New Release Spotlight: February 11, 2020

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Say hello to a six-star review! We don’t see these too often, so middle and high school librarians should definitely checkout The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh. Since I am still in Mexico waiting out the coronavirus, I am most interested in The Everything I Have Lost. It’s set in Juarez, Mexico, which is known for its drug cartel activity and high murder rate. I’m also interested in reviewing The Everything I Have Lost because of its widely-varied age recommendations from professional reviewers.

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. Don’t forget The Ginormous book list, which is now up to well over 300 titles!

*The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming

First human to cross the Atlantic via airplane; one of the first American media sensations; Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite; loner whose baby was kidnapped and murdered; champion of Eugenics, the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding; tireless environmentalist. Charles Lindbergh was all of the above and more. Here is a rich, multi-faceted, utterly spellbinding biography about an American hero who was also a deeply flawed man. In this time where values Lindbergh held, like white Nationalism and America First, are once again on the rise, The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh is essential reading for teens and history fanatics alike.

Whoa! Six starred reviews!!!

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Charles Lindbergh, pilots, aviation, US history, WWII, kidnapping, nationalism, xenophobia

Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario

Rowena feels like her family is a frayed string of lights that someone needs to fix with electrical tape. After her mother died a few years ago, she and her sister, Ariana, drifted into their own corners of the world, each figuring out in their own separate ways how to exist in a world in which their mother is no longer alive.

But then Ariana disappears under the cover of night in the middle of a snowstorm, leaving no trace or tracks. When Row wakes up to a world of snow and her sister’s empty bedroom, she is left to piece together the mystery behind where Ariana went and why, realizing along the way that she might be part of the reason Ariana is gone.

With sparse writing in a free verse style, this may appeal to reluctant readers. No starred reviews, but all professional reviews are positive.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, free verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: alternating perspectives, grief, sisters, twins, Filipino-Americans, pregnancy miscarriage, missing persons, family problems, poetry

The Everything I Have Lost by Sylvia Zéleny

12-year-old Julia keeps a diary about her life growing up in Juarez, Mexico. Life in Juarez is strange. People say its the murder capital of the world. Dad’s gone a lot. They can’t play outside because it isn’t safe. Drug cartels rule the streets. Cars and people disappear, leaving behind pet cats. Then Dad disappears and Julia and her brother go live with her aunt in El Paso. What’s happened to her Dad? Julia wonders. Is he going to disappear forever?

Written in diary format. The vignettes are short, which may increase its appeal with reluctant readers. Age ranges are all over the place. Publishers Weekly recommends ages 10-14. Booklist recommends grades 6-9. But Kirkus and SLJ both recommend Grades 8+. Even more interesting is that the Kirkus review mentions a naive voice in the first half and an “expletive-filled second half.”

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5+ (see notes above)
  • Themes: Juarez, Mexico, murder, fear, drug cartels, missing persons, diaries, El Paso, Texas

Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal

Debut author! Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time…until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

This is the first book in a planned duology. Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): dark fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: magic, goddesses, tattooing, theater, performance arts

The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves

David Espinoza is tired of being messed with. When a video of him getting knocked down by a bully’s slap goes viral at the end of junior year, David vows to use the summer to bulk up– do what it takes to become a man–and wow everyone when school starts again the fall.

Soon David is spending all his time and money at Iron Life, a nearby gym that’s full of bodybuilders. Frustrated with his slow progress, his life eventually becomes all about his muscle gains. As it says on the Iron Life wall, What does not kill me makes me stronger.

As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: steroids, bodybuilding, bullying, addiction, body dysmorphia, Florida, Latinx Americans, cyberbullying, internet memes, YouTube

Bug Boys by Laura Knetzger

Rhino-B is a brash, but sweet guy. Stag-B is a calm and scholarly adventurer. Together these two young beetles make up the Bug Boys, best friends who spend their time exploring the world of Bug Village and beyond, as well as their own–sometimes confusing and complicated–thoughts and feelings.

In their first adventure, the Bug Boys travel through spooky caves, work with a spider to found a library, save their town’s popular honey supply from extinction, and even make friends with ferocious termites!

What challenges will these two earnest beetles face? Whatever it is, you can be sure that Rhino-B and Stag-B will face it together–with the power of friendship behind them.

This reminds me a bit of Lobel’s classic Frog and Toad series. Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-6
  • Themes: best friends, beetles, insects, adventures

Gloom Town by Ronald L. Smith

When twelve-year-old Rory applies for a job at a spooky old mansion in his gloomy seaside town, he finds the owner, Lord Foxglove, odd and unpleasant. But he and his mom need the money, so he takes the job anyway. Rory soon finds out that his new boss is not just strange, he’s not even human–and he’s trying to steal the townspeople’s shadows.

Together, Rory and his friend Isabella set out to uncover exactly what Foxglove and his otherworldly accomplices are planning and devise a strategy to defeat them. But can two kids defeat a group of ancient evil beings who are determined to take over the world?

  • Genre(s): mystery, scary stories
  • Recommended for: Grade 4-7
  • Themes: magic, poverty, single parent families

*Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye

National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Poet Laureate, and devoted trash-picker-upper Naomi Shihab Nye explores these questions and more in this original collection of poetry that features more than eighty new poems. “I couldn’t save the world, but I could pick up trash,” she says in her introduction to this stunning volume.

