New Release Spotlight: November 12, 2019

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I wrote some of this week’s Spotlight while listening to Christmas music! I know it’s probably too early for many of you, but I’m proud I’ve managed put it off this long. I’ve been talking about Christmas music since before Halloween. Sing it, David Bowie and Bing Crosby!

Two picture books stand out to me this week. The first, Caveboy Crush just sounds cute for Valentine’s Day storytime. And that cover is just too sweet! If your school mascot is Neanderthals or Cavemen, you must get this one for your library!

The second picture book that’s interesting to me this week is Pluto Gets the Call. I homeschool my boys, and we do Astronomy lessons on Wednesdays. Tomorrow’s lesson is on Pluto, and after researching for the lesson, I finally truly understand why Pluto does not qualify as a planet and why it’s controversial. It was neat to see a picture book about the Pluto controversy on this week’s Spotlight list!

*Gravity by Sarah Deming

Debut author! When Gravity Delgado walks into Cops ‘n Kids, a no-frills Brooklyn boxing gym, and starts working with the legendary Coach Thomas, she joins a true melting pot of fighters. There’s the flirtatious Lefty (a southpaw), hard-to-beat D-Minus (“They call me D-Minus ’cause I’m all you need”), artistic Kimani “Monster” Browne, and a host of others. At the gym, Gravity finds the unexpected- the father she’s never had in her coach, not one but two romantic prospects, and, most importantly, a love and skill for boxing. If she can stay focused, despite her troubled home life, she might just have a shot at the Olympics.

Four starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, sports fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: sports, boxing, Olympics, family problems, determination, racially-mixed people, Brooklyn, New York

When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis

Debut author! When Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the end of the most romantic and magical summer ever, she thinks her heart will never heal again. But over the course of the following year, Devon finds herself slowly putting the broken pieces back together. Now it’s senior year and she’s determined to enjoy every moment of it, as she prepares for a future studying galaxies. That is, until Ashton shows up on the first day of school.

Give this to fans of Sarah Dessen and Nicola Yoon.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: mental health, depression, broken heart, first love, African-Americans, biracial characters, socioeconomic class, astronomy, discrimination

*What the Eagle Sees: Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal by Eldon Yellowhorn (Author) and Kathy Lowinger (Author)

What do people do when their civilization is invaded? Indigenous people have been faced with disease, war, broken promises, and forced assimilation. Despite crushing losses and insurmountable challenges, they formed new nations from the remnants of old ones, they adopted new ideas and built on them, they fought back, and they kept their cultures alive.

When the only possible “victory” was survival, they survived. This book tells the stories of what Indigenous people did when invaders arrived on their homelands. What the Eagle Sees shares accounts of the people, places, and events that have mattered in Indigenous history from a vastly under-represented perspective–an Indigenous viewpoint.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-9
  • Themes: indigenous peoples, invasion, Native American history, survival

Crown of Oblivion by Julie Eshbaugh

This sounds a bit like The Maze Runner, but from the description, I think I’d like this one even better than I liked The Maze Runner. This will be a hit in libraries where The Hunger Games is popular. I like that professional reviewers recommend it for middle school. It’s not always easy to find YA dystopias that still work for sixth grade.

In Lanoria, Outsiders, who don’t have magic, are inferior to Enchanteds, who do. That’s just a fact for Astrid, an Outsider who is indentured to pay off her family’s debts. She serves as the surrogate for the princess–if Renya steps out of line, Astrid is the one who bears the punishment for it. But there is a way out: the life-or-death Race of Oblivion. First, racers are dosed with the drug Oblivion, which wipes their memories. Then, when they awake in the middle of nowhere, only cryptic clues–and a sheer will to live–will lead them through treacherous terrain full of opponents who wouldn’t think twice about killing each other to get ahead.

But what throws Astrid the most is what she never expected to encounter in this race. A familiar face she can’t place. Secret powers she shouldn’t have. And a confusing memory of the past that, if real, could mean the undoing of the entire social structure that has kept her a slave her entire life.

