New Release Spotlight: February 25, 2020

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Okay, the book I’m most interested in reading this week is Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold. I read and reviewed Damsel, which won a Printz Honor, and I had some pretty strong feelings about whether it should be a YA novel. Damsel was definitely a weird little book, and looking at Goodreads reviews, it looks like reviews are quite mixed. It’s not every day you see a Printz Honor with a 3.44 Goodreads rating. When I saw Red Hood coming out this week, I knew it would go straight to the top of my TBR.

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 400 titles and now includes Genre Personality classifications!

*Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

I reviewed Arnold’s Damsel, which won a Printz Honor last year. It was a weird little book that I read in one sitting, but I think it’s more adult than YA. Because Goodreads reviews of Damsel are all over the place, I’m fast-tracking Red Hood in my TBR so I can do a Librarian’s Perspective review.

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her.

A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past, and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): dark fantasy, retelling, horror
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Little Red Riding Hood, wolves, toxic masculinity, feminist retelling, menstruation, werewolves, #metoo, rape

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

They still haven’t found the body of the first and only boy who broke Alessandra’s heart–and they never will. Since then, all of her relationships have been purely physical. And now at eighteen years old, Alessandra is ready for more. The plan is simple: 1. Make the king fall in love with her.2. Get him to marry her.3. Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

It’s no small task, but Alessandra wants a kingdom and is going to do everything within her power to get it. She knows the freshly crowned Shadow King will be her toughest target yet. Shrouded in a mysterious power, no one is allowed to touch him. But, as forces combine to try and keep Alessandra from earning the king’s heart, she wonders if perhaps she’s already lost her own.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: anti-hero, royalty, assassins, heartbreak

Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights by Karen Blumenthal

Karen Blumenthal is one of my favorite nonfiction authors for teens. She just has a way of sucking in the reader with a really good story, and the best part is…it’s true! I am concerned that the 400-page length is quite long for teen nonfiction. I love that eye-catching front cover!

A thorough, well-researched history of the abortion debate in the United States. From award-winning author Karen Blumenthal, comes a look at the history of the fight for reproductive rights in the United States. Tracing the path to the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade and the continuing battle for women’s rights, Blumenthal examines, in a straightforward tone, the root causes of the current debate around abortion and repercussions that have affected generations of American women. This book will help facilitate difficult discussions and awareness of a topic that is rarely touched on in school but affects each and every young person.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: law, Supreme Court, abortion, US history, Roe v. Wade, women’s rights, reproductive rights

Rebelwing by Andrea Tang

Things just got weird for Prudence Wu. One minute, she’s cashing in on a routine smuggling deal. The next, she’s escaping enforcers on the wings of what very much appears to be a sentient cybernetic dragon.

Pru is used to life throwing her some unpleasant surprises–she goes to prep school, after all, and selling banned media across the border in a country with a ruthless corporate government obviously has its risks. But a cybernetic dragon? That’s new.

She tries to forget about the fact that the only reason she’s not in jail is because some sort of robot saved her, and that she’s going to have to get a new side job now that enforcers are on to her. So she’s not exactly thrilled when Rebelwing shows up again.

Even worse, it’s become increasingly clear that the rogue machine has imprinted on her permanently, which means she’d better figure out this whole piloting-a-dragon thing–fast. Because Rebelwing just happens to be the ridiculously expensive weapon her government needs in a brewing war with its neighbor, and Pru’s the only one who can fly it.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, dystopia, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: smugglers, crime, artificial intelligence, censorship, Washington, DC, dragons, strong female characters

*Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus

Liv Fleming is done with childhood fantasies. Done pretending she believes her missing father’s absurd theories about alien abduction. Done going through the motions of checking the traps he set just for her friend Doug’s sake. But on the very day she chooses to destroy the traps, she discovers in one of them a creature so inhuman it can only be one thing.

In that moment, she’s faced with a painful realization: Her dad was telling the truth. And no one believed him.Now she and Doug have a choice to make. They can turn the alien over to the authorities…or they can take matters into their own hands.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, horror
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: aliens, abduction, fear, grief, vengeance, torture, anger

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

Debut author! Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Llori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population. Seventeen-year-old Janelle Baker survives in an Llori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of the initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution.

Music, art and books are illegal, but Janelle breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, she is terrified that the Llori will track it back to her and kill her. Born in a lab, M0Rr1s was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Janelle’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. But he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need for more. They are both breaking the rules for the love of art and Janelle inspires the same feeling in him that music does.

Pair this with Alienated by Melissa Landers or The Cage by Megan Shepherd.

  • Genre(s): romance, science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: aliens, art, post-apocalypse, freedom, censorship, libraries

*Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus

Based on the true story of the French villagers in WWII who saved thousands of Jews, this novel tells how a group of young teenagers stood up for what is right. Among them is a young Jewish boy who learns to forge documents to save his mother and later goes on to save hundreds of lives with his forgery skills. There is also a girl who overcomes her fear to carry messages for the Resistance. And a boy who smuggles people into Switzerland. But there is always the threat that they will be caught: A policeman is sent to keep an eye on them, German soldiers reside in a local hotel, and eventually the Gestapo arrives, armed with guns and a list of names. As the knot tightens, the young people must race against time to bring their friends to safety.

