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New Release Spotlight: March 24, 2020

Better late than never! After 5 days with incredibly spotty internet and lots of internet outages, we have now had internet for a solid 28 hours! YEESSS! Thankfully, this week wasn’t one that needed three separate Spotlights!

Six of this week’s titles received two or more reviews, with one YA book getting a whopping FIVE stars!

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. All titles listed below have been added to The Ginormous book list, which you will want to bookmark if you haven’t already.

*Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window.

A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message–and what exactly she’s trying to say.

FIVE starred reviews!!! Point-of-view alternates among the three sisters and a group of neighborhood boys. Inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear.

  • Genre(s): magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grade 7-AD
  • Themes: ghosts, sisters, San Antonio, Texas, grief, family problems, Shakespeare (King Lear), Hispanic Americans, alternating viewpoints, Latinx folklore, dating violence

*Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Dauntless Path, book 1. Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life, but when her mother betroths her to a powerful prince in a distant kingdom, she has little hope for a better future.

Until Alyrra arrives at her new kingdom, where a mysterious sorceress robs her of both her identity and her role as princess–and Alyrra seizes on the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But as Alyrra uncovers dangerous secrets about her new world, including a threat to the prince himself, she knows she can’t remain silent forever. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds, and ultimately must decide who she is and what she stands for.

SLJ and BCCB starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, retelling
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: “The Goose Girl” retelling, forced marriage, magic, sorcery, princesses, kingdoms, Middle East, romance, rape, torture

The Edge of Anything by Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Debut author! Len is a loner teen photographer haunted by a past that’s stagnated her work and left her terrified she’s losing her mind. Sage is a high school volleyball star desperate to find a way around her sudden medical disqualification. Both girls need college scholarships. After a chance encounter, the two develop an unlikely friendship that enables them to begin facing their inner demons.

But both Len and Sage are keeping secrets that, left hidden, could cost them everything, maybe even their lives.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grade 8-12
  • Themes: #ownvoices, photography, secrets, anxiety, OCD, volleyball, dementia, college scholarships, trauma

Brown Girl Ghosted by Mintie Das

Violet Choudhury may be part of the popular clique at school, but as one of a handful of brown girls in a small Illinois town, all she really wants to do is blend in and disappear. Unfortunately for her, she’s got a knack for seeing spirits, including the dead–something she’s tried to ignore all her life.

But when the queen bee of Violet’s cheerleading squad ends up dead following a sex tape that’s not as consensual as everyone wants to believe, Violet’s friends from the spirit world decide it’s the perfect time for Violet to test her skills and finally accept the legacy of spiritual fighters from whom she’s descended. Her mission? Find the killer. Or else she’s next.

Professional and Goodreads reviews are mixed, but it sounds like an easy sell for fans of One of Us Is Lying and We Were Liars.

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller, paranormal
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: East Indian Americans, murder, popularity, cliques, Illinois, ghosts, rape, misogyny, racism

We Were Promised Spotlights by Lindsay Sproul

Debut author! Set in 1999 Massachusetts. Taylor Garland’s good looks have earned her the admiration of everyone in her small town. She’s homecoming queen, the life of every party, and she’s on every boy’s most-wanted list.

People think Taylor is living the dream, and assume she’ll stay in town and have kids with the homecoming king–maybe even be a dental hygienist if she’s super ambitious. But Taylor is actually desperate to leave home, and she hates the smell of dentists’ offices. Also? She’s completely in love with her best friend, Susan.

Senior year is almost over, and everything seems perfect. Now Taylor just has to figure out how to throw it all away.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: LGBT+, secrets, popularity, life after high school, high school seniors, Massachusetts, bildungsromans, coming of age, lesbians, coming out

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

All light in Chattana is created by one man–the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear.

Professional and Goodreads reviews are glowing, but only one starred review (Booklist).

  • Genre(s): fantasy, retelling
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: prison, prisoners, Thailand, Les Miserables, Asia, light, lanterns

Bad Best Friend by Rachel Vail

Niki Ames can’t wait to start eighth grade, that all-important year before high school. She and her best friend Ava have shared so many plans for the coming year. But then the unthinkable happens: at gym class pair-up, Ava chooses someone else to be her partner. Niki is devastated. It’s clear that Ava wants to be part of the popular group, leaving Niki behind. Niki has to decide who her real friends should be, where her real interests lie.

