New Release Spotlight: April 28, 2020

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More self-isolation in Mexico for us! In January, we came to Playa del Carmen from our home in Shanghai for a Chinese New Year “vacation.” We’ve been stuck here ever since. China is no longer allowing foreigners to enter China, so we are in major limbo. Nearly all of our belongings are still in our apartment in China. The last time I left this apartment compound was March 19th to take my son to the doctor for an ear infection. Things here are a few weeks behind the US. All restaurants, bars, retail stores, and other “non-essentials” have been closed for several weeks, but we are still able to get grocery and water deliveries easily.

Anyhoo! This week’s Spotlight is a bit shorter than normal. This surprises me as we are so close to May, which is typically among the best months for new book releases. I looked ahead at next week’s Spotlight, and the picture books at least look like another small list. I wonder if some release dates have been pushed back because authors are unable to go out and promote their new books? We’ll see next week…

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. The books listed below have been added to The Ginormous, a searchable Google spreadsheet of all the New Release Spotlights since October 2019.

*Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholker

Companion to: The Boneless Mercies. On the heels of a devastating plague, Torvi’s sister, Morgunn is stolen from the family farm by Uther, a flame-loving Fremish wolf-priest who leads a pack of ragged, starving girls. Torvi leaves the only home she’s ever known, and joins a shaven-skulled druid and a band of roaming Elsh artists known as the Butcher Bards. They set out on a quest to rescue Torvi’s sister, and find a mythical sword.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: sisters, kidnapping, sacrifice, loyalty, King Arthur, found families, strong women

Don’t Call the Wolf by Aleksandra Ross

A fierce young queen, neither human nor lynx, who fights to protect a forest humans have long abandoned. An exhausted young soldier, last of his name, who searches for the brother who disappeared beneath those trees without a trace. A Golden Dragon, fearsome and vengeful, whose wingbeats haunt their nightmares and their steps.

When these three paths cross at the fringes of a war between monsters and men, shapeshifter queen and reluctant hero strike a deal that may finally turn the tide against the rising hordes of darkness. Ren will help Lukasz find his brother…if Lukasz promises to slay the Dragon.

But promises are all too easily broken.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: dragon, queens, storytelling, magic, shapeshifters, monsters

Clique Bait by Ann Valett

Debut author! Chloe Whittaker is out for revenge. Last year her best friend Monica’s life was unceremoniously ruined by the most popular students at their high school, so this year Chloe plans to take each and every one of them down. She’s traded in her jeans and T-shirts for the latest designer clothes, erased anything on social media that would tie her to Monica (and blow her cover), and carefully figured out how she will befriend the members of the clique, find out their deepest and darkest secrets, and reveal them to the world.

Chloe has the perfect plan…but there’s one thing she didn’t prepare for. And that’s falling for someone she’s determined to destroy. The closer she gets to uncovering the secrets the in-crowd is determined to cover up, the more she realizes that she is going to have to choose between betraying her oldest friend or the boy who’s captured her heart.

  • Genre(s): romance, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: revenge, popularity, bullying, California, wealth, rich kids, secrets, lies, manipulation

All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia.

From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to going to flea markets with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): memoir, essays
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: LGBT+, activism, personal narrative, queer, African-Americans, toxic masculinity, gender identity, consent

A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen

Debut author! Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.

But there are gaps in her memory, fractured pieces Ellie is desperate to re-assemble. There’s her mother, a songbird who wanted to break free from her oppressive cage. The boy made of brushstrokes and goofy smiles who brought color into a gray world. Her brooding father, with his sad puppy eyes and clenched fists. And Ellie’s determined to find out why a piece of her was left behind.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: domestic violence, suicide, death, our-of-body experiences, epistolary, depression, mental illness

*Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson (Author) and Nina Mata (Illustrator)

Fourth grader Ryan Hart has a lot on her mind–school, self-image, and especially family. Her dad finally has a new job, but money is tight. That means some changes, like selling their second car and moving into a new (old) house. But Ryan is a girl who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks. As her brother says when he raps about her, she’s got the talent that matters most: it’s a talent that can’t be seen, she’s nice, not mean!