Three starred reviews! Pair it with White Bird.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-12
  • Themes: WWII, resistance, Holocaust, France, Jews, refugees, friendship

A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner

When sixth grader Silas Wade does a school presentation on former Major Leaguer Glenn Burke, it’s more than just a report about the irrepressible inventor of the high five. Burke was a gay baseball player in the 1970s–and for Silas, the presentation is his own first baby step toward revealing a truth about himself he’s tired of hiding. Soon he tells his best friend, Zoey, but the longer he keeps his secret from his baseball teammates, the more he suspects they know something’s up–especially when he stages one big cover-up with terrible consequences.

Books about middle school boys coming out are not easy to find. This one is extra-special because Silas wants to come out to his baseball teammates. Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, sports fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: baseball, LGBT+, prejudice, discrimination, coming out, self-acceptance, confidence, friendship

*A Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor

It’s a life-altering New Year for thirteen-year-old Lydia when she uproots to a Connecticut farm to live with her aunt following her mother’s death.

Aunt Brat and her jovial wife, Eileen, and their ancient live-in landlord, Elloroy, are welcoming–and a little quirky. Lydia’s struggle for a sense of belonging in her new family is highlighted when the women adopt a big yellow dog just days after the girl’s arrival.

Wasn’t one rescue enough? Lydia is not a dog person–and this one is trouble! He is mistrustful and slinky. He pees in the house, escapes into the woods, and barks at things unseen. His new owners begin to guess about his unknown past.

Meanwhile, Lydia doesn’t want to be difficult–and she does not mean to keep secrets–but there are things she’s not telling…Like why the box of “paper stuff” she keeps under her bed is so important…And why that hole in the wall behind a poster in her room is getting bigger…And why something she took from the big yellow dog just might be the key to unraveling his mysterious past–but at what cost?

I love love love stories about rescued dogs, so this one is right up my alley! Publishers Weekly and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: dogs, pets, rescues, grief, death of a parent, moving, Connecticut

*Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit

Vivy Cohen wants to play baseball. Ever since her hero, Major League star pitcher VJ Capello, taught her how to throw a knuckleball at a family fun day for kids with autism, she’s been perfecting her pitch. And now she knows she’s ready to play on a real team. When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone she knows, she writes to VJ and tells him everything about how much she wants to pitch, and how her mom says she can’t because she’s a girl and because she has autism. And then two amazing things happen- Vivy meets a Little League coach who invites her to join his team, the Flying Squirrels. And VJ starts writing back.

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, sports fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: baseball, autism, gender roles, pen pals, epistolary, special needs

Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote by Barb Rosenstock (Author) and Sarah Green (Illustrator)

When Woodrow Wilson was elected President, he didn’t know that he would be participating in one of the greatest fights of the century- the battle for women’s right to vote. The formidable Alice Paul led the women’s suffrage movement, and saw President Wilson’s election as an opportunity to win the vote to women. She battered her opponent with endless strategic arguments and carefully coordinated protests, calling for a new amendment granting women the right to vote. With a spirit and determination that never quit–even when peaceful protests were met with violence and even when many women were thrown in jail–Paul eventually convinced President Wilson to support her cause, changing the country forever.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: suffrage, US history, women’s rights, Alice Paul, Woodrow Wilson, voting rights, protests, activism

Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell by Selina Alko

Joni Mitchell painted with words. Sitting at her piano or strumming the guitar, she turned the words into songs. The songs were like brushstrokes on a canvas, saying things that were not only happy or sad but true.

But before composing more than two hundred songs, Joni was a young girl from a town on the Canadian prairie, where she learned to love dancing, painting, birdsong, and piano. As she grew up into an artist, Joni took her strong feelings–feelings of love and frustration, and the turbulence that came with being a young woman–and wrote them into vivid songs.

I love how young readers are getting some exposure to some fabulous female singers! Last week, we had a picture book biography about Tejano singer Selena, and this week we have Joni. Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: female singers, Joni Mitchell, art, songwriting, artistic expression, emotions

*Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter (Author) and Nancy Carpenter (Illustrator)

Mother Jones is MAD, and she wants you to be MAD TOO, and stand up for what’s right! Told in first-person, this is the incredible story of Mother Jones, an Irish immigrant who was essential in the fight to create child labor laws. Well into her sixties, Mother Jones had finally had enough of children working long hours in dangerous factory jobs, and decided she was going to do something about it. The powerful protests she organized earned her the name “the most dangerous woman in America.” And in the Children’s Crusade of 1903, she lead one hundred boys and girls on a glorious march from Philadelphia right to the front door of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Long Island home.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: child labor, protests, marches, activism, Mother Jones, Philadephia, Pennsylvania

The Typerwriter by Yevgenia Nayberg

A neglected Russian typewriter clicks, clacks, and rings to life with a new owner.

I’ve heard of libraries having a sort-of technology “museum” featuring typewriters, rotary phones, floppy disks, etc. This book would be a fun way to introduce today’s students to outdated technology that, while not really all that long ago, many of today’s students have never seen before.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: Russia, immigration, writers, typewriters, technology, Cyrillic letters









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