New Release Spotlight: April 7, 2020 (Middle Grade Titles)

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We have a HUGE list of great new book releases this week, and I have divided it into three segments: YA, middle grade, and picture books. This is the middle grade list. Major new releases from two big authors this week: Rebecca Stead and Lois Lowry!

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. This week’s YA and picture book Spotlights are linked at the bottom of this post. And don’t forget The Ginormous book list, which is now up to well over 300 titles!

*The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.

When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.”

As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy, and readers will discover why the New York Times called Rebecca Stead a “writer of great feeling.”

FIVE starred reviews! I mean, it’s Rebecca Stead–do you expect any less? A must for all elementary and middle school libraries.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: stepsisters, gay fathers, stepfamilies, divorce, weddings, friendship, blended families

*We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World by Todd Hasak-Lowy

A look at nonviolent activism, from American suffragists to Civil Rights to the Climate Change Movement. We Are Power brings to light the incredible individuals who have used nonviolent activism to change the world.

The book explores questions such as what is nonviolent resistance and how does it work? In an age when armies are stronger than ever before, when guns seem to be everywhere, how can people confront their adversaries without resorting to violence themselves? Through key international movements as well as people such as Gandhi, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Vaclav Havel, this book discusses the components of nonviolent resistance.

It answers the question “Why nonviolence?” by showing how nonviolent movements have succeeded again and again in a variety of ways, in all sorts of places, and always in the face of overwhelming odds. The book includes endnotes, a bibliography, and an index.

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: activism, nonviolence, protests, suffrage, climate change, movements, social issues, world history

Peters War Boys True Story Survival WWII by Karen Gray Ruelle

As Hitler overran Europe in the 1930s, Peter Feigl’s family escaped from Germany to Czechoslovakia, then Austria, Belgium, and finally France. They were desperate to stay one step ahead of the Nazis and their concentration camps.

But in 1942, when twelve-year-old Peter and his family tried to disappear in the Southern Zone of France, his parents were arrested. Peter was alone, a spirited child coming of age in hiding during the worst war in modern history. This book follows his incredible journey for survival, and his efforts as a secret resistance fighter.

Beautifully illustrated in a scrapbook-style format, the text includes source notes, a bibliography, and index. There are personal accounts threaded throughout, thanks to a diary Peter kept, and interviews the authors conducted with him as an adult. Peter’s persistence, documented by a trusted and critically acclaimed nonfiction duo, will inspire young readers.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: diaries, journals, scrapbook format, WWII, Holocaust, Nazis, European history, Jewish children, war

Nat Enough by Maria Scrivan

Debut author! Nat Enough, book 1. Making friends isn’t easy, but losing them is even harder! Natalie has never felt that she’s enough–athletic enough, stylish enough, or talented enough. And on the first day of middle school, Natalie discovers that things are worse than she thought–now she’s not even cool enough for her best friend, Lily! As Natalie tries to get her best friend back, she learns more about her true self and natural talents. If Natalie can focus on who she is rather than who she isn’t, then she might realize she’s more than enough, just the way she is.

Pair this one with Vivat’s Frazzled or Hale’s Real Friends series.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: middle school, identity, artists, friendship, fitting in

*On the Horizon by Lois Lowry (Author) and Kenard Pak (Illustrator)

Lois Lowry looks back at history through a personal lens as she draws from her own memories as a child in Hawaii and Japan, as well as from historical research, in this novel in verse for young readers.

On the Horizon tells the story of people whose lives were lost or forever altered by the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. Based on the lives of soldiers at Pearl Harbor and civilians in Hiroshima, On the Horizon contemplates humanity and war through verse that sings with pain, truth, and the importance of bridging cultural divides. This masterful work emphasizes empathy and understanding in search of commonality and friendship, vital lessons for students as well as citizens of today’s world. Kenard Pak’s illustrations depict real-life people, places, and events, making for a vivid return to our collective past.

Kirkus and Booklist starred. A must for National Poetry Month (April) or WWII book displays.

  • Genre(s): free verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, WWII, war, tragedy, Japan, US history, Japanese history, Hawaii, Oahu, poetry

Crossing the Farak River by Michelle Aung Thin

Fourteen-year-old Hasina is forced to flee everything she knows in this gripping account of the crisis in Myanmar.

For Hasina and her younger brother Araf, the constant threat of Sit Tat, the Myanmar Army, is a way of life in Rakhine province–just uttering the name is enough to send chills down their spines. As Rohingyas, they know that when they hear the wop wop wop of their helicopters there is one thing to do–run, and don’t stop. So when soldiers invade their village one night, and Hasina awakes to her aunt’s fearful voice, followed by smoke, and then a scream, run is what they do.

Hasina races deep into the Rakhine forest to hide with her cousin Ghadiya and Araf. When they emerge some days later, it is to a smouldering village. Their house is standing but where is the rest of her family? With so many Rohingyas driven out, Hasina must figure out who she can trust for help and summon the courage to fight for her family amid the escalating conflict that threatens her world and her identity.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6-10
  • Themes: Myanmar, war, family, separation, displacement, refugees, #ownvoices

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

Debut author!

For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business.

Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.

Publishers Weekly starred. Professional reviews are glowing over this title; I’m surprised it only received one starred review.

  • Genre(s): supernatural, scary stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: ghosts, Dominican-Americans, Halloween, magic, spirits

Into the Tall, Tall Grass by Loriel Ryan

Yolanda Rodriguez-O’Connell has a secret. All the members of her family have a magical gift–all, that is, except for Yolanda. Still, it’s something she can never talk about, or the townsfolk will call her family brujas–witches. When her grandmother, Wela, falls into an unexplained sleep, Yolanda is scared. Her father is off fighting in a faraway war, her mother died long ago, and Yolanda has isolated herself from her best friend and twin sister. If she loses her grandmother, who will she have left?

When a strange grass emerges in the desert behind their house, Wela miraculously wakes, begging Yolanda to take her to the lone pecan tree left on their land. Determined not to lose her, Yolanda sets out on this journey with her sister, her ex-best friend, and a boy who has a crush on her. But what is the mysterious box that her grandmother needs to find? And how will going to the pecan tree make everything all right? Along the way, Yolanda discovers long-buried secrets that have made their family gift a family curse. But she also finds the healing power of the magic all around her, which just might promise a new beginning.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: Hispanic Americans, witches, grandparents, magic, journeys, healing powers, diverse characters






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