New Release Spotlight: July 7, 2020 (Middle Grade and Picture Books)

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I’ve grouped the elementary and middle grade (through Grade 7) titles into one list this week because neither list was very long. I can really tell that Back-to-School and elections are upon us soon because I’m seeing lots of new titles for these topics on this list and in the coming weeks.

If you are looking for this week’s YA list, it is linked at the bottom of this post.

What I’m not seeing yet is books to help address social-emotional issues from school closures, nor have I seen much about staying home and distance learning. I’ve seen a few indie titles with almost no reviews, but that’s it. Authors and publishers, this is a need!


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 #814-#822 on The Ginormous book list.

We The People: The United States Constitution Explored and Explained by Aura Lewis (Author, Illustrator) and Evan Sargent (Author)

With the 2020 Presidential election around the corner, there has never been a better time to take a closer look at the Constitution, the bedrock of U.S. politics. Inquisitive minds will have their questions vividly answered – and new ones raised – by a mix of striking illustrations and clear, engaging text, including passages from the Constitution given in plain English.

As well as a detailed history covering the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights and all Amendments, discover how this milestone in American democracy shapes and is shaped by the world at large. We The People shows that, far from an old piece of paper, the U.S. Constitution is a living, evolving rule book that is as relevant today as it has ever been.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: US Constitution, elections, US history, politics, law

13th Street #1: Battle of the Bad-Breath Bats by David Bowles (Author) and Shane Clester (Illustrator)

Cousins Malia, Ivan, and Dante are visiting their aunt Lucy for the summer. But on their way to Gulf City’s water park, they get lost on 13th Street. Only it’s not a street at all. It’s a strange world filled with dangerous beasts! Will the cousins find their way back to Aunt Lucy’s?

  • Genre(s): adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: monsters, Hispanic-Americans, cousins, bats, Spanish vocabulary

Everything You Need to Know When You Are 8 by Kirsten Miller

What’s the best gift for a kid who’s turned eight? Everything they need to know! Eight is a banner year in every kid’s life. It’s when they’re finally granted “big kid” status. That means more freedom and responsibility. It also means there’s a ton of stuff to learn, and some of it’s pretty important. Inside this hilarious handbook is the information kids need to make eight one of the best years of their lives—from the fun (How to Win Halloween), to the serious (How to Get Germs Before They Get You) and the downright disgusting (How to Make Boogers You Can Eat).

Releases simultaneously with Everything You Need to Know When You Are 9 and Everything You Need to Know When You Are 10.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-4
  • Themes: advice, self-help, hygiene, embarrassment, shyness, friendship

*If You Want a Friend in Washington: Wacky, Wild & Wonderful Presidential Pets by Erin McGill

President Truman famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” And a dog is what many presidents got. From James Garfield to Calvin Coolidge to Richard Nixon, presidents often found a friend in Fido (in fact, Abe Lincoln’s pup was actually named Fido). Others preferred cats, horses, small critters, or even big, ferocious animals like bears and alligators.

With a catchy refrain (“If you want a friend in Washington…”), this is a funny, educational book about the animals that have passed through the White House. Whether it’s favorite dogs like Barbara Bush’s Millie or the Obamas’ Bo; Abraham Lincoln’s cat, Dixie; Calvin Coolidge’s hippo, Billy; or Andrew Jackson’s foul-mouthed parrot, Poll, Erin McGill brings to life a menagerie of presidential pets in this entertaining, whimsical, and carefully researched picture book that’s perfect for animal lovers and history buffs alike.

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: presidents, US history, dogs, pets, White House, Washington, DC


When Darwin Sailed the Sea by David Long (Author) and Sam Kalda (Illustrator)

At the age of 22 Charles Darwin clambered up the steps of HMS Beagle, armed with enough notepads to last him for several years and set sail on a journey of exploration that would change his life and how we view the entire world forever.

This book tells the story of Charles Darwin, and shows how his revolutionary research changed the world forever. From his fascination with the natural world which began at an early age, his love of collecting new specimens and keen eye for observation, to his groundbreaking theory of evolution, uncover the incredible life of Charles Darwin with this illustrated narrative non-fiction book.

This book has 80 pages, so it’s not exactly a picture book even though it’s illustrated.

  • Genre(s): biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-6
  • Themes: Charles Darwin, nature, natural selection, observation, science, evolution

I Got the School Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison (Author) and Frank Morrison (Illustrator)

Summer is over, and this little girl has got the school spirit! She hears the school spirit in the bus driving up the street–VROOM, VROOM!–and in the bell sounding in the halls–RING-A-DING! She sings the school spirit in class with her friends–ABC, 123! The school spirit helps us all strive and grow. What will you learn today?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: back to school, enthusiasm, learning, African-Americans, first day of school, rhythm

It Happened on Sweet Street by Caroline Adderson and Stephane Jorisch

Monsieur Oliphant’s cake shop, the only bakery game in town, has long had customers lining up outside its door for Oliphant’s delicious jelly rolls and marvelous wedding cakes…until the day cookie concocter Mademoiselle Fée takes over the old shoemaker’s shop.

And it isn’t long before the divine pie maker Madame Clotilde soon moves into the old bric-a-brac shop. Three different bakers all trying to outclass one another means their little cul-de-sac is packed with customers every day and night, so, one morning, when everyone is bumpling and jostling each other with their cakes, cookies and pies, a food disaster — a massacre of cream, a devastation of crumbs — is inevitable!

Only one little girl has the drive (or appetite?) to find a solution, but can it last? This madcap tale of frenzied cooks and zany eats (and one very lucky town) will delight readers with a sweet tooth of any age!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: business, sweets, desserts, cake, competition, community, eating, food

Izzy and Frank by Katrina Lehman (Author) and Sophie Beer (Illustrator)

Izzy and Frank spend blue-sky-sunny days and gray-cloud-rainy days roaming and playing by the sea. But when Izzy has to leave her lighthouse and island life behind to move to the city, she also has to say goodbye to Frank.

The city is crowded and noisy, and Izzy misses the sand and the sea. Can Izzy find a place for herself in her new home? And will she ever see Frank again?

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS_Grade 2
  • Themes: island life, lighthouses, moving away, leaving friends behind, making new friends, city life, friendship, loss

Little Green Donkey by Anuska Allepuz

Little Donkey loves eating grass. Grass is so juicy, zingy, sweet, and tangy! Mom asks him to please have a tiny taste of something else — oranges, watermelon, broccoli? — but a life of eating grass is just fine with Little Donkey. Until one day he spies his reflection in the watering hole and sees that he has turned green.

Mom resumes her persuasion with new urgency. Apples and grapes? Yuck! No thank you! But carrots — carrots are crunchy, crispy, and delicious! Little Donkey is delighted with his new carrot-only diet and happy to transform from his all-green self to — oops! Pictures full of color and movement bring to life a charming story that will resonate with choosy eaters.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: donkeys, eating, food, picky eaters, green



Looking for this week’s YA list? It’s here:


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