New Release Spotlight: July 21, 2020

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I initially thought this week would end up being a small list, but it’s actually pretty long! My top picks this week in the three categories:

YA: Ten Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon

MG: Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee

PB: Be Amazing!: A History of Pride by Desmond Napoles


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 #841-#855 on The Ginormous book list.

Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy

For Marit Olsen, magic is all about strategy: it flows freely through her blood, but every use leaves behind a deadly, ice-like build-up within her veins called the Firn. Marit knows how dangerous it is to let too much Firn build up—after all, it killed her sister—and she has vowed never to use her thread magic. But when Eve, a fellow orphan whom Marit views like a little sister, is adopted by the wealthy Helene Vestergaard, Marit will do anything to stay by Eve’s side. She decides to risk the Firn and uses magic to secure a job as a seamstress in the Vestergaard household.

But Marit has a second, hidden agenda: her father died while working in the Vestergaards’ jewel mines—and it might not have been an accident. The closer Marit gets to the truth about the Vestergaard family, the more she realizes she and everyone she’s come to love are in danger. When she finds herself in the middle of a treacherous deception that goes all the way up to the king of Denmark, magic may be the only thing that can save her—if it doesn’t kill her first.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, historical fiction, magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: magic, powers, orphans, sisters, kingdoms, 19th Century, Denmark, colonialism, political corruption

Geese Are Never Swans by Eva Clark (Author) and Kobe Bryant (Creator)

Sixteen-year old Gus’s life is about one thing―swimming. And he knows that the only coach in town who can get him to the Olympics is Coach Marks. So it seems like a simple plan: convince Coach Marks to train him, and everything from there on in is just hard work. Gus has never been afraid of hard work.

But there are a few complications. For one thing, Coach Marks was Danny’s coach. Danny, Gus’s brother, committed suicide after failing to make the national swimming team―a big step on the way to the Olympics. And for another, Gus and Danny didn’t exactly get along; Gus never liked living in Danny’s shadow. A shadow that has grown even bigger since his death.

  • Genre(s): sports fiction
  • Recommended for: Grade 7+
  • Themes: swimming, sports, Olympic training, suicide, brothers, siblings, death of a sibling, mental health, single parent families, drug addiction

Girl From Nowhere by Tiffany Rosenhan

Debut author! Ninety-four countries. Thirty-one schools. Two bullets. Now it’s over…or so she thinks.

Sophia Hepworth has spent her life all over the world–moving quickly, never staying in one place for too long. She knows to always look over her shoulder, to be able to fight to survive at a moment’s notice. She has trained to be ready for anything.

Except this. Suddenly it’s over. Now Sophia is expected to attend high school in a sleepy Montana town. She is told to forget the past, but she’s haunted by it. As hard as she tries to be like her new friends and live a normal life, she can’t shake the feeling that this new normal won’t last. Then comes strong and silent Aksel, whose skills match Sophia’s, and who seems to know more about her than he’s letting on…

What if everything Sophia thought she knew about her past is a lie?

  • Genre(s): thriller, action-adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: terrorism, life on the run, Montana, international, American diplomats

More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn

Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out of this world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her?

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: fame, musicians, songwriters, podcasting, blogging, going viral, alcoholic parent, twins, brothers

Shielded by KayLynn Flanders

Debut author! The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: princesses, royalty, kingdoms, magic, brothers and sisters, siblings, forced marriage, secrets

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon

Pinky Kumar wears the social justice warrior badge with pride. From raccoon hospitals to persecuted rock stars, no cause is too esoteric for her to champion. But a teeny tiny part of her also really enjoys making her conservative, buttoned-up corporate lawyer parents cringe.

Samir Jha might have a few…quirks remaining from the time he had to take care of his sick mother, like the endless lists he makes in his planner and the way he schedules every minute of every day, but those are good things. They make life predictable and steady.

Pinky loves lazy summers at her parents’ Cape Cod lake house, but after listening to them harangue her about the poor decisions she’s made (a.k.a. boyfriends she’s had), she hatches a plan. Get her sorta-friend-sorta-enemy—who is a total Harvard-bound Mama’s boy—to pose as her perfect boyfriend for the summer.

When Samir’s internship falls through, leaving him with an unplanned summer, he gets a text from Pinky asking if he’ll be her fake boyfriend in exchange for a new internship. He jumps at the opportunity; Pinky’s a weirdo, but he can survive a summer with her if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

As they bicker their way through lighthouses and butterfly habitats, sparks fly, and they both realize this will be a summer they’ll never forget.

  • Genre(s): romance, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: summer internships, activism, male-female friends, fake boyfriends, alternating voices, diverse characters, rom-coms, Indian Americans

*Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee

Debut author! North Korea. December, 1950. Twelve-year-old Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit. No criticism of the government. No absences from Communist meetings. Wear red. Hang pictures of the Great Leader. Don’t trust your neighbors. Don’t speak your mind. You are being watched.

But war is coming, war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos–and war is the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk hundreds of miles to the South Korean city of Busan from their tiny mountain village. They just need to avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers.

But they can’t. And when an incendiary bombing changes everything, Sora and her little brother Young will have to get to Busan on their own. Can a twelve-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother survive three hundred miles of warzone in winter?