Meanwhile, life at home is complicated. Niki’s nine-year-old brother Danny continues to act out more and more publicly. Their mother refuses to admit that Danny is somewhere on the autism spectrum, but it’s clear he needs help. Niki doesn’t want to be like her brother, to be labeled as different. She just wants to be popular! Is she a bad sister and a bad best friend?

BCCB starred. Give to fans of Stead’s Goodbye, Stranger.

  • Genre(s): humor, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: friendship, autism, family problems, siblings, popularity, Maine, parental denial, bullying, mean girls

In the Red by Christopher Swiedler

Michael Prasad knows he shouldn’t go out on the Mars surface alone. It’s dangerous. His parents have forbidden it. And the anxiety he feels almost every time he puts on a spacesuit makes it nearly impossible for him to leave the safety of the colony.

But when his best friend, Lilith, suggests they sneak out one night, he can’t resist the chance to prove everyone–including himself–wrong.

As the two ride along the Mars surface in a stolen rover, miles from the colony, a massive solar flare hits the planet, knocking out power, communication, and navigation systems, and the magnetic field that protects the planet from the sun’s deadly radiation.

Stranded hours from home with an already limited supply of food, water, and air, Michael and Lilith must risk everything if they’re to get back to the colony alive.

Something to keep in mind: Reviews are good EXCEPT Kirkus writes, “Disappointingly, however, when it comes to space science, Lilith is an ignorant foil to the lone boy genius, who’s emotionally oblivious and thinks girls deliberately act confusing.”

  • Genre(s): science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5+
  • Themes: Mars, colonies, outer space, survival, panic disorders, anxiety, biracial characters

*The Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater and Sophie Escabasse

Ever since they can remember, fifth-graders Kenzie (aka Kenzilla) and Shelly (aka Bomb Shell) have dreamed of becoming roller derby superstars. When Austin’s city league introduces a brand-new junior league, the dynamic duo celebrates! But they’ll need to try out as a five-person team. Kenzie and Shelly have just one week to convince three other girls that roller derby is the coolest thing on wheels.

But Kenzie starts to have second thoughts when Shelly starts acting like everyone’s best friend…Isn’t she supposed to be Kenzie’s best friend? And things get really awkward when Shelly recruits Kenzie’s neighbor (and secret crush!) for the team. With lots of humor and an authentic middle-grade voice, book one of this illustrated series follows Kenzie, Shelly, and the rest of the Derby Daredevils as they learn how to fall–and get back up again.

Illustrated. Clearly, this must be paired with Jamieson’s Roller Girl. Booklist and SLJ Express starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: friendship, LGBT+, roller skating, roller derby, transgender parent, Austin, Texas

When You Know What I Know by Sonja K. Solter

One day after school, on the couch in the basement, Tori’s uncle did something bad. Afterward, Tori tells her mom. Even though telling was a brave thing to do, her mom still doesn’t believe her at first. Her grandma still takes his side. And Tori doesn’t want anyone else–even her best friend–to know what happened.

Now Tori finds herself battling mixed emotions–anger, shame, and sadness–as she deals with the trauma. But with the help of her mom, her little sister, her best friend, and others, can Tori find a way to have the last word?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, free verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: sexual abuse, single parent families, family, healing

My Life as a Potato by Arianne Costner

Debut author! Ben Hardy believes he’s cursed by potatoes. And now he’s moved to Idaho, where the school’s mascot is Steve the Spud! Yeah, this cannot be good.

After accidentally causing the mascot to sprain an ankle, Ben is sentenced to Spud duty for the final basketball games of the year. But if the other kids know he’s the Spud, his plans for popularity are likely to be a big dud! Ben doesn’t want to let the team down, so he lies to his friends to keep it a secret. No one will know it’s him under the potato suit…right?

  • Genre(s): humor, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: embarrassment, potatoes, Idaho, school mascots, secrets, popularity

The Littlest Voyageur by Margi Preus (Author) and Cheryl Pilgrim (Illustrator)

It is 1792 and unbeknownst to a group of voyageurs traveling from Montreal to Grand Portage, an intrepid squirrel, Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge, sneaks onto their canoe. Le Rouge is soon discovered because he can’t contain his excitement–mon dieu he is so enthusiastic. The smells! The vistas! The comradery!

