New Release Spotlight: June 9, 2020

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This is one of those lists that probably should have been broken into three. I have 17 new titles this week from authors like Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin, Mike Lupica, and Patricia Hruby Powell. The book that looks most interesting to me is Half Life, a story about a teen girl who buys a clone to help her with the stress of her perfectionist life. I know students who could identify with a girl who is so busy, she needs a clone.

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. This week’s titles represent #741-763 on The Ginormous book list. Because this week’s Spotlight probably could have been three lists, I’ve also added a few additional titles to The Ginormous that do not appear below.

All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani

From the moment Carli and Rex first locked eyes on a Texas high school basketball court, they both knew it was destiny. But can you truly love someone else if you don’t love yourself?

A glance was all it took. That kind of connection, the immediate and raw understanding of another person, just doesn’t come along very often. And as rising stars on their Texas high schools’ respective basketball teams, destined for bright futures in college and beyond, it seems like a match made in heaven. But Carli and Rex have secrets. As do their families.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: basketball, Texas, high school, family secrets, African Americans, diverse characters, first love

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

Debut author! Seventeen-year-old cynic Saoirse Clarke isn’t looking for a relationship. But when she meets mischievous Ruby, that rule goes right out the window. Sort of.

Because Ruby has a loophole in mind: a summer of all the best cliché movie montage dates, with a definite ending come fall—no broken hearts, no messy breakup. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love…for real.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: LGBT+, lesbians, dating, first love, rom-coms, summer romance, dementia (mother), mental health, UK

Half Life by Lillian Clark

There aren’t enough hours in the day for 16-year old Lucille–perfectionist, overachiever–to do everything she has to do, and there certainly aren’t enough hours to hang out with friends, fall in love, get in trouble–all the teenage things she knows she should want to be doing instead of preparing for a flawless future. So when she sees an ad for Life2: Do more. Be more, she’s intrigued.

The company is looking for beta testers to enroll in an experimental clone program, and in the aftermath of a series of disappointments, Lucille is feeling reckless enough to jump in. At first, it’s perfect: her clone, Lucy, is exactly what she needed to make her life manageable and have time for a social life. But it doesn’t take long for Lucy to become more Lucy and less Lucille, and Lucille is forced to stop looking at Lucy as a reflection and start seeing her as a window–a glimpse at someone else living her own life, but better. Lucy does what she really wants to, not what she thinks she should want to, and Lucille is left wondering how much she was even a part of the perfect life she’d constructed for herself. Lucille wanted Lucy to help her relationships with everyone else, but how can she do that without first rectifying her relationship with herself?

I know some students who will really identify with Lucille in this story. Students at pricey international private schools in China are under immense pressure from their parents, school, and themselves to achieve absolutely everything. I saw teens fighting the pressure every day in the library. It’s a huge part of why I pulled my boys out of the school I was in to home school them. How many of them would jump at the chance to have a clone?

  • Genre(s): science fiction, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: overachievers, clones, stress, identity, individuality, summer internship, divorce

Hood by Jenny Elder Moke

Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand.

Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood.
As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): retelling, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-11
  • Themes: Robin Hood, outlaws, thieves, class wars, corruption, kings, mothers and daughters, England

*Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Agnes loves her home of Red Creek–its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town’s strict laws. What she doesn’t know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.

Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn’t a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of the world beyond Red Creek?

As the Prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind. But it isn’t safe Outside, either: A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate. As Agnes ventures forth, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): dystopia
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: religious cults, sin, escape, pandemics, faith, family, brothers and sisters, siblings, diabetes

Seven Clues to Home by Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin

Joy Fonseca is dreading her thirteenth birthday, dreading being reminded again about her best friend Lukas’s sense-less death on this day, one year ago–and dreading the fact he may have heard what she accidentally blurted out to him the night before. Or maybe she’s more worried he didn’t hear.

Either way she’s decided: she will finally open the first clue to the annual birthday scavenger hunt Lukas left for the morning he died, hoping the rest of the clues are still out there. If they are, they might lead Joy to whatever last words Lukas wrote, and toward understanding how to grab to the future that is meant to be hers.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: death of a friend, scavenger hunts, grief, Long Island, New York, friendship, alternating perspectives

Glitch by Laura Martin

Regan Fitz and Elliot Mason have been enemies since they started training to become Glitchers—people who travel through time to preserve important historical events. But everything changes when they find a letter from Regan’s future self, warning them about an impending disaster that threatens them and everyone they know.

Will they be able to set aside their past in order to save the future?

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, adventure, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: time travel, frenemies, US history, Butterfly Effect

Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things by Matilda Woods

In the city of Hodorf, the Tattercoats live by a strict code. Only steal what you need, don’t leave a trace of yourself behind, and if another Tattercoat is in trouble, you must always help them out. These are the rules that guide Nim’s life as she and her rat, Nibbles, live on the streets and the rooftops of the only place she’s ever called home. So when a new boy named Otto comes to town and gets caught up in the devious plottings of a former Tattercoat who’s fallen from grace, Nim takes it upon herself to come to Otto’s rescue.

But Otto isn’t the only one who needs help: The days in Hodorf have been growing progressively shorter and darker since the legendary sundragons went extinct. The air is getting colder, hope is waning, and it won’t be long until the freeze grows so bone-deep that the chimneys the Tattercoats use for warmth at night will no longer suffice. With things growing more dire, Nim sets off into the murky woods surrounding the city, searching for Otto–and for answers.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: thieves, homelessness, rats, honor codes, friendship, very cold cities

The Turnover by Mike Lupica

Gramps is 12-year old Lucas’s hero, which is second only to the fact that he is also Lucas’s basketball coach. Gramps coached the team to victory in the championships last year, and when he decides to come out of retirement to coach another season, Lucas is thrilled. This season will absolutely be the greatest yet.

