New Release Spotlight: June 16, 2020

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So what’s life like in Mexico right now? Well, our area has started slowly opening back up. Restaurants and hotels can open at 30% capacity. Beaches are still closed, but I’ve heard that people are at the beach anyway. This is probably a mix of tourists who don’t know (or don’t care) that the beaches are still closed and locals who are tired of being at home. It really doesn’t make sense to open restaurants and bars but leave the beaches (outdoors, windy) closed.

Mostly, my family is still staying at home, but we are okay with that for now. We can easily order food delivery from many restaurants in Playa del Carmen. We are able to go to our apartment pool, walk our dogs and exercise on the streets, and go to the grocery store. For right now, we’re happy with that. I’m mainly waiting for the hair salons to open!

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. The titles below are #764-#777 on The Ginormous book list.

*The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae

First book in a planned duology. Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing. A death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish–and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end–will ascend to the throne. With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice.

Now Zahru’s only hope for survival hinges on the impossible: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

SLJ and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: talking to animals, magic, survival, races, human sacrifice, kings and queens, royalty, feuds, diverse characters

Sarah Bernhardt: The Divine and Dazzling Life of the World’s First Superstar by Catherine Reef

Sarah Bernhardt was a French stage actor who became a global superstar in the late nineteenth century—the Lady Gaga of her day—and is still considered to be one of the greatest performers of all time. This account of her life follows the transformation of a girl of humble origins, born to a courtesan, into a fabulously talented, wealthy, and beloved icon.

Not only was her acting trajectory remarkable, but her personal life was filled with jaw-dropping exploits, and she was extravagantly eccentric, living with a series of exotic animals and sleeping in a coffin. She grew to be deeply admired around the world, despite her unabashed and public promiscuity at a time when convention was king; she slept with each of her leading men and proudly raised a son without a husband. Illustrated with more than sixty-five photos of Bernhardt on stage, in film, and in real life.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): biography, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: stardom, traditional gender roles, feminism, 19th Century, early 20th Century, celebrity, Paris, France

Smooth by Matt Burns

Debut author! Fifteen-year-old Kevin has acne, and not just any acne. Stinging red welts, painful pustules, and massive whiteheads are ruining his life. In an act of desperation, he asks his dermatologist to prescribe him a drug with a dizzying list of possible side effects — including depression — and an obligatory monthly blood test.

But when he meets Alex, a girl in the lab waiting room, blood test day quickly becomes his safe haven — something he sorely needs, since everyone, including his two best friends, is trying his last nerve. But as Kevin’s friendships slip further away and he discovers who Alex is outside of the lab, he realizes he’s not sure about anything anymore. Are loneliness and self-doubt the side effects of his new acne meds? Or are they the side effects of being fifteen?

That cover makes me laugh–I love it! I don’t know of many fiction books for teens that tackle the psychological effects of severe acne, so this one is a winner for me because that alone. I also had bad acne as a teen, and Accutane has come up several times in my adult years. Every time I’ve considered it, I ultimately decide the side effects aren’t worth it for me. Thankfully, it seems to have mostly subsided now that I’m in my 40s. Retin-A is still my BFF though!

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: acne, drug side-effects, friendship, teen angst, mental health, depression, Accutane

*I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

SLJ and Kirkus starred. Give to fans of Murphy’s Dumplin.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: overweight teens, societal expectations, K-Pop, performers, musicians, reality TV, fame, identity

You Say It First by Katie Cotugno

Meg has her entire life set up perfectly: she and her best friend, Emily, plan to head to Cornell together in the fall, and she works at a voter registration call center in her Philadelphia suburb. But everything changes when one of those calls connects her to a stranger from small-town Ohio.

Colby is stuck in a rut, reeling from a family tragedy and working a dead-end job. The last thing he has time for is some privileged rich girl preaching the sanctity of the political process. So he says the worst thing he can think of and hangs up.

But things don’t end there.…

That night on the phone winds up being the first in a series of candid, sometimes heated, always surprising conversations that lead to a long-distance friendship and then—slowly—to something more. Across state lines and phone lines, Meg and Colby form a once-in-a-lifetime connection. But in the end, are they just too different to make it work?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: long-distance relationships, politics, alternating perspectives, parental divorce, enemies-to-friends, political activism

*Call Me American (Adapted for Young Adults): The Extraordinary True Story of a Young Somali Immigrant by Abdi Nor Iftin

Abdi Nor Iftin grew up amidst a blend of cultures, far from the United States. At home in Somalia, his mother entertained him with vivid folktales and bold stories detailing her rural, nomadic upbrinding. As he grew older, he spent his days following his father, a basketball player, through the bustling street of the capital city of Mogadishu.

But when the threat of civil war reached Abdi’s doorstep, his family was forced to flee to safety. Through the turbulent years of war, young Abdi found solace in popular American music and films. Nicknamed Abdi the American, he developed a proficiency for English that connected him–and his story–with news outlets and radio shows, and eventually gave him a shot at winning the annual U.S. visa lottery.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): memoir, biography, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Somalia, immigration, civil war, refugees, Maine, poverty, pop culture

The Messy Life of Blue by Shawna Railey

Debut author! Eleven-year-old Beulah “Blue” Warren spends every waking moment surrounded by boys: her three brothers, her father, her best friend, even the family dog, but that’s never stopped her from being her usual rambunctious self.

