New Release Spotlight: March 31, 2020

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Dear internet at our AirBNB in Mexico,

If you could just stay on constantly, that would be fantastic. It’s hard for my husband and I to work, not to mention the fact that self-quarantine really sucks when the internet is out.


The Collazo Family


This week’s Spotlight has been interesting to create with our ongoing internet issues. We’re managing, but we’ve had to be mindful that it could go out at any time. The internet goes out suddenly and often, but it does usually come back on within a few minutes. Last week we had NO INTERNET for five days, so I guess this is much-improved. Thankfully, it’s another relatively short Spotlight week!

Usually, I put a * beside the titles that received two or more starred professional reviews, but there weren’t any books like that this week (though many did receive one starred review). If you haven’t already done so, be sure to bookmark The Ginormous book list, which is now up to well over 300 titles!

You Call This Democracy?: How to Fix Our Government and Deliver Power to the People by Elizabeth Rusch

The political landscape has never been so tumultuous: issues with the electoral college, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and a lack of representation in the polls and in our leadership have led to Americans of all ages asking, How did we get here?

The power to change lies with the citizens of this great country—especially teens! Rather than pointing fingers at people and political parties, You Call This Democracy? looks at flaws in the system—and offers a real way out of the mess we are in. Each chapter breaks down a different problem plaguing American democracy, exploring how it’s undemocratic, offering possible solutions (with examples of real-life teens who have already started working toward them), and suggesting ways to effect change—starting NOW!

All professional reviewers say this book is well-resourced and includes infographics. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, civics
  • Recommended for: Grades 6-12
  • Themes: politics, government, US history, elections, democracy, activism, voting rights

Look by Zan Romanoff

Things Lulu Shapiro’s 5,000 Flash followers don’t know about her:
* That the video of her with another girl was never supposed to go public.
* That Owen definitely wasn’t supposed to break up with her because of it.
* That behind the carefully crafted selfies and scenes Lulu projects onto people’s screens, her life feels like a terrible, uncertain mess.

Then Lulu meets Cass. Cass isn’t interested in looking at Lulu’s life, only in living in it. And The Hotel–a gorgeous space with an intriguing, Old Hollywood history and a trust-fund kid to restore it–seems like the perfect, secret place for them to get to know each other. But just because Lulu has stepped out of the spotlight doesn’t mean it’ll stop following her every move.

All professional reviews are good, but librarians need to be aware of potential content issues. The SLJ review mentions “frequent drug use and sexual content,” and Kirkus says the sexual content is better-suited to an adult audience.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-AD
  • Themes: social media, appearance vs. reality, LGBT+, hotels

Music from Another World by Robin Talley

It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultra-religious aunt relentlessly organizes anti-gay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others–like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom–and the kind she tells herself. But as anti-gay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.

  • Genre(s): romance, historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: gay rights, coming out, Harvey Milk, civil rights, activism, San Francisco, California

Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry Julian Peters

This anthology of favorite poems visually interpreted by comic artist Julian Peters breathes new life into some of the greatest English-language poets of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

These are poems that can change the way we see the world, and encountering them in graphic form promises to change the way we read the poems. In an age of increasingly visual communication, this format helps unlock the world of poetry and literature for a new generation of reluctant readers and visual learners.

Grouping unexpected pairings of poems around themes such as family, identity, creativity, time, mortality, and nature, Poems to See By will also help young readers see themselves differently. A valuable teaching aid appropriate for middle school, high school, and college use, the collection includes favorites from the Western canon already taught in countless English classes.

Includes poems by Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Maya Angelou, Seamus Heaney, e. e. cummings, Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Christina Rossetti, William Wordsworth, William Ernest Henley, Robert Hayden, Edgar Allan Poe, W. H. Auden, Thomas Hardy, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Philip Johnson, W. B. Yeats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Tess Gallagher, Ezra Pound, and Siegfried Sassoon.

