New Release Spotlight: November 5, 2019

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YA, middle grades, and sequels dominate this week’s list! We have new titles from Kiersten White, Eoin Colfer, Cynthia Hand, Maggie Stiefvater, and Hannah Moskowitz, plus major sequels from Neal Shusterman, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Marissa Meyer, and Jeff Kinney.  I’ve already added The Guinevere Deception and A Thousand Fires (based on The Iliad!)to my TBR. I also ordered Lily the Thief for my seventh grade graphic novel reader–I’ll let you know how it goes!

Books with a * by the title received two or more starred professional reviews. Only Maggie Stiefvater gets that honor this week!

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Camelot Rising trilogy, book 1. Starting this week out with a new trilogy from one of my favorite YA authors! Will I be reading this one? Just try to stop me!

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife…and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, retelling
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Camelot, King Arthur, knights, romance, magic

The How & the Why by Cynthia Hand

Book display idea for November! Did you know November 23rd is National Adoption Day? This book will fit perfectly in a display about adoption and foster families.

Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for; they’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs, but she has questions, too. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her. But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: adoption, mothers, birth mothers, letters, Idaho, heart transplants

Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

Debut author! Moira Alexander has always been fascinated by the deadly sirens who lurk along the shores of her island town. Even though their haunting songs can lure anyone to a swift and watery grave, she gets as close to them as she can, playing her violin on the edge of the enchanted sea. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he’s one of the sirens’ victims. Moira isn’t so sure.

Certain that someone has framed the boy’s death as a siren attack, Moira convinces her childhood friend, the lighthouse keeper Jude Osric, to help her find the real killer, rekindling their friendship in the process.

Publisher’s Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: sirens, lighthouses, murder

A Thousand Fires by Shannon Price

Debut author! Valerie Simons knows the Wars are dangerous-her little brother was killed by the Boars two years ago. But nothing will sway Valerie from joining the elite and beautiful Herons with her boyfriend Matt to avenge her brother. But when Jax, the volatile and beyond charismatic leader of the Stags, promises her revenge, Valerie is torn between old love and new loyalty.

Apparently this is “inspired by The Iliad“? Sold!

  • Genre(s): thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: revenge, murder, The Iliad, war

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman–the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago–and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own–secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

  • Genre(s): thriller, fantasy, paranormal
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: secrets, witches, magic, missing children, time travel

Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz

I’ve never personally cared for the “sick kids in love” trope, but I know my students continue to ask for books like The Fault in Our Stars and Zac & Mia. It’s a good choice for readers who like their romances served with a side of chronic illness. Kirkus starred.

Isabel has one rule: no dating. All the women in her family are heartbreakers, and she’s destined to become one, too, if she’s not careful. But when she goes to the hospital for her RA infusion, she meets a gorgeous, foul-mouthed boy who has her rethinking the no-dating rule and ready to risk everything. Aleksander is chronically ill, too, and there’s a softer side underneath all his jokes. Isabel finds herself unraveling the secrets of a real person, rather than crowd-sourcing her decisions through her online column Sick Girl Wants to Know. They fall for each other hard and fast, but Isabel has known all along they were headed for disaster.

  • Genre(s): romance, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: I can’t find any age recommendations on this one other than that it’s YA
  • Themes: New York City, chronic illness, rheumatoid arthritis, Judaism, Gaucher Disease, advice columns

Refraction by Naomi Hughes

This one sounds really unique! Aliens attacking through mirrors? It reminds me a bit of my current read, Wilder Girls by Rory Power.

Ever since an alien ship was destroyed over earth, cities have been plagued by a deadly fog and monsters that use mirrors as doorways.After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade-until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest. Together, the two discover the horrifying truth behind what really happened when the spaceship was destroyed, and what they must do to save earth from the total destruction no one knows is coming.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: aliens, OCD, Florida, exile

Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany by Andrew Maraniss

1936 was a turbulent time in world history. Adolf Hitler had gained power in Germany three years earlier. Jewish people and political opponents of the Nazis were the targets of vicious mistreatment, yet were unaware of the horrors that awaited them in the coming years. But the Olympians on board the S.S. Manhattan and other international visitors wouldn’t see any signs of trouble in Berlin. Streets were swept, storefronts were painted, and every German citizen greeted them with a smile. Like a movie set, it was all just a facade, meant to distract from the terrible things happening behind the scenes.

