New Release Spotlight: July 14, 2020

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Quite a long Spotlight this week! Last week’s list was split into two parts, and even with that long list, I still managed to miss two great titles for back-to-school–Dress Coded and Your Name Is a Song–that I have added to this week’s Spotlight. If I were to read only one title on this week’s list, it would be Dress Coded.

ABOUT THE SPOTLIGHT

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 #823-#840 on The Ginormous book list.

*Running by Natalia Sylvester

Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was.

But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: elections, youth activism, politics, Cuban-Americans, Miami, Florida, political scandal, political parents, presidential election, tabloid news, politics, government

Being Toffee by Sarah Crossan

Allison has run away from home. With nowhere to live, she finds herself hiding out in the shed of what she thinks is an abandoned house. But the house isn’t empty. An elderly woman named Marla, with dementia, lives there–and she mistakes Allison for an old friend from her past named Toffee.

Allison is used to hiding who she really is, and trying to be what other people want her to be. And so, Toffee is who she becomes. After all, it means she has a place to stay. There are worse places she could be.

But as their bond grows, and Allison discovers how much Marla needs a real friend, she begins to ask herself–where is home? What is a family? And most importantly, who is she, really?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, free verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: home, family, dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, runaways, belonging, inter-generational friendship, novels in verse, poetry

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Shady Grove inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle’s tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness.

But when her brother is accused of murder, she can’t let the dead keep their secrets.

In order to clear his name, she’s going to have to make those ghosts sing.

  • Genre(s): supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: fiddlers, music, ghosts, murder, siblings, brothers and sisters, false accusations, family secrets, step-families, LGBT+, love triangles, bisexuality, creepy stories

He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Libby’s having a rough senior year. Her older brother absconded with his college money and is bartending on a Greek island. Her dad just told her she’s got to pay for college herself, and he’s evicting her when she graduates so he can AirBNB her room. A drunken hook-up with her coworker Kyle has left her upset and confused.

So when Perry Ackerman, serial harasser and the most handsy customer at The Goat where she waitresses, pushes her over the edge, she can hardly be blamed for dumping a pitcher of sangria on his head. Unfortunately, Perry is a local industry hero, the restaurant’s most important customer, and Libby’s mom’s boss. Now Libby has to navigate the fallout of her outburst, find an apartment, and deal with her increasing rage at the guys who’ve screwed up her life–and her increasing crush on the one guy who truly gets her.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: college, paying for college, rape, consent, teens with jobs, restaurant workers, sexual harassment, #metoo, toxic masculinity, internet fame, viral video

Gimme Everything You Got by Iva-Marie Palmer

It’s 1979—the age of roller skates and feathered bangs, Charlie’s Angels and Saturday Night Fever—and Susan Klintock is a junior in high school with a lot of sexual fantasies…but not a lot of sexual experience. No boy—at least not any she knows—has been worth taking a shot on.

That is, until Bobby McMann arrives. Bobby is foxy, he’s charming…and he’s also the coach of the brand-new girls’ soccer team. Sure, he’s totally, 100 percent, completely off limits. Sure, Susan doesn’t stand a chance. But that doesn’t mean she can’t try out for the team to get closer to him, and Susan Klintock has always liked a challenge.

Between the endless drills and grueling practices, Susan discovers something else: She might actually love soccer. But being a part of the first girls’ team at school means dealing with other challenges.

As friendships shifts, she finds her real passions might lie in places she didn’t expect when the season began—and that discovering who she is will mean taking risks, both on and off the pitch.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, realistic fiction, humor, sports fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: soccer, crush on a male teacher, Title XI, girls in sports, 1970s, sexism, feminism, parental remarriage, 1970s pop culture

Keep My Heart in San Francisco by Amelia Diane Coombs

Caroline “Chuck” Wilson has big plans for spring break—hit up estate sales to score vintage fashion finds and tour the fashion school she dreams of attending. But her dad wrecks those plans when he asks her to spend vacation working the counter at Bigmouth’s Bowl, her family’s failing bowling alley. Making things astronomically worse, Chuck finds out her dad is way behind on back rent—meaning they might be losing Bigmouth’s, the only thing keeping Chuck’s family in San Francisco.

And the one person other than Chuck who wants to do anything about it? Beckett Porter, her annoyingly attractive ex-best friend.

