New Release Spotlight: February 18, 2020

Thinking about genrefying?
Currently Reading...
Just finished...

I’ve added Foul is Fair to my TBR because I love Shakespeare retellings, and this one sounds exciting! The Blossom and the Firefly, set in 1945 Japan, also sounds like something I’ll enjoy (though I’m betting it’s pretty sad).

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!

*With a Star in My Hand: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero by Margarita Engle

As a little boy, Ruben Dario loved to listen to his great uncle, a man who told tall tales in a booming, larger-than-life voice. Ruben quickly learned the magic of storytelling, and discovered the rapture and beauty of verse.

A restless and romantic soul, Ruben traveled across Central and South America seeking adventure and connection. As he discovered new places and new loves, he wrote poems to express his wild storm of feelings. But the traditional forms felt too restrictive. He began to improvise his own poetic forms so he could capture the entire world in his words. At the age of twenty-one, he published his first book Azul, which heralded a vibrant new literary movement called Modernismo that blended poetry and prose into something magical.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): free verse, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-10
  • Themes: storytelling, modernism, Central America, South America, Nicaragua history, Rubén Darío

The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes

The Age of the Seventh Sun, book 1. Debut author! Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading–and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a blood-red comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, mythology, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Aztec civilization, princes, gods and goddesses, powers, sacrifice

Miss You Love You Hate You Bye by Abby Sher

Zoe and Hank (short for Hannah) have been inseparable since they met in elementary school. The leader of the pack, Zoe is effortlessly popular while Hank hides comfortably in her shadow. But when Zoe’s parents unexpectedly divorce, Zoe’s perfect facade starts cracking little by little. Sinking under the weight of her broken family, Zoe develops an eating disorder. Now she must rely on Hank for help.

Hank struggles to help Zoe; after all, she is used to agreeing, not leading. How can she help her best friend get better before it’s too late?

Written partially in letters from Zoe and mostly in narrative from Hank’s perspective. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: epistolary, divorce, eating disorders, friendship

Foul is Fair: A Novel by Hannah Capin

Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl. Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, retelling
  • Recommended for: Grades 10-12
  • Themes: Los Angeles, California, rich girls, socialites, revenge, Shakespeare, Macbeth

The Blossom and the Firefly by Sherri L. Smith

Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country…until he meets Hana. Hana hasn’t been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day…until she meets Taro.

A song will bring them together. The war will tear them apart. Is it possible to live an entire lifetime in eight short days?

SLJ Express starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Japan, history, Japanese culture, WWII, kamikaze pilots, war, musicians

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer

Jemima Kincaid is a feminist, and she thinks you should be one, too. Her private school is laden with problematic traditions, but the worst of all is prom. The guys have all the agency; the girls have to wait around for “promposals” (she’s speaking heteronormatively because only the hetero kids even go). In Jemima’s (very opinionated) opinion, it’s positively medieval.

Then Jemima is named to Senior Triumvirate, alongside superstar athlete Andy and popular, manicured Gennifer, and the three must organize prom. Inspired by her feminist ideals and her desire to make a mark on the school, Jemima proposes a new structure. They’ll do a Last Chance Dance: every student privately submits a list of crushes to a website that pairs them with any mutual matches.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Prom, feminism, strong female characters, promposals, private schools, online matchmaking, activism, social change, friendship, traditions, misogyny, northern Virginia

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?

His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence–until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…

  • Genre(s): retelling, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, star-crossed lovers, revenge, curses, Colorado

Birdie and Me by J. M. M. Nuanez

Ever since their free-spirited mama died ten months ago, twelve-year-old Jack and her gender creative nine-year-old brother, Birdie, have been living with their fun-loving Uncle Carl, but now their conservative Uncle Patrick insists on being their guardian which forces all four of them to confront grief, prejudice, and loss, all while exploring what ‘home’ really means.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: death of a parent, grief, genderqueer, prejudice, bullying, siblings

Taylor Before and After by Jennie Englund

Debut author! Before, Taylor Harper is finally popular, sitting with the cool kids at lunch, and maybe, just maybe, getting invited to the biggest, most exclusive party of the year.

After, no one talks to her.

Before, she’s friends with Brielle Branson, the coolest girl in school.

After, Brielle has become a bully, and Taylor’s her favorite target.

Before, home isn’t perfect, but at least her family is together.

