New Release Spotlight: June 30, 2020

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Last week’s list was heavy on the YA books, but this week, it’s a lot of picture books! Late-June isn’t really the best time for new book releases (save those for August and September!), but there are a few titles that I’m interested in reading. All three YA titles look interesting, especially I Killed Zoe Spanos with its unreliable narrator. In the Role of Brie Hutchins will be a great pick for theater kids and those struggling with sexual identity. And as a Naturalist Genre Personality, the story of Odin, Dog Hero of the Fires makes me want to cry just from reading the summary.


The New Release Spotlight began in May 2016 as a way to help librarians keep up with the many new children’s and YA books that are released each week. Every Tuesday, school librarian Leigh Collazo compiles the New Release Spotlight using a combination of Follett’s Titlewave, Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. Recommended grade levels represent the range of grade levels recommended by professional book reviewers.

The titles on this week’s list are #791-#802 on The Ginormous book list.

Ms. Gloria Steinem: A Life by Winifred Conkling

Gloria Steinem was no stranger to injustice even from a young age. Her mother, Ruth, having suffered a nervous breakdown at only 34, spent much of Gloria’s childhood in and out of mental health facilities. And when Gloria was only 10 years old, her father divorced her mother and left for California, unable to bear the stress of caring for Ruth any longer.

Gloria never blamed her mother for being unable to hold down a job to support them both after that, but rather blamed society’s intrinsic hostility toward women, and working women in particular. This was the spark that lit a fire in her that would burn for decades, and continues to burn brightly today.

SLJ stared. Title discrepancy: This is currently titled Gloria Steinham, Feminist on Follett’s Titlewave. The Titlewave cover, however, shows the cover for Ms. Gloria Steinham, A Life. Both titles are releasing today and by the same author, so they are presumably the same book. I believe Follett has the incorrect title listed at this time.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: women’s rights, abortion, activists, feminism, Equal Rights Amendment, Ms. magazine

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

Debut author! When Andra wakes up, she’s drowning. Not only that, but she’s in a hot, dirty cave, it’s the year 3102, and everyone keeps calling her Goddess. When Andra went into a cryonic sleep for a trip across the galaxy, she expected to wake up in a hundred years, not a thousand. Worst of all, the rest of the colonists–including her family and friends–are dead. They died centuries ago, and for some reason, their descendants think Andra’s a deity. She knows she’s nothing special, but she’ll play along if it means she can figure out why she was left in stasis and how to get back to Earth.

Zhade, the exiled bastard prince of Eerensed, has other plans. Four years ago, the sleeping Goddess’s glass coffin disappeared from the palace, and Zhade devoted himself to finding it. Now he’s hoping the Goddess will be the key to taking his rightful place on the throne–if he can get her to play her part, that is. Because if his people realize she doesn’t actually have the power to save their dying planet, they’ll kill her.

With a vicious monarch on the throne and a city tearing apart at the seams, Zhade and Andra might never be able to unlock the mystery of her fate, let alone find a way to unseat the king, especially since Zhade hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Andra. And a thousand years from home, is there any way of knowing that Earth is better than the planet she’s woken to?

  • Genre(s): science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: artificial intelligence, space colonies, goddesses, princes, royalty

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9+
  • Themes: nannies, teens with jobs, missing persons, murder accusations, podcasts, social class, confessions, unreliable narrators, transcripts, multiple perspectives, The Hamptons, New York, whodunnit

*In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby

Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has, yet. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.

Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: performance arts, private school, Catholic school, eighth grade, drama, theater, LGBT+, identity, F-F romance, middle school

Julieta and the Diamond Enigma by Luisana Duarte Armendariz

Nine-year-old Julieta is finally about to put a purple pin in her family’s world traveling map! She’s off to Paris to help her art-handler dad collect pieces for a new exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Sadly, they must leave Julieta’s very pregnant mother behind, but they’re sure they’ll be back before the baby is born.

Julieta sees the best of Paris: the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré-Coeur, and plenty of great art. But things go awry when she and Dad walk in on a thief stealing the Louvre’s most prized piece–a priceless cursed diamond with a shady history. When Julieta runs for help, she accidentally frees the thief instead! Now Dad’s job is in danger and he’s become a suspect.

Can Julieta determine who the thief really is before it’s too late?

  • Genre(s): adventure, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-6
  • Themes: art, Paris, France, pregnant mothers, The Louvre, traveling, art thieves, Boston, Massachusetts

It’s Girls Like You, Mickey by Patti Kim

For the first time in her confident, bold life, Mickey McDonald is nervous about starting school. Her best friend, Ok, has moved away; her father has probably left town for good; and she can’t afford to go back-to-school shopping. But she’s going to make the most of things because that’s the kind of person Mickey is. Nothing’s going to stand in her way or get her down.