  • Genre(s): dystopia, adventure, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 6+
  • Themes: social class, amnesia, superhuman powers, magic

*Color Outside the Lines: Stories about Love by Sangu Mandanna (Editor)

An anthology of short stories exploring interracial and other relationships, in which differences are front and center, but may or may not matter.

All the reviews I read praise this book’s diversity and inclusion of all kinds of ways people love one another. What strikes me most in the reviews of this title is an inconsistency in the reviews. One reviewer (SLJ) states that the book lacks sufficient LGBT+ stories (“most of the love represented is heteronormative”), yet another reviewer (Kirkus) writes that LGBT+ stories make up about a third of the book. Titlewave also lists LBGTQIA+ as one of the book’s “Curriculum Focus” tags.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): short stories, romance, anthology
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: relationships, people of color, interractial relationships, LGBT+

*All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Allie Abraham has it all going for her–she’s a straight-A student, with good friends and a close-knit family, and she’s dating popular, sweet Wells Henderson. One problem: Wells’s father is Jack Henderson, America’s most famous conservative shock jock, and Allie hasn’t told Wells that her family is Muslim. It’s not like Allie’s religion is a secret. It’s just that her parents don’t practice, and raised her to keep it to herself.

But as Allie witnesses Islamophobia in her small town and across the nation, she decides to embrace her faith–study, practice it, and even face misunderstanding for it. Who is Allie, if she sheds the facade of the “perfect” all-American girl?

Four starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: prejudice, Islamophobia, identity, feminism, Muslims, white privilege

The Ghost in Apartment 2R by Denis Markell

It stinks that Danny’s older brother moved out and went to college. But you know what’s worse? He left behind an angry ghost in his room!

With the help of his friends Nat and Gus, Danny interviews everyone his Brooklyn neighborhood to find out about spirits. Is it an Arabian ghoul? A Korean gwishin? A Polish haunting? Maybe the answer lies with Danny’s own bubbe and her tales of a dybbuk, a Jewish mythological ghost. Regardless of its origins, what does the spirit truly want? And can Danny manage to bring the phantom to rest?

  • Genre(s): fantasy, mystery, supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: Brooklyn, New York, ghosts, brothers, multi-generational characters

The Starspun Web by Sinéad O’Hart

Give this one to fans of Lemony Snicket, Karen Foxlee, Madeline L’Engle, and Claire Legrand. SLJ starred.

All her life, Tess has lived at Miss Ackerbee’s orphanage with her friends and her pet tarantula, Violet. But one day, a mysterious man named Mr. Cleat shows up and whisks Tess away to live with him. Before Tess leaves, Miss Ackerbee gives her a strange lens, and makes an even stranger admission: that Tess can travel to parallel worlds, and has been able to do so since she was found as a baby. Now, with her newfound abilities and the mysterious lens in tow, Tess must navigate life with Mr. Cleat and his nefarious housekeeper, who seem to be up to more than they let on. As Tess learns about the lens and its role in transporting her to other worlds, she discovers that behind Mr. Cleat’s oily smiles is a darker intention: one that could bring the world to its feet.

  • Genre(s): adventure, fantasy, sci-fi
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: time travel, orphans

Bugs in Danger: Our Vanishing Bees, Butterflies, and Beetles by Mark Kurlansky (Author) and Jia Liu (Illustrator)

By now you’ve probably heard that bees are disappearing–but they aren’t the only species at risk. Populations of fireflies, butterflies, and ladybugs have all been declining in recent years, too. This middle grade nonfiction explains the growth, spread, and recent declines of each of these four types of insects. Exploring human causes, like the Baltimore electric company that collected fireflies to attempt to harness their phosphorescent lighting source, to natural occurrences, like the mysterious colony collapse disorder that plagues bee populations, nonfiction storyteller Mark Kurlansky shows just how much bugs matter to our world.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: endangered animals, insects, entymology, butterflies, bees, beetles, ladybugs, fireflies, ecosystems, biodiversity, climate change

The Truth About Hawks by Maxwell Eaton III

Did you know that hawks can see four to eight times better than a human? Did you know that some hawks even eat other types of birds? Did you know that hawks use ultra-violet light to find their prey? Discover these facts and more in this new addition to the popular series that combines raucous amounts of humor with a surprising amount of information on beloved animal friends.

