New Release Spotlight: March 17, 2020

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A major graphic novel release for high school this week! Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese, brings us a new graphic novel featuring Asian-American male characters and sports. We need more diverse, realistic, boy-centered graphic novels! There are so many realistic fiction graphic novels featuring female characters! I’ll be getting this one for my boys.

There isn’t much for middle grades this week, but picture books look fabulous! Several of the Spotlight picture books on this list received at least two starred professional reviews.

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. Don’t forget The Ginormous book list, which hit 532 titles this week!

*Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang understands stories — comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins. But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him ‘Stick’ and every basketball game he played ended in pain.

He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it’s all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championship. Once Gene meets these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’ lives, but his own life as well.

Four starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, sports, memoir
  • Recommended for: 8+
  • Themes: basketball, diverse characters, Chinese-Americans, discrimination, assimilation

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

Debut author! What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill–or else everyone dies.

Professional reviews are mixed, especially when discussing the story’s inconsistencies. Give this one to fans of Karen McManus’s One of Us Is Lying.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: social groups, escape room, unreliable narrator, popularity, social hierarchy, cliques, stereotypes, alternating timelines (one year ago and present)

The Degenerates by J. Albert Mann

Set in the 1928. The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there certainly don’t think so.

Not Maxine, who is doing everything she can to protect her younger sister Rose in an institution where vicious attendants and bullying older girls treat them as the morons, imbeciles, and idiots the doctors have deemed them to be.

Not Alice, either, who was left there when her brother couldn’t bring himself to support a sister with a club foot.

And not London, who has just been dragged there from the best foster situation she’s ever had, thanks to one unexpected, life altering moment. Each girl is determined to change her fate, no matter what it takes.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: institutional living, bullying, foster homes, marginalized people, LGBT+, disabilities, mental health, teen pregnancy, Down Syndrome, gender roles, discrimination, prejudice, African-Americans

Super Adjacent by Crystal Cestari

Claire has always wanted to work with superheroes, from collecting Warrior Nation cards as a kid to drafting “What to Say to a Hero” speeches in her diary. Now that she’s landed a coveted internship with the Chicago branch of Warrior Nation, Claire is ready to prove she belongs, super or not. But complicating plans is the newest WarNat hero, Girl Power (aka Joy), who happens to be egotistical and self-important…and pretty adorable.

Bridgette, meanwhile, wants out of WarNat. After years of dating the famous Vaporizer (aka Matt), she’s sick of playing second, or third, or five-hundredth fiddle to all the people-in-peril in the city of Chicago. Of course, once Bridgette meets Claire–who’s clearly in need of a mentor and wingman–giving up WarNat becomes slightly more complicated. It becomes a lot more complicated when Joy, Matt, and the rest of the heroes go missing, leaving only Claire and Bridgette to save the day.

School Library Connection starred.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: superheroes, girl power, friendship

Frozen Beauty by Lexa Hillyer

Everyone in Devil’s Lake knows the three golden Malloy sisters–but one of them is keeping a secret that will turn their little world inside out…

No one knows exactly what happened to Kit in the woods that night–not even her sisters, Tessa and Lilly. All they have are a constellation of facts: icy blue lips and fingers cold to the touch, a lacy bra, an abandoned pick-up truck with keys still in the ignition.

Even though everyone is quick to jump to conclusions, Tessa is certain that her sister’s killer wasn’t Boyd, the boy next door whom they’ve all loved in their own way. Still, there are too many details that don’t add up, too many secrets tucked away in the past.