FOUR starred reviews! We certainly need more middle grade stories about North Korea, and this one sounds fantastic. I wish the front cover were a bit more exciting–librarians may need to booktalk this one to get it moving. It’s recommended for Grades 3-7, but considering the cover, I don’t see many seventh graders picking it up on their own.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: North Korea, government censorship, Communism, war, Cold War, survival, traditional female roles, brothers and sisters, siblings

Dung for Dinner by Christine Virnig (Author) and Korwin Briggs (Illustrator)

The full title is: Dung for Dinner: A Stomach-Churning Look at the Animal Poop, Pee, Vomit, and Secretions that People Have Eaten (and Often Still Do!).

From Roman charioteers scarfing wild boar dung to astronauts guzzling their own pee to today’s kids spreading insect vomit on their toast, this humorous compendium is chock-full of history, science, and fascinatingly gross facts. Bug secretions coating your candy corn? Rodent poop in your popcorn? Physicians tasting their patients’ pee? It’s deliciously disgusting!

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, humor, fact books
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: history, science, fact books, gross-out, body excretions, body functions, food

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas

Another debut author! All Nestor Lopez wants is to live in one place for more than a few months and have dinner with his dad.

When he and his mother move to a new town to live with his grandmother after his dad’s latest deployment, Nestor plans to lay low. He definitely doesn’t want to anyone find out his deepest secret: that he can talk to animals.

But when the animals in his new town start disappearing, Nestor’s grandmother becomes the prime suspect after she is spotted in the woods where they were last seen. As Nestor investigates the source of the disappearances, he learns that they are being seized by a tule vieja―a witch who can absorb an animal’s powers by biting it during a solar eclipse. And the next eclipse is just around the corner…

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: military families, grandparents, grandmothers, special abilities, animlas, witches, eclipses, talking to animals, Cuban Americans, Hispanic Americans, shapeshifting, family

The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke

Debut author! In all the years that Elinora Gassbeek has been matron of the Little Tulip Orphanage, not once have the Rules for Baby Abandonment been broken. Until the autumn of 1880, when five babies are left in outrageous circumstances; one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack, and finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket.

Those babies were Lotta, Egg, Fenna, Sem, and Milou. And although their cruel matron might think they’re “unadoptable,” they know their individuality is what makes them special–and so determined to stay together.

When a most sinister gentleman appears and threatens to tear them apart, the gang make a daring escape across the frozen canals of Amsterdam. But is their real home–and their real family–already closer than they realize?

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: orphans, orphanages, babies, individuality, friendship, found families, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Dutch language, 19th Century, gothic

Elvin Link, Please Report to the Principal’s Office! by Drew Dernavich

Meet Elvin Link―slacker, notorious doodler, and the only kid in fifth grade who hasn’t (yet) received a wedgie from the school bully Peter Zorber. Can Elvin navigate the last few weeks of school without getting into trouble for his incessant doodling? How will he steer clear of the class wedgie-master? And is it possible to turn a hobby into a crime fighting skill and solve a school mystery? Elvin Link is about to find out all the answers, and he’ll do it with a flip disc in one hand and a bottle of hot sauce in the other!

  • Genre(s): humor, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-5
  • Themes: artists, fifth grade, bullying, doodling, crime, trouble at school

Be Amazing: A History of Pride by Desmond Napoles (Author) and Dylan Glynn (Illustrator)

Desmond is amazing―and you are, too. Throughout history, courageous people like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and RuPaul have paved the way for a safer, more inclusive society for LGBTQ individuals, and it’s thanks to them that people just like Desmond can be free to be who they really are.

This is a personal history interwoven with the history of LGBT+ rights and activism.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography, history
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: LGBT+ rights, activism, drag culture, being yourself, identity, Stonewall Riots

Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg by Rob Sanders (Author) and Levi Hastings (Illustrator)

When Pete Buttigieg announced he was running for president, he became the first openly gay candidate to run for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination and the first millennial ever to pursue the office. But before the nation knew him as “Mayor Pete,” he was a boy growing up in a Rust Belt town, a kid who dreamed of being an astronaut, and a high schooler who wondered about a life of public service. Without a doubt, no one could have imagined who Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg, the boy who lived in a two-story house on College Street, would become. Includes timeline, bibliography, and guide to how to run for president.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: LGBT+, presidential candidates, mayors, US government

Read a Book with Me by Lawrence Schimel (Author) Thiago Lopes (Illustrator)

Originally published in Brazil. Will you read a book with me? Antonio wants someone to read with him, but nobody seems to have any time–not his mom, not their neighbor, and not any of his friends on the street.

It’s only when he looks in an unexpected place that he discovers the perfect reading partner, and a chance to make a new friend.A celebration of the power of stories and communities, Read a Book with Me will remind audiences young and old that there’s nothing to bring people together like the power of a good book.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: reading, bookish, friends, community helpers, being too busy, disabilities

V is for Voting by Kate Farrell (Author) and Caitlin Kuhwald (Illustrator)

This ABC book introduces progressive families to concepts like social justice and civil rights and reminds readers that every vote counts!

A is for active participation.
B is for building a more equal nation.
C is for citizens’ rights and our duty.
D is for difference, our strength and our beauty.

  • Genre(s): picture book, alphabet books
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: voting, voting rights, activism, social justice, civil rights, equality, democracy



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