Classic poetry is among my favorite “literary comfort food.” My dad recites classic poems off-the-cuff often, and it’s something that connects my childhood to my adulthood. I love the idea of illustrating them!

  • Genre(s): classic poetry, anthology
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: art, family, identity, creativity, time, mortality, nature

Hello Now by Jenny Valentine

Jude doesn’t believe in love, or magic. Life is little more than ordinary. That is, until Jude’s mother loses her job and moves them to a little town by the sea to live with Henry Lake–an eccentric old man with rooms to rent. Henry is odd, the town is dull, and worst of all, Jude feels out of place and alone.

So when Novo turns up in the house across the street, dressed all in black and looking unbearably handsome, Jude’s summer takes an immediate turn for the better. But Novo isn’t all that he seems to be–or maybe he’s more than Jude can possibly understand. Novo is pure magic–someone who can bend and stretch the bounds of time. Someone who wakes up in different places and at different points in history with utter regularity. He knows that each Now is fleeting, that each moment is only worth the energy it expends on itself, and that each experience he has will be lost to him before long.

But Jude and Novo form a bond that shifts reality for both of them. Jude begins to question what forever really means–only to find out that Novo knows that forever isn’t real. And when things go horribly wrong, Jude and Novo are faced with an impossible question that may change both of their lives irreparably–what is worth sacrificing for love?

A reimagining of Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting as a love story. BCCB starred.

  • Genre(s): retelling, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: doing the right thing, first love, immortality

We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian

Tomorrow, the Wildcat varsity field hockey squad will play the first game of their new season. But at tonight’s team sleepover, the girls are all about forging the bonds of trust, loyalty, and friendship necessary to win. Everything hinges on the midnight initiation ceremony–a beloved tradition and the only facet of being a Wildcat that the girls control. Until now.

Coach–a handsome former college player revered and feared in equal measure–changes the plan and spins his team on a new adventure. One where they take a rival team’s mascot for a joyride, crash a party in their pajamas, break into the high school for the perfect picture.

But as the girls slip out of their comfort zone, so do some long-held secrets. And just how far they’re willing to go for their team takes them all–especially Coach–by surprise.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: female athletes, manipulation, alternating perspectives, field hockey, secrets, friendship, toxic coaches, controlling behavior, competition

The Year After You by Nina de Pass

San Francisco. New Year’s Eve. A tragic accident after the party of the year. Cara survives. Her best friend, G, doesn’t.

Nine months later, Cara is still struggling, consumed by grief and a dark secret she’d rather forget. In the hopes of offering a fresh start, her mother sends her to boarding school in Switzerland, a place where no one knows what happened–and where they never will, if Cara can help it.

But her new classmates Ren and Hector won’t let her close herself off. They are determined to break down the walls she has so carefully built up. And maybe Cara wants them to…especially Hector, who seems to understand her like no one else does.

The problem is that the closer Cara gets to Hector, the more G slips away. If moving on means letting go of the past–and admitting what she did that night–Cara’s not sure how. But a second chance awaits, if she can only find the strength within herself.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: tragedy, car accidents, grief, best friends, Switzerland, boarding schools, New Year’s Eve, San Francisco, California, moving on

The Great Upending by Beth Kephart

Twelve-year-old Sara and her brother Hawk are told that they are not to bother the man–The Mister–who just moved into the silo apartment on their farm. It doesn’t matter that they know nothing about him and they think they ought to know something. It doesn’t matter that he’s always riding that unicycle around. Mama told them no way, no how are they to bother The Mister unless they want to be in a mess of trouble.

Trouble is the last thing Sara and her brother need. Sara’s got a condition, you see. Marfan syndrome. And that Marfan syndrome is causing her heart to have problems, the kind of problems that require surgery. But the family already has problems: The drought has dried up their crops and their funds, which means they can’t afford any more problems, let alone a surgery to fix those problems. Sara can feel the weight of her family’s worry, and the weight of her time running out, but what can a pair of kids do?

