New Release Spotlight: May 19, 2020 (Middle Grades)

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It’s another big week of new releases for May 2020! I’ve been saying for a few weeks now that the Spotlights this May have been less than in previous years, but there are still plenty of not-to-be-missed titles.

Looking for the YA and Picture Book lists for this week? They are linked at the bottom of this post. All titles have been added to The Ginormous book list, which surpassed 700 titles this week!

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews.

*The Next Great Jane by K. L. Going

Jane Brannen wants nothing more than to become a famous author like Jane Austen–she just needs to figure out the key to literary success! Her chance to uncover the secret arrives when bestselling author J. E. Fairfax visits her tiny town of Whickett Harbor.

Unfortunately, a hurricane rolls in and Jane gets stuck with the author’s snobbish son, Devon, instead. But when the skies clear, Jane realizes the wind has blown in something worse than annoying boys: Her mother, Susan, and Susan’s new fiancé, Erik, have flown all the way from Hollywood to file for custody and bring Jane back to California.

Now she needs to find a mate for her marine biologist father and figure out what’s truly important about Whickett Harbor, so she can prove to her mother that this is where she’s meant to stay.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: writers, Jane Austen, custody battles, divorced parents, Maine, marine biology, determination

Summer at Meadow Wood by Amy Rebecca Tan

Companion to: A Kind of Paradise. Vic Brown did not want to go to camp this summer. Even though it’s nice being back with her friends at Meadow Wood, Vic still can’t forget about the secret reason her mom wanted her and her brother out of the house—or how much her family is going to change. When her home life is blowing up, it can be hard to focus on campfires and canoeing.

But there is something about summer and surprises that go together like blueberry pancakes and maple syrup. And soon, Vic starts to feel like—just maybe—a summer at Meadow Wood was exactly what she needed.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: summer camp, family problems, friendship, marital problems

What Happens Next by Claire Swinarski

Debut author! Astronomy-obsessed Abby McCourt should be thrilled about the solar eclipse her small town of Moose Junction is about to witness, but she’s not. After her older sister Blair was sent away for an eating disorder, Abby has been in a funk.

Desperate to dull the pain her sister’s absence has left, she teams up with a visiting astronomer to help track down his long-lost telescope. Though this is supposed to take Abby’s mind off the distance between her and Blair, what she finds may bring her closer to her sister than she ever thought possible.

Early professional reviews are mixed, but both Booklist and Kirkus call this debut novel “promising.”

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-7
  • Themes: sisters, siblings, eating disorders, solar eclipses, astronomy, family problems, Wisconsin, unreliable narrator, alternating timelines

Yorick and Bones by Jeremy Tankard (Author, Illustrator) and Hermione Tankard (Author)

Yorick is a skeleton who was just dug up after a few hundred years of sleep. He speaks like it too. “Forsooth, my joy, I barely can contain!”

Bones is the hungry dog who did the digging. Though he cannot speak, he can chomp.

What will become of these two unlikely companions? Will Yorick ever find the friend he seeks? Will Bones ever find a tasty treat that does not talk back? The course of true friendship never did run smooth.

Give this to fans of Pilkey’s Dog Man series.

  • Genre(s): humor, graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-6
  • Themes: Shakespeare, Hamlet, dogs, friendship, skeletons

Night of the Living Ted by Barry Hutchison (Author) and Lee Cosgrove (Illustrator)

Living Ted, book 1. After Lisa-Marie and her big brother, Vernon, visit a Create-A-Ted store, the unexpected happens. Their teddy bears come to life!

But it turns out they aren’t the only ones. All kinds of teddy bears–zombies, ghosts, aliens and more–are suddenly alive and creating mayhem…and soon there is an army of evil teddy bears on the loose! Can Lisa-Marie and her big brother Vernon save themselves–and the world?

  • Genre(s): humor, thriller, scary stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: teddy bears, zombies, living toys, siblings, brothers and sisters, Halloween, absurdity

How Women Won the Vote: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Their Big Idea by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Author) and Ziyue Chen (Illustrator)

From Newbery Honor medalist Susan Campbell Bartoletti and in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of woman suffrage in America comes the page-turning, stunningly illustrated, and tirelessly researched story of the little-known DC Women’s March of 1913.

Bartoletti takes readers by the hand and introducing them to suffragettes Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. Paul and Burns met in a London jail and fought their way through hunger strikes, jail time, and much more to win a long, difficult victory for America and its women.

Includes extensive back matter and dozens of archival images to evoke the time period between 1909 and 1920.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-6
  • Themes: women’s suffrage, 20th Century, 19th Amendment, US history, DC Women’s March of 1913, protests, activism

The Elephant’s Girl by Celesta Rimington

An elephant never forgets, but Lexington Willow can’t remember what happened before a tornado swept her away when she was a toddler. All she knows is that it landed her near an enclosure in a Nebraska zoo; and there an elephant named Nyah protected her from the storm. With no trace of her birth family, Lex grew up at the zoo with Nyah and her elephant family; her foster father, Roger; her best friend, Fisher; and the wind whispering in her ear.

Now that she’s twelve, Lex is finally old enough to help with the elephants. But during their first training session, Nyah sends her a telepathic image of the woods outside the zoo. Despite the wind’s protests, Lex decides to investigate Nyah’s message and gets wrapped up in an adventure involving ghosts, lost treasure, and a puzzle that might be the key to finding her family. As she hunts for answers, Lex must summon the courage to leave the secure borders of her zoo to discover who she really is–and why the tornado brought her here all those years ago.

  • Genre(s): magical realism, adventure, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: elephants, foster families, zoos, ghosts, family, friendship, animal stories, magic




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