So when Beckett propositions Chuck with a plan to make serious cash infiltrating the Bay Area action bowling scene, she accepts. But she can’t shake the nagging feeling that she’s acting irrational—too much like her mother for comfort. Plus, despite her best efforts to keep things strictly business, Beckett’s charm is winning her back over…in ways that go beyond friendship. If Chuck fails, Bigmouth’s Bowl and their San Francisco legacy are gone forever. But if she succeeds, she might just get everything she ever wanted.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: spring break, fashion design, bowling alleys, former best friends, mental health, hustling, betting, San Francisco, California

*The Glare by Margot Harrison

After ten years of living on an isolated, tech-free ranch with her mother, sixteen-year-old Hedda is going back to the world of the Glare–her word for cell phones, computers, and tablets. Hedda was taught to be afraid of technology, afraid that it would get inside her mind and hurt her. But now she’s going to stay with her dad in California, where she was born, and she’s finally ready to be normal. She’s not going to go “off-kilter,” like her mom says she did when she was just a little kid.

Once she arrives, Hedda finally feels like she’s in control. She reunites with old friends and connects with her stepmom and half-brother. Never mind the terrifying nightmares and visions that start trickling back–they’re not real.

Then Hedda rediscovers the Glare: the real Glare, a first-person shooter game from the dark web that scared her when she was younger. They say if you die thirteen times on level thirteen, you die in real life. But as Hedda starts playing the so-called “death game”–and the game begins spreading among her friends–she realizes the truth behind her nightmares is even more twisted than she could have imagined. And in order to stop the Glare, she’ll have to first confront the darkness within herself.

Kirkus and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): horror, science fiction, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Luddites, anti-technology, being “normal,” siblings, step-families, half-siblings, California, Arizona, violent video games, repressed memory, trauma

The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

The hardcover edition comes with a reversible dust jacket.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: superheroes, fanfiction, superpowers, LGBT+, ADHD

*Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone

I am so sorry to say I inadvertently left this title off last week’s list! It looks fabulous and is totally relevant to today’s public school climate in the US.

Molly Frost is FED UP…

Because Olivia was yelled at for wearing a tank top.

Because Liza got dress coded and Molly didn’t, even though they were wearing the exact same outfit.

Because when Jessica was pulled over by the principal and missed a math quiz, her teacher gave her an F.

Because it’s impossible to find shorts that are longer than her fingertips.

Because girls’ bodies are not a distraction.

Because middle school is hard enough.

And so Molly starts a podcast where girls can tell their stories, and before long, her small rebellion swells into a revolution. Because now the girls are standing up for what’s right, and they’re not backing down.

THREE starred reviews! Watch for my review of this one coming soon on this blog. Ridiculous school dress codes are a pet peeve of mine, and I just fast-tracked this one on my TBR.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-9
  • Themes: dress codes, sexism, school policies, fairness, equity, middle schools, podcasts, education, barriers to education

Danny Constantino’s First (and Maybe Last?) Date by Paul Acampora

When seventh grader Danny Constantino asks his old-friend-turned-Hollywood-movie-star, Natalie Flores Griffin, to his local school dance and homecoming parade, she surprises him…by saying yes! Unfortunately, now everyone in Cuper Cove has something to say about Danny’s love life–especially since Natalie is the hometown hero.

Throw in herds of TV reporters and NFG groupies, his mom using Natalie’s arrival for free publicity, and a pep rally gone horribly, horribly awry, and Danny’s left absolutely clueless in this new world of crushes and becoming (kind of) famous.

Sixth graders requesting romance books? Here’s one that won’t make you secretly cringe when they check it out. Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): romance, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-7
  • Themes: middle school, celebrities, fame, exploitation, rom-coms, grandmothers, elections, single mothers, school dances, Halloween, politician parents, pop culture, movies, rom-com archetypes

One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

When studious thirteen-year-old Juniper wins a scholarship to the prestigious Ellsmere Academy, she expects to find a scholastic utopia. But living at Ellsmere is far from ideal: She is labeled a “special project,” Ellsmere’s queen bee is out to destroy her, and it’s rumored that a mythical beast roams the forest next to the school.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, fantasy, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-10
  • Themes: boarding schools, Canada, bullying, friendship, mean girls, scholarship students, unicorns, private schools

*Something to Say by Lisa Moore Ramée

Eleven-year-old Jenae doesn’t have any friends—and she’s just fine with that. She’s so good at being invisible in school, it’s almost like she has a superpower, like her idol, Astrid Dane. At home, Jenae has plenty of company, like her no-nonsense mama; her older brother, Malcolm, who is home from college after a basketball injury; and her beloved grandpa, Gee.