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: murder, sisters, secrets, grief

Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson

Debut author! Though Savannah Rose is a gifted ballerina, her real talent is keeping secrets. Schooled in silence by her long-dead mother, Savannah has always believed that her lifelong creed, ‘I’m not the kind of girl who tells’ will make her just like everyone else, normal, happy, safe. But in the aftermath of a brutal assault by her seemingly perfect boyfriend Tristan, Savannah must finally find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past, or lose herself forever.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: secrets, ballet, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse, mental illness, grief, unhealthy relationships

Blue Daisy by Helen Frost

A dirty, skinny, dog shows up in Sam and Katie’s neighborhood. They start to follow it, and they don’t like what they see: The Wilson sisters yell at it because it goes in their garden and the Tracy twins chase it on their bikes and throw things at it.

Sam and Katie want the dog to know they’ll be its friends. They think it should have a name. Most of all, they want it to like them. But then they do something thoughtless, and after that, it’s hard to make things right, especially because the dog now won’t come near them.

How they earn the dog’s trust, help it find its place in their town and how it gets its name, makes for a heartwarming story told in two voices using prose and poetry.

Blue Daisy is illustrated with 20 black-and-white illustrations and includes recipes for dog biscuits and snickerdoodles. Narratives alternate between Sam and Katie, with Sam’s voice using free verse and Katie’s voice written in prose.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, free verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: stray dogs, kindness, animal stories, friendship, animal cruelty, alternating perspectives, forgiveness, understanding

*Hike by Pete Oswald

In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive–and closer than ever–as they document their hike and take their place in family history.

Five starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): wordless picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: nature, hiking, fathers, mountains, survival, outdoors, wilderness

*Child of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana (Author) and Raul Colón (Illustrator)

Just like the sun gives shine to the moon,
you light up the world beyond this room…
You are grand and marvelous, strong and mysterious.
The history of the world is in your fingertips.

A lyrical meditation on the preciousness of one child and the vastness of the universe, this illustrated picture book shares the immensity of a parent’s love along with the message that we are all connected to the broader cosmos in important and intimate ways.

This debut author is an astrophysicist. Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: cosmos, space, love, parents, bedtime stories

Green on Green by Dianne White (Author) and Felicita Sala (Illustrator)

A child is on a colorful journey through the seasons, filled with yellow flowers and blue coral in spring and summer and orange pumpkins and green pine forests in fall and winter. All the while, there is another colorful change on the horizon–the birth of a new sibling.

With gentle, rhyming text and vivid artwork, this book is a heartfelt celebration of family, nature, seasons, colors, and the wonder and magic of them all.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: birth, new sibling, new baby, seasons, color, change, family, community

*We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (Author) and Michaela Goade (Illustrator)

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption.

Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all…

When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: (wide range here!) PreS-Grade 7
  • Themes: Indigenous peoples, conservation, water shortage, natural resources, government corruption

*Mama Baby by Chris Raschka

Mama and Baby…Mama? Where did Mama go? In a series of spreads, simple, bold illustrations show a mother on one side and a baby on the other, interacting in universally familiar ways–until Mama dips out briefly, then returns to her crying child to offer comfort again.

Horn Book and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: parents, mothers, babies, games, peek-a-boo

A Whale of a Mistake by Ioana Hobai

When you make a mistake–a big mistake, a HUGE mistake–it can weigh you down or even swallow you whole! As one kid finds herself swept away by her whale of a mistake, she takes readers along on a journey of emotions. When the girl pauses to stare at the night sky, she realizes something important: there are as many mistakes in the world as stars in the sky, and maybe she can handle it after all. As the seemingly huge whale begins to shrink, the girl embraces her mistake and finds her way back to solid ground.

School Library Connection starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: mistakes, anxiety, emotions, learning from mistakes, metaphors

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (YOUNG ADULT):

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (MIDDLE GRADES & CHAPTER BOOKS):

 

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2 Comments

  • Thank you so much for continuing the New Release posts. It is really helpful to have something normal to look forward to in these uncertain times. Your work and support is very much appreciated!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Stephanie! Life is crazy right now, but we’ll get through it! I love all the support from other teachers and librarians I’ve seen online–it just makes me so proud of the worldwide education community. It’s truly something special.

      Reply

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