of equal rights for everyone be so ridiculously difficult?

Imprisonment, hunger strikes, suffrajitsu–the decades-long fight for women’s right to vote was at times a ferocious one. This book gives a history of women’s suffrage in the USA and the UK. Two starred reviews (Kirkus and Publishers Weekly). Illustrated.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-8
  • Themes: suffrage, voting rights, equal rights, civil rights, equality, sex role

Ra the Mighty: The Great Tomb Robbery by A. B. Greenfield (Author) and Sarah Horne (Illustrator)

Ra the Mighty adores his duties as Pharaoh’s cat: naps by the pool and plenty of snacks. Being lazy is so much fun. But when a royal tomb gets robbed, Ra and his hardworking friend Khepri must team up to restore justice. The clues point to a young boy whom Ra admires. Will the Great Detective play favorites, or will he uncover the truth?

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: animals, cats, Egypt, crime




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