The voyageurs are not particularly happy to have him, especially because Le Rouge rides, but he does not paddle. He eats, but he does not cook. He doesn’t even carry anything on portages–sometimes it is he who has to be carried. He also has a terrible singing voice. What kind of voyageur is that?

When they finally arrive at the trading post Le Rouge is in for a terrible shock–the voyageurs have traveled all those miles to collect beaver pelts. With the help of Monique, a smart and sweet flying squirrel, Le Rouge organizes his fur-bearing friends of the forest to ambush the men and try and convince them to quit being voyageurs.

SLJ Express starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, animal stories, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: squirrels, Canada, travel, Quebec, Montreal, living intentionally

The Spirit of Springer: The Real-Life Rescue of an Orphaned Orca by Amanda Abler (Author) and Levi Hastings (Illustrator)

In 2002, a killer whale calf was discovered swimming alone in Puget Sound. This picture book follows the amazing true story of her identification as a member of the A4 pod, a family of Northern Resident orcas living off the coast of British Columbia, and the team of scientists who worked together against all odds to save her from starvation and reunite her with her family.

The challenges of capturing Springer, transporting her north from Puget Sound to Canadian waters, and coordinating her release to facilitate a hopeful acceptance back into her family are brought to life in beautiful illustrations that will appeal to readers of all ages.

  • Genre(s): picture book nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: Puget Sound, Canada, animal rescue, orcas, marine life, STEM, marine science

*In My Garden by Charlotte Zolotow (Author) and Philip C. Stead (Illustrator)

Originally published in 1960. A little girl and her older friend poetically describe the garden as it changes through the seasons.

This quiet, intergenerational story pays homage to experiencing nature as a child and as an adult. The two friends watch the birds, fly a kite, plant flowers and play in the snow.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: gardens, seasons, flowers, weather

Krit Dreams of Dragon Fruit: A Story of Leaving and Finding Home by Emily France (Author), Natalie Becher (Author), and Samantha Woo (Illustrator)

Krit and his dog, Mu, love their beautiful home in Thailand–full of golden temples, colorful mountainsides, and endless adventures. Everything seems perfect until Krit’s mother announces they will be moving to the frigid city of Chicago.

At first, Krit tries to adjust to this unfamiliar place, but he can’t do any of the things he used to love. Missing Thailand, Krit asks his mother to tell him a story about home. But instead of a story, she gives Krit a koan–a Zen riddle–to puzzle through. Krit wonders what the story about a blade of grass and Buddha’s smile have to do with home, but in solving the puzzle, Krit meets a new friend and learns that home is wherever he makes it.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: moving to a new country, Thailand, Chicago, zen, riddles, home

*Most Wanted: The Revolutionary Partnership of John Hancock & Samuel Adams by Sarah Jane Marsh (Author) and Edwin Fotheringham (Illustrator)

John Hancock and Samuel Adams were an unlikely pair of troublemakers. Hancock was young and dashing. Adams was old and stodgy. But working together, they rallied the people of Boston against the unfair policies of Great Britain and inspired American resistance. And to King George, they became a royal pain.

When the British army began marching toward Lexington and Concord, sending Hancock and Adams fleeing into the woods, the two men couldn’t help but worry–this time, had they gone too far?

Rich with historical detail and primary sources, this spirited tale takes readers through ten years of taxes and tea-tossing, tyranny and town hall meetings. The team behind Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word reunites for a lively look at the origins of the American Revolution told through the powerful partnership of two legendary founders.

Despite starred reviews from School Library Connection and Kirkus, Publishers Weekly criticizes the story’s omission of enslaved people, Native Americans, and women’s rights. SLJ calls is a “secondary purchase.”

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: founding fathers, American Revolution, US history, rebellion

*Letters from Bear by Gauthier David (Author) and Marie Caudry (Illustrator)

Bear can’t imagine a whole winter without her friend, so when Bird migrates south, Bear decides to follow. She’s never left the forest before, but that won’t stop her from crossing oceans and mountains–and sending letters along the way. But a surprise is waiting for Bear on the beach…

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: bears, letters, winter, migration, animal stories, seasons, nature




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