Still, the first few days of school are rough, until she becomes friends with Sun Joo, who has just moved to town. Their connection is instant and strong. But things get complicated when Sydney, the popular (and mean) girl in Mickey’s class, also takes a shine to Sun Joo. Suddenly Mickey is facing her first ever friend breakup, and it’s getting harder and harder to keep her chin up. Luckily, Mickey’s made of tough stuff.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: poverty, absent fathers, back to school, friendship, mean girls, bullying, first menses

*Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali (Author) and Rahele Jomepour Bell (Illustrator)

Musa’s feeling nervous about his first day of school. He’s not used to being away from home and he doesn’t know any of the other kids in his class. And when he meets classmates Moisés, Mo, and Kevin, Musa isn’t sure they’ll have much in common. But over the course of the year, the four boys learn more about each other, the holidays they celebrate, their favorite foods, and what they like about school. The more they share with each other, the closer they become, until Musa can’t imagine any better friends.

In this story of friendship and celebrating differences, young readers can discover how entering a new friendship with an open mind and sharing parts of yourself brings people together. And the calendar of holidays at the end of the book will delight children as they identify special events they can celebrate with friends throughout the year.

SLJ and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: first day of school, being in a new school, friendship, holidays, customs, food, celebrating differences, diversity

Play in the Wild: How Baby Animals Like to Have Fun by Lita Judge

Why do animals play? With realistic watercolor art, author and illustrator Lita Judge explores the importance of play in the animal kingdom. She shows how play teaches animals to defend themselves and survive in the wild. Judge highlights how animals make friends—and also forgive. Grounded in detailed research, Play in the Wild is sure to captivate young readers while giving them an informative peek into the world around them.

I mean, it’s baby animals. What child doesn’t love stories about cute baby animals? Features 27 animal species, including chimpanzees, red river hogs, bottlenose dolphins, wallabies, sea lions, and elephants.

  • Genre(s): picture books
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: baby animals, play, nature, survival, friendship, animal behavior, zoology

Tiger Wild by Gwen Millward

Lily is a little girl with big emotions. And sometimes she can’t keep herself from acting out and being naughty. Or rather, her imaginary friend, Tiger, is the naughty one. So when Tiger convinces her to run away, they have a blast stomping and jumping and going wild. But what is Lily to do when their adventure starts to feel a bit too wild?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: emotions, imaginary friends, running away, responsibility, consideration, how one’s behavior impacts others

Supertato by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Meet Supertato! He’s always there for you when the chips are down. He’s the superhero with eyes everywhere—and he’s about to meet his arch nemesis. With laugh-out-loud text and bright, bold artwork—kids and adults will adore this hilarious new super-spud.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: potatoes, superheroes, villains, puns, vegetables

Rescuing Mrs. Birdley by Aaron Reynolds (Author) and Emma Reynolds (Illustrator)

Miranda is an animal expert. Or at least, she watches a lot of Nature Joe. Nature Joe is incredible. He rescues animals, returning them to their natural habitat.

Mrs. Birdley is a teacher. The natural habitat of a teacher is a classroom.

So when Mrs. Birdley escapes school and ends up wild, loose, and confused at the local grocery store, Miranda knows just what to do: she must use her brain, her guts, and her extensive knowledge of Nature Joe to rescue Mrs. Birdley—at any cost!

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: habitats, teachers, animals, nature, imagination, school stories

Odin, Dog Hero of the Fires by Emma Bland Smith (Author) and Carrie Salazar (Illustrator)

One October night in 2017, when wildfire raged in Sonoma and Napa counties, the Hendel family was suddenly evacuated from their homes and farms to escape to safety and forced to leave behind their Pyrenees dog, Odin. Odin refused to leave his nightly post of guarding the family’s eight young goats, despite the family’s desperate attempts to lead him away. Brokenhearted, the Hendels were sure they would never see their dog again.

But when the fire calmed and the family returned home, to their shock they found Odin singed yet safe, along with all the goats and several orphaned deer the dog had protected as well. Odin, Dog Hero of the Fires is a touching and inspirational true tale that honors the bravery and strength of Odin as well as commemorates the stories of those affected by the Tubbs Fire.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: wildfires, dogs, goats, protective behavior, California, natural disasters, courage, animals, recent California history




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  • Hi there,
    I really enjoyed your blog post of all the new releases. I think this is a great way to promote reading and your library. It is incredibly helpful that you put the themes and grade level for each book, it will help the students/readers to know which books would interest them. I think I would like to do something like this for my library, do you have any recommendations for how to start?

    • Hi, Sarah,
      Thank you for your nice comments! One of the things I do to promote different books is run a digital bulletin board in the library. This is a PowerPoint that scrolls on a timer while students check out, enter and exit, at lunch, and before/after school. I include lots of fun stuff, library announcements, vocabulary words, book quotations, and book summaries. I wrote a post about it and also have a freebie version of it on TPT if you want to give it a try:



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