With poems about food wrappers, lost mittens, plastic straws, refugee children, trashy talk, the environment, connection, community, responsibility to the planet, politics, immigration, time, junk mail, trash collectors, garbage trucks, all that we carry and all that we discard, this is a rich, engaging, moving, and sometimes humorous collection for readers ages twelve to adult.

Three starred reviews, but are you surprised? It’s Naomi Shihab Nye!

  • Genre(s): poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades 3+
  • Themes: sustainability, conservation, immigration, trash, environment

Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk! by Greg Howard

Mikey is a true entrepreneur. Running his businesses from his family’s carport/storage/laundry room isn’t easy–but hey, the business world is a tough nut to crack! After his first venture–a cardboard general store–was swept off his front lawn in a baby tornado, and his second business–a croquet training camp–lost all its students, Mikey is looking for his next big thing. So when an older boy from school walks into Mikey’s office looking for a talent agent to represent his drag queen act and introduces himself as Coco Caliente, Mistress of Madness and Mayhem, Mikey immediately draws up a contract on his notepad.

With such a fabulous client on his roster, Mikey reimagines himself as a rising talent manager with an eye for greatness and places an open casting call at school. Signing up Charlie, a boy in a wheelchair who dresses up as superheroes; Sanja, a dream interpreter; and Sadie, a girl with a high-jumping 3 legged Pit Bull named Fifi; Mikey has a team of stellar performers destined to make this business venture a success.

His client list is looking pretty good, but Coco is still Mikey’s main star and Mikey wholeheartedly believes Coco is talented enough to win a local talent competition with a big cash prize. But when Coco’s father and bullies from school seem set on stopping Coco from performing, Mikey and his friends are just as determined to make sure the show goes on.

Professional reviews are mixed on this one, and there are not enough Goodreads reviews to make a call. I’ve included it because kids as drag queens isn’t something I’ve seen before in middle grade literature.

  • Genre(s): humor, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: drag queens, performance arts, entrepreneurship, bullying

*Up On Bob by Mary Sullivan

Bob the dog doesn’t mind hard work when it means he can reward himself with a nap. But Someone is watching him sleep! Hopefully they will just go away if Bob lies really still. But Someone, who happens to be a cat, has other things in mind.

Booklist and BCCB starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: dogs, cats, naps, friendship, animals, pets

Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Doreen Rappaport (Author) and Eric Velasquez (Illustrator)

When Ruth was a young girl, her mother encouraged her to read, be independent, and stand up for what she thought was right. Ruth graduated first in her class at Cornell University and tied for top of her graduating class at Columbia Law School. But she faced prejudice as both a woman and a Jew, making it difficult to get a job. Ruth eventually found work as a law clerk, and her determination, diligence, and skill led to a distinguished career as a lawyer. In 1993, she became the second woman ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court. As a Supreme Court justice, Ruth has inspired fierce admiration and faced fervent opposition for her judgments in high-profile cases, many of which have involved discrimination. She has been lauded for her sharp wit and boldness, even when her opinions differ from that of the majority.

As a student, teacher, lawyer, and judge, Ruth often experienced unfair treatment. But she persisted, becoming a cultural icon, championing equality in pay and opportunity. Her brilliant mind, compelling arguments, and staunch commitment to truth and justice have convinced many to stand with her, and her fight continues to this day.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: Supreme Court, judicial system, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jewish women, strong women, prejudice, sexism, perseverance, civil rights

Such a Good Boy by Marianna Coppo

Buzz is a very lucky dog. He lives in a fancy house inside an even fancier one. His appearance is maintained with the utmost care, and his elevated pedigree is a point of pride. Some might say that Buzz has it all…but what does it mean to “have it all,” exactly? And is it enough to have everything you could want–except the freedom to be yourself?

This could spark great storytime conversations about why Buzz might not want to go back to his life of luxury.Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: dogs, pets, appearances, freedom, wealth, being onself, storytime

*Dandelion’s Dream by Yoko Tanaka

In a meadow filled with dandelion buds just about to flower, one dandelion blooms into a real lion. Roots and leaves unfurl into four tiny paws and a long tail with a fluffy yellow tuft. What a great, wide world there is to explore when you have paws instead of roots: there are fast trains to ride, regal ships to sail, and cities with lights as bright as Dandelion’s field in full bloom. But will a real lion ever be content to go back to being a rooted dandelion?

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: dandelions, lions, dreams, roots, life cycles, plants, spring, imagination

Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots by Michael Rex

Do you know the difference between a fact and an opinion? It can be a hard thing to understand. Some things are facts–like the number of robots in this book. Other things are opinions–like which robot would make the best friend, or which robot dances best. And sometimes to tell the difference between a fact and an opinion, you need to wait to get more information–that’s because facts can be proven true or false, and opinions are things you feel and believe–but that you can’t prove.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: fact vs. opinion, information literacy, robots, information skills, media literacy

A Kid of Their Own by Megan Dowd Lambert (Author) and Jessica Lanan (Illustrator)

Companion to: A Crow of His Own.

Rooster Clyde has just settled in and found his voice when everyone demands that he take his hard-earned crow down a notch so as to not disturb newcomer Rowdy. That doesn’t sit well with Clyde. Neither does the fact that motherly goose Roberta seems to have taken the new animals’ side.

The farm community learning to deal with a young member of the group is the main story in text and is paired with a wordless story in illustrations that shows Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin getting ready for their adopted child to arrive on the farm.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book (partially wordless)
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: farms, roosters, farm animals, goats, new siblings, families

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