Well, it all starts with…bothering The Mister.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: chronic illness, heart conditions, Marfan Syndrome, farming, droughts, characters with poor vision, siblings, brothers and sisters, privacy

What Stars are Made Of by Sarah Allen

Debut author! Twelve-year-old Libby Monroe is great at science, being optimistic, and talking to her famous, accomplished friends (okay, maybe that last one is only in her head). She’s not great at playing piano, sitting still, or figuring out how to say the right thing at the right time in real life. Libby was born with Turner Syndrome, and that makes some things hard. But she has lots of people who love her, and that makes her pretty lucky.

When her big sister Nonny tells her she’s pregnant, Libby is thrilled–but worried. Nonny and her husband are in a financial black hole, and Libby knows that babies aren’t always born healthy. So she strikes a deal with the universe: She’ll enter a contest with a project about Cecilia Payne, the first person to discover what stars are made of. If she wins the grand prize and gives all that money to Nonny’s family, then the baby will be perfect. Does she have what it takes to care for the sister that has always cared for her? And what will it take for the universe to notice?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: chronic conditions, Turner Syndrome, science, sisters, pregnancy, strong characters, persistence, #ownvoices

Oil by Jonah Winter

Mother-son team Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter tell the story of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and its devastating and lingering effects in this poetic and timely picture book.

Oil is drawn up from deep in the earth by machines, transported through pipelines, and pumped onto a ship that sails out to sea. When the ship crashes into a reef, the oil spills out over miles of ocean, covering rocks and animals alike. What will the consequences be?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-7
  • Themes: Exxon Valdez oil spill, conservation, environmental science, Earth Day, wildlife, pollution, historical events, 1980s, Arctic Ocean, Alaska

Paolo, Emperor of Rome by Mac Barnett and Claire Keane

Paolo the dachshund is trapped. Though he lives in Rome, a city filled with history and adventure, he is confined to a hair salon. Paolo dreams of the sweet life–la dolce vita–in the Eternal City. And then, one day, he escapes! Paolo throws himself into the city, finding adventure at every turn. Join our hero as he discovers the wonders of Rome: the ruins, the food, the art, the opera, and–of course–the cats. Readers will cheer the daring of this bighearted dog, whose story shows that even the smallest among us can achieve great things.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: Rome, Italy, travel, dogs, dachshunds, art, opera, adventure, animals

Castle of Books by Alessandro Sanna

Two children go on a creative journey to discover the answer to the question “Why do we need books?” As they pore over piles and piles of books and discover the incredible worlds and words within, they find lots of answers to this question: to observe, to discover, to imagine, to understand each other, and so much more.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: bookish, libraries, imagination, observation, discovery, understanding, infinitives

The Weather’s Bet by Ed Young

One day, the Wind, the Rain, and the Sun were having an argument about who was the strongest, when a girl walked past them, wrapped in a winter coat. The Wind claims he is the strongest and blows a powerful gust of wind, the Rain claims he’s the strongest and tries to wash the girl’s coat away. But it’s the Sun who shines on her with warmth and love that gets her to take her coat off.

Critically acclaimed artist Ed Young has created a gorgeous and deeply poignant retelling of the well-known Aesop’s fable The Wind and the Sun, that teaches readers that sometimes gentle persuasion and kindness are the best virtues of all.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: weather, nature, elements, love, fables, Aesop, Chinese characters, Earth Day

Grandma’s Gardens by Hillary Clinton (Author), Chelsea Clinton (Author), and Carme Lemniscates (Illustrator)

Grandma Dorothy shared her love of gardens with her daughter, Hillary, and her granddaughter, Chelsea. She taught them that gardens are magical places to learn, exciting spaces for discovery, quiet spots to spend time with family and beautiful areas to share stories and celebrate special occasions. But most of all, she taught them that in her gardens, her love grew and blossomed.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: family memories, grandmothers, gardening, mothers and daughters, generations, gift books





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