New Release Spotlight: September 1, 2020 (Picture Books)

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Whew! This is the third and final New Release Spotlight for this week. This list is for Picture Books, and it’s yet another whopper! The YA and Middle Grade lists are linked at the bottom of this post.

The majority of the picture books on this list received at least two starred professional reviews. So what’s my pick of the week? I’m going to go with Feathered Serpent and the Five Suns by Duncan Tonatiuh. I LOVE this author! Every picture book he puts out is amazing. I especially love the unique illustration style and the emphasis on Latinx experiences and Latin American legends and mythology.


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 #983-#993 on The Ginormous book list.

*Feathered Serpent and the Five Suns by Duncan Tonatiuh

Long ago, the gods of Mesoamerica set out to create humans. They tried many times during each sun, or age. When all their attempts failed and the gods grew tired, only one did not give up: Quetzalcóatl—the Feathered Serpent. To continue, he first had to retrieve the sacred bones of creation guarded by Mictlantecuhtli, lord of the underworld. Gathering his staff, shield, cloak, and shell ornament for good luck, Feathered Serpent embarked on the dangerous quest to create humankind.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-4
  • Themes: Latin America, mythology, luck, the underworld, creation stories

*The Barnabus Project by Terry Fan (Author), Eric Fan (Author), and Devin Fan (Author)

Deep underground beneath Perfect Pets, where children can buy genetically engineered “perfect” creatures, there is a secret lab. Barnabus and his friends live in this lab, but none of them is perfect. They are all Failed Projects.

Barnabus has never been outside his tiny bell jar, yet he dreams of one day seeing the world above ground that his pal Pip the cockroach has told him about: a world with green hills and trees, and buildings that reach all the way to the sky, lit with their own stars.

But Barnabus may have to reach the outside world sooner than he thought, because the Green Rubber Suits are about to recycle all Failed Projects…and Barnabus doesn’t want to be made into a fluffier pet with bigger eyes. He just wants to be himself. So he decides it’s time for he and the others to escape. With his little trunk and a lot of cooperation and courage, Barnabus sets out to find freedom–and a place where he and his friends can finally be accepted for who they are.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: identity, pets, genetic engineering, escape, resilience

*I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes (Author) and Gordon C. James (Illustrator)

The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you–and shows you–who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!

FOUR starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: confidence, identity, boys, Barack Obama, personality, characteristics, adjectives

*I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott (Author) and Sydney Smith (Illustrator)

When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): free verse, picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: stuttering, speech disorders, dysphemia, communication, voice

Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen

Sometimes people march
to resist injustice,
to stand in solidarity,
to inspire hope.

Debut author! Throughout American history, one thing remains true: no matter how or why people march, they are powerful because they march together.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: activism, marches, injustice, hope, community, protest, civil disobedience

*Grow: Secrets of Our DNA by Nicola Davies (Author) and Emily Sutton (Illustrator)

Earth is full of life! All living things grow—plants, animals, and human beings. The way they grow, whether it be fast or slow, enormous or not so big, helps them survive. But growing is also about change: when people grow, they become more complicated and able to do more things. And they don’t have to think about it, because bodies come with instructions, or DNA. With simple, engaging language and expressive, child-friendly illustrations, Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton provide an introduction to genetic code and how it relates to families to make us all both wonderfully unique and wholly connected to every living thing on earth.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, science
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: biology, change, growth, DNA, genetics

The Great Realization by Tomos Roberts (Author) and Nomoco (Illustrator)

We all need hope. Humans have an extraordinary capacity to battle through adversity, but only if they have something to cling onto: a belief or hope that maybe, one day, things will be better.

This idea sparked The Great Realization. Sharing the truths we may find hard to tell but also celebrating the things—from simple acts of kindness and finding joy in everyday activities, to the creativity within us all—that have brought us together during lockdown, it gives us hope in this time of global crisis.

Written for his younger brother and sister in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tomos Roberts’s poem is a message of hope and resilience, of rebirth and renewal.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, poetry
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: Covid-19, hope, adversity, everyday kindness, lockdowns, optimism, change

*The International Day of the Girl: Celebrating Girls Around the World by Jessica Dee Humphreys (Author), Rona Ambrose (Author), and Simone Shin (Illustrator)

This introduction to the International Day of the Girl and its worldwide significance encourages children to recognize their own potential to make change, providing both a perfect lesson in social justice and a celebration of girl power.

The United Nations designated October 11th as the International Day of the Girl, a day to increase awareness of problems that affect girls–and only girls–around the world and to encourage progress toward gender equality.

Nine stories inspired by the real-life experiences of girls from all over the globe bring to light the importance of this day. Each story is set in a different country and sensitively describes an inequity faced by a character and how she addressed it. The challenges include gender-based violence, illiteracy, lack of access to technology, sanitation, nutritional disparity and child marriage.

Each story features a positive description of the main character–strong, smart, creative, inventive, brave, talented, caring, funny, ambitious–and each concludes with a realistic yet hopeful outcome, presenting the girls as more than victims of their circumstances. Their powerful, and empowering, experiences will stir the activist in every child.

Kirkus and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: International Day of the Girl, social issues, gender equality, gender roles, violence, education, child marriage, character, personality traits, adversity, oppression, based on a true story

*Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin

Most eight-year-olds are about five times as tall as this book…but only half as tall as an ostrich, which is half as tall as a giraffe…twenty times smaller than a California Redwood! How do they compare to the tallest buildings? To Mt. Everest? To stars, galaxy clusters, and…the universe?

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): nonfiction picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: size, space, distance, relativity, science, measurement, vastness of the universe

*Robobaby by David Wiesner

A new baby’s arrival is a big moment in any family, even a family of robots. Award winner David Wiesner captures the excitement and fanfare when baby Flange appears—as a crate full of components.

The adults bungle the process of assembling Flange, with catastrophic results. Big sister Cathy, with her handy toolbox and advanced knowledge of robotics and IT, hasn’t been allowed to help, but in the ensuing chaos she calmly clears up the technical difficulties and bonds with her new baby brother.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: robots, STEM, girls in science, babies, siblings, brothers and sisters, tech support

Rare and Blue: Finding Nature’s Treasures by Constance Van Hoven (Author) and Alan Marks (Illustrator)

Travel across Earth to discover eight species that are blue in color and are either naturally rare, threatened, or endangered. Panoramic illustrations and a playful main text prompt a search for the blue species at hand, while the page-turn and informative sidebars zoom in to reveal a closer look at the species.

There’s a lot to uncover about the Karner blue butterfly, blue black bear, blue whale, Quitobacquito pupfish, Cerulean warbler, blue lobster, Eastern Indigo snake, and big bluestem grass. A surprise ending celebrates that planet Earth is the rarest and bluest and must be protected for the sake of all.

  • Genre(s): picture book nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: blue, animals, plants, endangered species, sustainability, Earth Day, conservation, nature



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