So when his English teacher challenges the class to write a biography of the person they most admire, Lucas can’t think of anyone he’d rather write about.

Except…Gramps is being cagey. He avoids every question Lucas asks, and gets angry every time Lucas brings up his past as a hotshot basketball player. Lucas can’t help but wonder—is there something Gramps is trying to hide? And if there is, will Lucas be prepared to face the truth about the man he thought he knew?

With basketball championships fast approaching, time is running out for Lucas to decide.

  • Genre(s): sports fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: grandparents, grandfathers, personal heroes, writing assignments, basketball

American As Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar

As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.

When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.

To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.

When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: racism, prejudice, Indian-Americans, Asian Americans, culture, bullying, cultural identity, hate crimes, #ownvoices

Curse of the Night Witch by Alex Aster

Emblem Island, book 1. Debut author! On Emblem Island all are born knowing their fate. Their lifelines show the course of their life and an emblem dictates how they will spend it.

Twelve-year-old Tor Luna was born with a leadership emblem, just like his mother. But he hates his mark and is determined to choose a different path for himself. So, on the annual New Year’s Eve celebration, where Emblemites throw their wishes into a bonfire in the hopes of having them granted, Tor wishes for a different power.

The next morning Tor wakes up to discover a new marking on his skin…the symbol of a curse that has shortened his lifeline, giving him only a week before an untimely death. There is only one way to break the curse, and it requires a trip to the notorious Night Witch.

With only his village’s terrifying, ancient stories as a guide, and his two friends Engle and Melda by his side, Tor must travel across unpredictable Emblem Island, filled with wicked creatures he only knows through myths, in a race against his dwindling lifeline.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: quests, dragons, witches, curses, fate, Latin American folktales

*Tad by Benji Davies

Tad is small. In fact, she is the smallest almost-a-frog in the whole, wide pond. That makes it hard for her to do big things like follow her tadsiblings who swim to other parts of the pond when they outgrow the nest.

As her tadbrothers and tadsisters swim up, up, up, they leave poor Tad by her lonesome. That’s until…Big Blub shows up! He’s not only bigger than Tad, but Big Blub isn’t exactly what a tadpole would consider friendly.

Swimming at her own pace, Tad soon learns how to to be bigger than her fears. Benji Davies creates a memorable and timeless tale that proves sometimes the mightiest creature comes in the smallest package.

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: being small, growing, siblings, fear, frogs, tadpoles, life cycles, amphibians

Simon at the Art Museum by Christina Soontornvat (Author) and Christine Davenier (Illustrator)

Simon is having a great time at the museum with his parents. There are slippery, slidey floors! Pigeons flying around the reflecting pool! And cheesecake in the café! But they’re not really here for any of that. No, Simon has to look at art.

And more art. So. Much. Art.

There’s so much art that soon Simon needs to take a break and finds somewhere to sit. From his bench, he begins to notice how many different people are visiting the museum and the many different ways they react to the art they see. Some people are alone. Some are in groups. Some people smile. Some shake their heads. Some even shed a tear.

And Simon is right in the center of it, watching until he’s inspired to give all the art another try. By the end of the day, he may even find a piece that can rival a slice of cheesecake!

SLJ Express starred. This would be great to read before a field trip or family trip to a museum. A great way to discuss appropriate and inappropriate behavior in a serious place. Pair with Susan Verde’s The Museum.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for:Grades K-2
  • Themes: art, museums, boredom, behavior at a museum, perspective, field trips

Lift As You Climb by Patricia Hruby Powell (Author) and R. Gregory Christie (Illustrator)

Long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, Ella Baker worked to lift others up by fighting racial injustice and empowering poor African Americans to stand up for their rights. Her dedication and grassroots work in many communities made her a valuable ally for leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she has been ranked as one of the most influential women in the civil rights movement. In the 1960s she worked to register voters and organize sit-ins, and she became a teacher and mentor to many young activists.

Contains glossary, timeline, and bibliography.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grade K-3
  • Themes: civil rights, 1950s, 1960s, African Americans, activism, social issues

The Hidden Rainbow by Christie Matheson

One little bee peeks out on a world of gray and snow.
She’s looking for bright colors and needs you to help them grow.

Bees need a healthy and colorful garden to survive. Luckily, all the colors of the rainbow are hidden in this garden—but the bees need the reader’s help to find them. Brush off the camellia tree, tickle the tulips, and even blow a kiss to the lilac tree. With every action and turn of the page, a flower blooms and more bees are drawn to the feast.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: bees, gardens, nature, rainbows, color, flowers

Joy by Yasmeen Ismail

Join the bouncy little kitten as she plays with her favorite toy and – uh oh – falls down with a trip-trip-slip. But with a little hug, a kiss and a squeeze, she’s going to be just fine. A truly joyful celebration of the love between parent and child.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: rhyming books, kittens, animals, play, pets, parental love, cause and effect

Libby Loves Science by Kimberly Derting (Author), Shelli R. Johannes (Author), and Joelle Murray (Illustrator)

Libby and her friends use teamwork, creativity, and just a bit of chemistry to turn things around and prove that science is for everyone. Includes a glossary and four super-fun experiments to try at home!

SLJ Express starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: science, STEM, chemistry, science experiments

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