This is the seventh book in Eaton’s The Truth About Your Favorite Animals series. SLJ Express starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, nonfiction, fact books
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: animals, hawks, birds of prey, facts, birds

Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex (Author) and Laurie Keller (Illustrator)

Pluto loves being a planet. That is, until the day he gets a call from some Earth scientists telling him he isn’t a planet anymore! You probably wanted to meet a real planet, huh? So, Pluto takes the reader on a hilarious and informative journey through the solar system to introduce the other planets and commiserate about his situation along the way.

In a way, this is a fiction-nonfiction book. The now-dwarf planet Pluto feels snubbed after he is demoted from planet to dwarf planet. Pluto mopes about his situation, interspersing it with facts about the other planets, the sun, the asteroid belt, and the Kuiper Belt. Like Pluto, the anthropomorphic planets are sensitive about their perceived flaws and differences, helping students remember what makes them so different from one another.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: Pluto, solar system, planets, astronomy, Kuiper Belt

The Perfect Seat by Minh Lê (Author) and Gus Gordon (Illustrator)

A child-moose and parent-moose leave a bookstore together and look for the perfect seat for a cozy read-aloud.

This story is great for story time discussions about where we like to read and the importance of reading out loud, whether it be with parents, siblings, or simply reading to our pets.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: storytime, read-aloud, parents, bookish

One More Hug by Megan Alexander (Author) and Hiroe Nakata (Illustrator)

A tree branch tapping on a window, a pretend sword breaking in two, the skreeeetch of a school bus door: one more hug by mom is always needed to comfort and reassure a young boy that he has the inner confidence to carry on. As time passes, and he outgrows his childhood fears, he returns the favor by giving his mother one more hug as he goes on his way.

This title will probably appeal to parents more than kids, but it would make a great gift for Mother’s Day.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: hugs, fear, reassurance, mothers

Caveboy Crush by Beth Ferry (Author) and Joseph Kuefler (Illustrator)

Neander is a young caveboy. He spends his days doodling on cave walls, chasing mammoth butterflies, and playing with his pet rock, Rock. But one day, he meets Neanne–and he’s CRUSHED! She’s short, she’s hairy, she’s perfect!

Neander does everything he can think of to get Neanne’s attention. He picks a bouquet for her from the Field of the Bees. He fetches a conch shell for her from the Waves of Salt. As Neander’s gestures get grander and grander, Neanne remains unimpressed. But then Neander hatches the grandest gesture of all, and it’s Neanne’s turn to do some crushing.

    • Genre(s): picture book
    • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
    • Themes: Valentine’s Day, crushes, cavemen, neanderthals

The Best Kind of Bear by Greg Gormley (Author) and David Barrow (Illustrator)

When Nelly asks Bear what kind of bear he is, he isn’t entirely sure how to answer. So off he goes to find out. But none of the different bears he meets on his travels are like him. Grizzly bears don’t have stitching; polar bears don’t have tags attached to their bottoms; spectacled bears are not as soft and bouncy as Bear is; and sun bears never wear bow ties. Disheartened, he returns to Nelly…only to discover what kind of bear he is–her own special bear!

  • Genre(s): picture books
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: teddy bears, friendship

A is for Audra: Broadway’s Leading Ladies from A to Z by John Robert Allman (Author) and Peter Emmerich (Illustrator)

Step into the spotlight and celebrate a cavalcade of Broadway’s legendary leading ladies. Start with “A” for six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, then sing and dance your way through the alphabet with beloved entertainers like Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury, Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Chita Rivera, Lea Salonga, and Liza Minnelli.

A wide range of recommended grade levels on this title! I agree with reviewers that this title will appeal mainly to theater kids and possibly adults who love Broadway. It would make a great gift for a theater teacher.

  • Genre(s): picture books, alphabet books, collected biography
  • Recommended for: K-7
  • Themes: theater, performance arts, musicals, Broadway, actors











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