This is the incredible true story of basketball, from its invention by James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891, to the sport’s Olympic debut in Berlin and the eclectic mix of people, events and propaganda on both sides of the Atlantic that made it all possible. Includes photos throughout, a Who’s-Who of the 1936 Olympics, bibliography, and index.

Pair with the young readers adaptation of Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat and Strong Inside by Andrew Maraniss. Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction, sports
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: basketball, history, Olympic Games, WWII, racism

Fugly by Claire Waller

Debut author! In real life, eighteen-year-old Beth is overweight, shy, and geeky. She’s been bullied all her life, and her only refuge is food. Online, though, she’s a vicious troll who targets the beautiful, vain, oversharing It Girls of the internet. When she meets Tori, a fellow troll, she becomes her online girlfriend-slash-partner-in-crime.

But then Tori picks a target who’s a little too close to home for Beth. Unsettled, Beth decides to quit their online bullying partnership. The only problem is, Tori is not willing to let her go.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: bullying, cyber-bullying, online trolling, college life, depression, LGBT+, family problems, body image, overweight characters

*Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Dreamer trilogy, book 1. This is a spin-off of The Raven Cycle series. Ronan Lynch is a dreamer. He can pull both curiosities and catastrophes out of his dreams and into his compromised reality. Jordan Hennessy is a thief. The closer she comes to the dream object she is after, the more inextricably she becomes tied to it. Carmen Farooq-Lane is a hunter. Her brother was a dreamer…and a killer. She has seen what dreaming can do to a person. And she has seen the damage that dreamers can do. But that is nothing compared to the destruction that is about to be unleashed.

It’s Maggie Stiefvater, so I’m not surprised that this one got three starred reviews! In a previous book review, I complained about YA authors consistently using super-unique names for their characters. I specifically called out the name Declan, so I chuckled to see another Declan in this story. Three starred reviews.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, paranormal
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: complex families, dreams, fate, LGBT+, West Virginia

Lily the Thief by Janne Kukkonen

Lily is a young novice who dreams of being a master thief. That’s not easy when the Guildmaster of Thieves only assigns you the lowliest jobs: pick-pocketing, trespassing, and petty theft. But on one of these meager quests, Lily unearths a plot involving a mysterious cult and long-forgotten gods–a secret that could destroy the whole world. Lily must fight to save the same people who have branded her an outcast. Can she use her cunning to put an ancient evil to rest?

I’m not finding a lot of information about this book, which is a Finnish import. But it looks cute, and I’m always after new graphic novels that I think will appeal to middle schoolers. I showed it to my seventh grade son and asked if it looked interesting to him, and he said, yep! Order it! So I did.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: thieves, orphans, sexism, strong females

The Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer

One week after their eleventh birthday, the Fowl twins–scientist Myles, and Beckett, the force of nature–are left in the care of house security (NANNI) for a single night. In that time they befriend a troll who has clawed his way through the earth’s crust to the surface. Unfortunately for the troll, he is being chased by a nefarious nobleman and an interrogating nun, who both need the magical creature for their own gain, as well as a fairy-in-training who has been assigned to protect him. The boys and their new troll best friend escape and go on the run. Along the way they get shot at, kidnapped, buried, arrested, threatened, killed (temporarily), and discover that the strongest bond in the world is not the one forged by covalent electrons in adjacent atoms, but the one that exists between a pair of twins.

The twins Miles and Beckett are Artemis Fowl’s much younger brothers. Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: twins, brothers, magic, Europe, trolls

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy (Author) and Whitney Gardner (Illustrator)

I was surprised that this title received no starred reviews. The picture book it’s based on, I Dissent, is written by the same author and received two starred reviews. But out of three professional reviews I read, two reviewers mentioned that some of the text and text boxes are hard to follow due to placement and wordiness. All three reviews praise the book, but this may have kept it from earning starred reviews.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often said that true and lasting change in society and law is accomplished slowly, one step at a time. This is how she has evolved, too. Step by step, the shy little girl became a child who questioned unfairness, who became a student who persisted despite obstacles, who became an advocate who resisted injustice, who became a judge who revered the rule of law, who became…RBG.