After, Mom won’t get out of bed, Dad won’t stop yelling, and Eli…

Eli’s gone.

Through everything, Taylor has her notebook, a diary of the year that one fatal accident tears her life apart. In entries alternating between the first and second semester of her eighth-grade year, she navigates joy and grief, gain and loss, hope and depression.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-10
  • Themes: diaries, journals, car accidents, drunk driving, depression, grief, siblings, family problems, Hawaii, alternating timelines

*The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee (Author) and Pascal Campion (Illustrator)

When Daniel’s babysitter cancels, he reluctantly goes with his parents to their job as nighttime office cleaners, expecting a dull night. Instead with a bit of imagination, Daniel is about to enter the Paper Kingdom. Full of kings and queens, dragons, and joyous adventure, this…story is a tribute to fantasy, the spirit of family, and the magic they can create.

I love that young Daniel sees injustice as his parents sweat to clean up after messy office workers. This would be a great lesson for keeping classrooms, bathrooms, cafeteria and hallways clean so the custodians do not have to sweat to clean up after the students.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: imagination, family, parents at work, janitors, play, fairness, hard work, dragons


Little Cloud: The Science of a Hurricane by Johanna Wagstaffe (Author) and Julie McLaughlin (Illustrator)

Follow our little cloud on an adventure through the sky and learn the science behind how it transforms from a simple cumulus cloud to a full-blown hurricane.

The author is a meteorologist. adding to authenticity. Professional reviews are mixed, but I’m featuring it because it is School Library Connection starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: clouds, science, meteorology, hurricanes, weather, water cycle

Vote for Our Future! by Margaret McNamara (Author) and Micah Player (Illustrator)

Every two years, on the first Tuesday of November, Stanton Elementary School closes for the day. For vacation? Nope! For repairs? No way! Stanton Elementary School closes so that it can transform itself into a polling station. People can come from all over to vote for the people who will make laws for the country. Sure, the Stanton Elementary School students might be too young to vote themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t encourage their parents, friends, and family to vote! After all, voting is how this country sees change–and by voting today, we can inspire tomorrow’s voters to change the future.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: voting, polling stations, democracy, civics, service

Selena by Silvia López

Selena Quintanilla’s music career began at the age of nine when she started singing in her family’s band. She went from using a hairbrush as a microphone to traveling from town to town to play gigs. But Selena faced a challenge: People said that she would never make it in Tejano music, which was dominated by male performers. Selena was determined to prove them wrong.

Born and raised in Texas, Selena didn’t know how to speak Spanish, but with the help of her dad, she learned to sing it. With songs written and composed by her older brother and the fun dance steps Selena created, her band, Selena Y Los Dinos, rose to stardom! A true trailblazer, her success in Tejano music and her crossover into mainstream American music opened the door for other Latinx entertainers, and she became an inspiration for Latina girls everywhere.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: Tejano music, musicians, Texas, family, sexism, Selena Quintanilla Perez

The Music of Life by Louis Thomas

At night when everyone else is asleep, one artist sits awake–pencil in hand,stuck. Lenny is a composer, but this evening, no music floats from his head.

Then as night breaks into dawn, Lenny’s cat, Pipo, begins lapping milk.Lick lick lick. Birds yawn awake, singing in the trees.Tweet tweet! A bike bell ting son the street below. Suddenly, Lenny notices a rhythm to the world around him. He pulls on his coat and walks through the city to write down every sound he can find. Lenny listens to a gardener, a jogger, a dog walker, and more neighborhood characters.

Finally, the morning’s sounds culminate in a sun-dappled symphony that Lenny conducts in the center of the park.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: music, symphonies, composers, creation, imagination, creativity

Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America by Deborah Diesen (Author) and Magdalena Mora (Illustrator)

A right isn’t right
till it’s granted to all…

The founders of the United States declared that consent of the governed was a key part of their plan for the new nation. But for many years, only white men of means were allowed to vote. This unflinching and inspiring history of voting rights looks back at the activists who answered equality’s call, working tirelessly to secure the right for all to vote, and it also looks forward to the future and the work that still needs to be done.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: voting, civil rights, US history, suffrage, founding fathers, equality, Constitutional amendments






Product categories


  • I LOVE your “Ginormous spreadsheet.” The only thing that could make it any better would be to include the Genre Personalities that you would assign to the books.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

  • Sign up
Lost your password? Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.