Then a new student shows up at school—a boy named Aubrey with fiery red hair and a smile that won’t quit. Jenae can’t figure out why he keeps popping up everywhere she goes. The more she tries to push him away, the more he seems determined to be her friend. Despite herself, Jenae starts getting used to having him around.

But when the two are paired up for a class debate about the proposed name change for their school, Jenae knows this new friendship has an expiration date. Aubrey is desperate to win and earn a coveted spot on the debate team.

There’s just one problem: Jenae would do almost anything to avoid speaking up in front of an audience—including risking the first real friendship she’s ever had.

SLJ and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: friendship, shyness, introversion, debates, school stories, family, African-Americans, public speaking, prejudice, racism

The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby

Ten-year-old Immy and her family have run away from their storm cloud of problems to a tiny village in Cambridgeshire, England, where her depressed physician father can take a sabbatical and get back on his feet.

Luckily, they find an adorable thatched cottage to begin a new life in. But their new home comes with one downside: in the backyard, there is an ancient, dark, and fierce-looking mulberry tree that has ceased bearing any fruit. There’s a legend that the towering tree steals away girls who live in the cottage on the eve of their eleventh birthday, and villagers even cross the street when they pass by the house.

Of course, Immy thinks this is all ridiculous. But then she starts to hear a strange song in her head…

  • Genre(s): horror, mystery, scary stories, supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: parental depression, England, trees, missing children, doctors, moving to a new country

Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz

Ten-year old Jamila Waheed is staring down a lonely summer in a new neighborhood–until she meets Shirley Bones. Sure, Shirley’s a little strange, but both girls need a new plan for the summer, and they might as well become friends.

Then this kid Oliver shows up begging for Shirley’s help. His pet gecko has disappeared, and he’s sure it was stolen! That’s when Jamila discovers Shirley’s secret: She’s the neighborhood’s best kid detective, and she’s on the case. When Jamila discovers she’s got some detective skills of her own, a crime-solving partnership is born.

The mystery of the missing gecko turns Shirley and Jamila’s summer upside down. And when their partnership hits a rough patch, they have to work together to solve the greatest mystery of all: What it means to be a friend.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: friendship, moving to a new area, detectives, pets, geckos

Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class. Your Name is a Song is a celebration to remind all of us about the beauty, history, and magic behind names.

I missed this title on last week’s Spotlight, but I still wanted to mention it. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: school, names, pronunciation, diversity, multicultural, African-Americans, Muslims, Latinx

Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party by Yumi Heo (Author), Naoko Stoop

Sun and Moon sit down for a tea party, but they soon find out that they see the world very differently. Moon says moms and dads get their kids ready for bed, while Sun says no, they get their children ready for school.

So who’s right? Well, as the two come to find out, they both are. With the help of Cloud, a gentle mediator, each stays up past their bedtime and sees the world from the other’s incredible point of view.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: sun, moon, earth, families, clouds, bedtime, perspective

Soaked! by Abi Cushman

It looks like a wet and dreary day for Bear and his trio of friends. How could he possibly have fun when he is soaked? But Badger, Rabbit, and Moose don’t seem to mind. In fact, Moose can still hula hoop! And it looks like so much fun. Might Bear like to try?

Here is a story that shows that fun is not dependent on sunshine and blue skies. In fact, it might be more fun to be soaked!

  • Genre(s): picture books
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: rainy days, fun, play, friends, positive, animals, bears, moose, badgers, rabbits

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago

Debut author! Gustavo is good at doing all sorts of ghostly things: walking through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark. And he loves almost nothing more than playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo is shy, and some things are harder for him to do, like getting in a line to buy eye scream or making friends with other monsters.

Whenever he tries getting close to them, he realizes they just can’t see him. Now that the Day of the Dead is fast approaching, what can he do to make them notice him and to share with them something he loves?

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: ghosts, music, violins, shyness, making friends, invisibility, Day of the Dead, Halloween, All Souls’ Day, Mexican culture

There’s Something About Sam by Hannah Barnaby (Author) and Anne Wilsdorf (Illustrator)

There’s something strange about the new kid, Sam—though Max can’t quite put his finger on it. But EVERYONE else in his class is invited to Max’s birthday sleepover, so his mom invites Sam too.

Sam is just as strange at the party as he is at school: he’s wary of the full moon, prefers his hamburgers rare, and can’t help but bite the other kids during an innocent game of Twister. But despite his initial hesitation, Max discovers that what makes us different is actually what makes us special, and that new friends can come in all shapes, sizes, and species…

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: birthday parties, monsters, friendship, games, play

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE GRADES):

 

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