  • Genre(s): graphic novel, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-AD
  • Themes: Supreme Court, judges, strong females, Jewish women, WWII, anti-Semitism, discrimination, sexism

Activist: A Story of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Shooting by Lauren Elizabeth Hogg (Author) and Anthony Zuiker Don Hudson (Illustrator)

On February 14, 2018, Valentine’s Day, Lauren Elizabeth Hogg lost her two best friends in the now notorious school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In all, seventeen people were gunned down by the shooter, a student at the school. Survivors of that tragic day vowed to rise up and fight for their right–and the right of kids everywhere–to safety in their schools.

Lauren and her brother David were brought up together in a tight-knit family, where lessons about compassion, responsibility, and civic duty were always a part of their lives. Their mother, Rebecca Boldrick Hogg, has long pursued a life of activism, working to help the less fortunate in her community. Their father, Kevin Hogg, a retired FBI agent, dedicated his life to keeping citizens safe and secure.

But neither parent could do much to answer Lauren’s tearful questions after that horrific day: “Why not me? Why am I still here?” All they could do was urge her to put her lessons to work. She has done that here, by telling her own story in this powerful graphic novel about that fateful day–and beyond. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, memoir, graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-12
  • Themes: school shootings, gun violence, activism, #neveragain, grief

M is for Movement by Innosanto Nagara

Here is the story of the social movement that bestselling children’s book author and illustrator Innosanto Nagara witnessed as a child growing up in Jakarta and how it overturned the government of Indonesia. People, everyday people, were not happy with their government. At first the protests were at the universities. But then they spread. People drew sustenance from other social movements in other countries. And then the unthinkable happened. The protagonist in this fictionalized children’s memoir is a witness and a participant, fearful sometimes, brave sometimes too, and by the time change comes, this child who is now an adult, is as surprised as anyone.

  • Genre(s): fictional memoir, short stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Indonesia, activism, political protest, social movement, vignettes

Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington (Author) and Theodore Taylor III

Charles Henry Turner’s mind itched with questions. Fascinated by animals, bugs, and crustaceans, Turner studied their lives. When books didn’t answer his questions, he researched, experimented, and looked for answers on his own, even when faced with racial prejudice.

  • Genre(s): picture book, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: insects, life science, African-Americans, entomology, race relations, prejudice, racism

Not a Butterfly Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta (Author) and Shennen Bersani (Illustrator)

I love moths! We used to have so many beautiful moths where I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Bright green Luna moths were my favorite, and the huge gypsy moths scared me when they gathered on the wall beneath our porch light. Pair this with the title just above this one about Charles Harrington.

Meet dozens of moths–and a few bonus creatures–from A (Atlas Moth) to G (Green Lips Moth–no kissing allowed!) to J (Jersey Tiger Moth, whose underwings are a completely different color than their upper wings, not to be confused with their underwear) to Z (Zigzag Moth).

  • Genre(s): picture book, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: moths, butterflies, alphabet books

Ariba: An Old Tale About New Shoes by Masha Manapov

Debut author! This book is perfect for a writing lesson I’ve done with ELLs in the library! I ask teachers to donate different kinds of shoes just for the lesson. I request shoes of all sizes and shapes, new and old, unique and boring. Students select a shoe and describe who might have owned that shoe and where it might have been. Pair this book with Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams.

Marcus’ joy over his new pair of shoes reminds his grandfather of an old story about a boy named Ariba who has the most unusual relationship with an extraordinary pair of shoes. Because no matter how many times Ariba tries to get rid of his shoes, they always seem to find their way back to him. After all, why would shoes caked, baked and layered with stories ever want to find a new owner? For in life, just as we claim a few precious things as our own, there are also those rare things that claim us. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: shoes, African folktale, grandparents






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  • Wow, I’m amazed you think the name Declan is particularly unique! I can’t imagine it would be seen much in China – nor, perhaps, in America? – but I’ve come across it quite often here in Australia…and it’d be HUGELY popular in Ireland, I’d imagine! 😉


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