Grappling with the loss of her mother, Blue is determined to do what she wants without fear of consequences. When she is sent to the principal’s office, she gets out of it like a pro. When the witchy neighbor next door trashes her yard, Blue doesn’t just get even, she gets ahead. No clean underwear because she hasn’t done the laundry? No worries. That’s what her little brother’s Superman underwear is for, isn’t it?

But everything changes on the day she explores the attic and finds her mother’s death certificate. Blue will need to muster all the strength she has to deal with the truth, find forgiveness, trust in her father, and grieve for her mother once and for all.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: brothers, only girl in the family, death of mother, family secrets, grief, feisty heroines, memory

Raising Lumie by Joan Bauer

Seventh-grader Olive Hudson desperately wants a dog. But that doesn’t seem to be a possibility right now. Newly orphaned, she’s moving in with the half sister she hardly knows and their life is too chaotic to include a dog.

But then something wonderful happens: Olive gets a chance to raise Lumie, a guide dog puppy. Discipline. Rules. Lots of hugs. Only the best of the best puppies continue on to become guide dogs, and of course Olive wants Lumie to be chosen. But if she is, that means that Olive will lose her. Once again, the incomparable Joan Bauer tells a touching story that is full of heart and warmth and unabashed idealism.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: dogs, pets, orphans, sisters, animal stories, grief

The Stepmom Shake-Up by Niki Lenz

After Grace’s mom died, she and her dad grew extra close. They have special nicknames and are always busy with new projects–like building a puppy condo for their dog, Potus–and they love learning random facts about the US presidents. Grace thinks her little family of two is perfect.

Then some committee members at church suggest it’s time for Dad to start dating again. And Dad agrees! Grace knows that adding a new member to the team will end in disaster. No problem! She and her best friend have a plan:
Operation: Stepmom Shake-Up.

Reviews are mainly positive, but librarians should be aware that the SLJ review mentions “an overemphasis on venerating the U.S. presidents, without acknowledgment of the racism and bias of so many of these men.”

  • Genre(s): humor, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: family, fathers and daughters, parental dating, death of a parent, religious faith (Baptist), church community, slapstick comedy, dealing with change

*Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker (Author) and April Harrison (Illustrator)

It is Grandparents Day at Zura’s elementary school, and the students are excited to introduce their grandparents and share what makes them special. Aleja’s grandfather is a fisherman. Bisou’s grandmother is a dentist.

But Zura’s Nana, who is her favorite person in the world, looks a little different from other grandmas. Nana Akua was raised in Ghana, and, following an old West African tradition, has tribal markings on her face. Worried that her classmates will be scared of Nana–or worse, make fun of her–Zura is hesitant to bring her to school.

Nana Akua knows what to do, though. With a quilt of traditional African symbols and a bit of face paint, Nana Akua is able to explain what makes her special, and to make all of Zura’s classmates feel special, too.

FOUR starred reviews! Illustrator April Harrison won the 2020 John Steptoe New Talent Award for this title.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: culture, West Africa, Ghana, tribal markings, Grandparent’s Day, school, cultural norms, grandmothers, African Americans, beauty, face painting, art, African clothing, quilts

Rot, the Bravest in the World! by Ben Clanton

Rot is a mutant potato. Like most mutant potatoes, Rot loves mud. He plays games in it, he eats it, he even sleeps in it! So, when Rot sees the most magnificent, messy mud pit ever, he can’t wait to dive right in.

But then, Rot’s big brother warns him: Watch out for the Squirm! The Squirm is slippery and slimy and gross and grimy, and it lives in the beloved mud. Now, Rot’s too scared to jump into the puddle. Can anything help him feel brave enough to take the plunge and face…the Squirm?

Kirkus starred. Some of the illustrations include potato stamps!

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: potatoes, vegetables, mud, play, fear, courage, brothers, siblings, pranks, rhyming books

Play Outside! by Laurent Moreau

Two children are running around the house, knocking over furniture and getting in their mother’s way, so she tells them to go play outside. Beginning in the garden, their outdoor adventure takes them on a tour through breathtaking landscapes, crossing deserts, climbing mountains, sailing the seas, and exploring jungles. Along the way they encounter 250 different species of animals, from black bears and scorpions to barracudas and orangutans, and many of which are endangered or nearly extinct.

SLJ starred it and Booklist calls it “colorful and inviting.” The Kirkus review, however, says the book is “rather lifeless.” This might be a title to check out from the public library first.

  • Genre(s): picture book, nearly wordless
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: outside play, nature, habitats, siblings, brothers and sisters, animals, endangered species

Love by Sophia by Jim Averbeck (Author), Yasmeen Ismail (Illustrator)

Sophia loves her family and her wonderful pet giraffe Noodle, so when she gets an assignment to draw something she loves, she wants to make it extra special. Taking her teacher’s advice, Sophia uses a little perspective and creates a work she calls Love.

Before she can place her masterpiece on the refrigerator, her whole family has to approve of the painting. But this is the Whitney, the Guggenheim, the Louvre of refrigerators. Can Sophia persuade them to take a chance on a new perspective, so they can see love from her point of view?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: pets, giraffes, black girls, perspective, love, art, painting, family

The Problem with Problems by Rachel Rooney (Author) and Zehra Hicks (Illustrator)

How do you deal with problems? Find out in this picture book that personifies “problems” as creatures, and skillfully teaches readers (big and small!) how to handle one when it appears.

Have you ever met a problem? They come in all shapes and sizes, and can pop up at the most inconvenient times. But you should know some things about problems that will help you make them disappear…

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: stress, anxiety, problems, mindfulness, emotions, rhyming books





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