Ryan is all about trying to see the best in people, to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend. But even if her life isn’t everything she would wish for, when her big brother is infuriating, her parents don’t quite understand, and the unexpected happens, she always finds a way forward, with grace and wit. And plenty of sunshine.

Three starred reviews! Some illustrations. Several professional reviews compare Ryan Hart to Ramona Quimby.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-5
  • Themes: vignettes, family, strength, positivity, African Americans, strong girls, race, cooking, Portland, Oregon

How to Disappear Completely by Ali Standish

While her grandmother was alive, Emma’s world was filled with enchantment. But now Gram is gone, and suddenly strange spots are appearing on Emma’s skin. Soon, she’s diagnosed with vitiligo–a condition that makes patches of her skin lose their color–and the magic in her world is suddenly replaced with school bullies and doctor appointments.

But when Emma writes one last story in the journal she shared with Gram, something strange happens. Someone writes back to her, just like Gram used to. Who’s writing to Emma? And just what is her story going to be, now that everything is so different?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: vitiligo, skin conditions, grandmothers, grief, writing, bullying, medical conditions, friendship

The Space Between Lost and Found by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

Cassie’s always looked up to her mom, a vibrant woman bursting with grand ideas. Together they planned to check off every dream on their think-big bucket list, no matter how far the adventures took them. The future seemed unlimited.

But then came the diagnosis, and Mom started to lose her memories. Even the ones Cassie thought she’d never forget. Even Cassie’s name.

Cassie tries her hardest to keep Mom happy…to focus on math lessons and come up with art ideas that used to burst off her pen. But as Mom’s memories dimmed, so did Cassie’s inspiration. She’s even pushed away Bailey, the one friend who could help make things okay.

So, Cassie decides to take action. It’s time for one last adventure…even if it means taking a big risk to get there.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: mothers and daughters, dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, alternating timelines, road trips

Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox by Michael Buckley

Finn Foley has a lunchbox, and when he opens it, weird things come out…like a seven-foot-tall robot and a strange, blinking device that glues itself to his chest. The lunchbox also opens wormholes–shortcuts through space–that take Finn to the farthest corners of the galaxy. Sounds awesome, right?

Not so much. Rocketing through the cosmos attracts the attention of the Plague, a race of gigantic bugs. The thing on Finn’s chest belongs to them–it’s the most dangerous weapon in the universe–and they want it back.

To fight the Plague, Finn will need the lunchbox, as well as an unlikely squad of assistants: Lincoln, the bully; Julep, the coolest girl in school; Kate, Finn’s unicorn-obsessed little sister; and Highbeam, a robot spy from another galaxy. If they can learn to work together, they just might have a chance, but the bugs are coming, and they’ll stop at nothing to get their weapon–even if it means destroying the world.

  • Genre(s): science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: aliens, space travel, bugs, friendship

What Do You Do If You Work at the Zoo? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Going to the zoo is so exciting! You might see penguins swimming underwater, snakes sunning in the reptile house, or giraffes eating leaves out of high trees. You might even see people at the zoo, ones just like you! But what do those people do?

Caldecott Honor-winning team Steve Jenkins and Robin Page introduce young readers to the people who keep zoo animals safe, healthy, and happy, even though they aren’t in the wild habitats they’ve evolved for. From cuddling a baby kangaroo to trimming elephant toenails to playing soccer with a rhino, zookeepers work hard and do some pretty wacky things to take care of the incredible animals we see.

  • Genre(s): picture book nonfiction
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: zoos, careers, animals

Evie’s Field Day: More than One Way to Win by Claire Noland (Author) and Alicia Teba (Illustrator)

Evie loves to run, jump, hop, and win. She even has ribbons and trophies to prove it. So, when the school’s field day comes around, she is sure she will add to her winning collection. When Evie finds herself ahead of the pack, she is faced with an important decision. Does she choose the chance at a trophy or the chance to be a good friend? Join Evie as she navigates the playground and learns about sportsmanship and the challenge of losing.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: sports, field day, competition, challenges, sportsmanship





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