New Release Spotlight: August 4, 2020 (Picture Books)

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This week’s Spotlight is in three parts. This is the Picture Book Spotlight. The YA and Middle Grade lists are linked at the bottom of this post.

Every book on the Picture Book Spotlight this week received at least one starred professional review. Two can’t-miss titles for both elementary and middle school are: The Ocean Calls (Cho) and A Bowl Full of Peace (Stelson). I know that I’ve had a hard time in the past finding good picture books set in Korea (used for my Picture Books Around the World Challenge). The Ocean Calls is perfect for the international picture book list!


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 #891-#897 on The Ginormous book list.

*The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho (Author) and Jess X. Snow (Illustrator)

Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea–generations of Korean women have done so for centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and graceful as mermaids. To give her strength, Dayeon eats Grandma’s abalone porridge. She practices holding her breath while they do the dishes. And when Grandma suits up for her next dive, Dayeon grabs her suit, flippers, and goggles. A scary memory of the sea keeps Dayeon clinging to the shore, but with Grandma’s guidance, Dayeon comes to appreciate the ocean’s many gifts.

Four starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: Jeju Island, Korea, fear, ocean, diving, women, grandparents, grandmothers, customs, traditions, confidence, ocean tides, sea life, conservation, Asia

*A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story by Caren Stelson (Author) and Akira Kusaka (Illustrator)

Sachiko’s family home was about half a mile from where the atomic bomb fell on August 9, 1945. Her family experienced devastating loss. When they returned to the rubble where their home once stood, her father miraculously found their serving bowl fully intact. This delicate, green, leaf-shaped bowl—which once held their daily meals—now holds memories of the past and serves as a vessel of hope, peace, and new traditions for Sachiko and the surviving members of her family.

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): nonfiction picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-6
  • Themes: Japan, WWII, atomic bomb, bowls, survivors, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, radiation poisoning, war, picture book for older readers

Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator by Emma Bland Smith (Author) and Jennifer M. Potter (Illustrator)

Claude is a celebrity alligator and the mascot for San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences. His story started almost 25 years ago in Louisiana, where he hatched out of his egg to discover he looked different from the other hatchlings. They were green and Claude was white. The other hatchings avoided him, and his color made him vulnerable to predators. So Claude went to a special zoo that cared for alligators where he lived in a pen by himself. Now he was safe–but alone.

One day, scientists at the California Academy of Sciences heard about him and asked the zoo if he could come and live in the Academy’s swamp. He made a 2,800 mile journey to his new home, where he had a surprise–he would share his swamp with Bonnie, an alligator who the scientists hoped would be a friend for Claude.

Unfortunately, Bonnie didn’t like Claude’s differences either, so she was moved to another home. But then Claude was alone again–or was he?

With Bonnie gone, Claude began to interact with the five enormous snapping turtles who shared his swamp. The turtles didn’t mind at all that Claude was different! And neither do the millions of people who visit him every year. They know that Claude’s differences are exactly what makes him special.

Claude includes back matter with answers to frequently asked questions about the famous alligator, including information about albinism in animals. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book nonfiction
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: alligators, zoos, animals, albinism, being different, celebrating differences, social outcasts, California, tourist attractions, celebrity animals, snapping turtles, rejection, acceptance

Randy, the Badly Drawn Horse by T. L. McBeth

Randy knows he’s a beautiful horse–everyone says so. From his silky coat to his perfect smile to his very name, reserved only for the most special of creatures, Randy is beyond compare.This laugh-out-loud picture book plays with expectations and takes you inside a child’s imaginary world, through construction-paper mountains, popsicle-stick forests, and sandpaper deserts.

Art teachers, this is a great way to discuss the relationship between artist and subject. SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: horses, drawing, artists, adventure, beauty, self-image, appearance

She Was the First!: The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm by Katheryn Russell-Brown (Author) and Eric Velasquez (Illustrator)

Even as a young child growing up in the 1920s, Shirley Chisholm was a leader. At the age of three, older children were already following her lead in their Brooklyn neighborhood.

As a student at Brooklyn College, Shirley could outtalk anyone who opposed her on the debate team. After graduating, she used her voice and leadership to fight for educational change. In community groups, she stood up for the rights of women and minorities. Her small stature and fiery determination often took people by surprise. But they listened.

In 1964, Shirley took her voice and leadership to politics, becoming the first Black woman elected to the New York State Assembly, and in 1968, the first Black woman elected to Congress. Then in 1972, she became the first Black woman to seek the presidency of the United States. She pushed for laws that helped women, children, students, poor people, farm workers, Native people, and others who were often ignored. She fought for healthcare. She spoke up for military veterans. She spoke out against war.

Shirley Chisholm, a woman of many firsts, was an unforgettable political trailblazer, a candidate of the people and “catalyst of change” who opened the door for women in the political arena and for the first Black president of the United States.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades K-7
  • Themes: activism, African Americans, women, politics, Civil Rights Movement, debate, Congress, presidential campaigns, elections, leadership, famous firsts, female presidential candidates

Every Little Letter by Deborah Underwood (Author) and Joy Hwang Ruiz (Illustrator)

Small h has always lived with the other H’s in a city surrounded by walls that keep them safe. At least, that’s what the big H’s say. But one day, a hole in the wall reveals someone new on the other side. When little h and little i meet, they make a small word with big meaning: “hi!”

The other H’s find out, though. They fill the hole. But it won’t be enough to keep these little letters apart–or twenty-four of their newest friends. Every Little Letter shows how even the smallest among us can make a big impact, and how a single act of friendship can inspire whole communities to come together. How do you tear down walls? With words, at first. Then brick by brick.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-K
  • Themes: letters, alphabet, words, uppercase and lowercase letters, friendship, community

The Invisible Bear by Cecile Metzger

A bear sits in his quiet, colorless home in a forgotten place. He feels invisible; no one comes to see him, and he spends his days alone.

Then someone moves in next door. Madame Odette is sound and sunshine, and at first, the bear isn’t sure about this colorful new neighbor.

But through an act of kindness, the bear and the Madame Odette meet, and as time goes by, they become friends. And in the end, they are both forever changed by the gifts they bring each other.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: neighbors, friendship, solitude, gifts, bears, companionship



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