New Release Spotlight: September 29, 2020

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Last day in Virginia! I am headed back to Playa del Carmen this morning–from the mountains to the tropics I go! Top picks this week are:

  • Skyhunter by Marie Lu
  • Loretta Little Looks Back by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  • Picture Book by Dog by Michael Relth

This week’s titles also appear as #1066-#1080 on The Ginormous book list.

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

Companion to: Dear Martin. Vernell LaQuan Banks and Justyce McAllister grew up a block apart in the Southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Wynwood Heights. Years later, though, Justyce walks the illustrious halls of Yale University…and Quan sits behind bars at the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center.

Through a series of flashbacks, vignettes, and letters to Justyce–the protagonist of Dear Martin–Quan’s story takes form. Troubles at home and misunderstandings at school give rise to police encounters and tough decisions. But then there’s a dead cop and a weapon with Quan’s prints on it. What leads a bright kid down a road to a murder charge? Not even Quan is sure.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: divergent lives, childhood friends, troubled youth, police, crime, accusations, murder, juvenile justice system, incarcerated parent, abuse, African Americans, letter writing, social issues, racism, systemic racism

Under Shifting Stars by Alexandra Latos

Debut author! Audrey’s best friend was always her twin, Clare. But as they got older, they grew apart, and when their brother Adam died, Clare blamed Audrey for the accident. Now, Audrey’s attending an alternative school where she feels more isolated than ever. Tired of being seen as different from her neurotypical peers, Audrey’s determined to switch to the public high school, rebuild her friendship with Clare, and atone for Adam’s death…but she’ll need to convince her parents, and her therapist, first.

Clare knows her sister thinks she’s the perfect twin, but Audrey doesn’t realize that Clare’s “popular” status is crumbling—she’s begun to question old friendships, dress in Adam’s clothes, and wonder what feelings for a nonbinary classmate, Taylor, might mean. As she grapples with not only grief but also her gender fluidity, Clare wonders where she’ll belong if she sheds her carefully constructed image and embraces her true self.

Will first crushes, new family dynamics, and questions of identity prove that Audrey and Clare have grown too different to understand each other-or that they’ve needed each other all along?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: twins, death of a sibling, therapy, popularity, sisters, nonbinary, grief, gender fluidity, identity, self, questioning, LGBTQIA

Thoughts & Prayers: A Novel in Three Parts by Bryan Bliss

Claire, Eleanor, and Brezzen have little in common. Claire fled to Minnesota with her older brother, Eleanor is the face of a social movement, and Brezzen retreated into the fantasy world of Wizards & Warriors.

But a year ago, they were linked. They all hid under the same staircase and heard the shots that took the lives of some of their classmates and a teacher. Now, each one copes with the trauma as best as they can, even as the world around them keeps moving.

Told in three loosely connected but inextricably intertwined stories, National Book Award–longlisted author Bryan Bliss’s Thoughts & Prayers follows three high school students in the aftermath of a school shooting. Thoughts & Prayers is a story about gun violence, but more importantly it is the story of what happens after the reporters leave and the news cycle moves on to the next tragedy.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: school shooting, alternating perspectives, gun violence, tragedy, grief, trauma

Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Talin is a Striker, a member of an elite fighting force that stands as the last defense for the only free nation in the world: Mara. A refugee, Talin knows firsthand the horrors of the Federation, a world-dominating war machine responsible for destroying nation after nation with its terrifying army of mutant beasts known only as Ghosts.

But when a mysterious prisoner is brought from the front to Mara’s capital, Talin senses there’s more to him than meets the eye. Is he a spy from the Federation? What secrets is he hiding?

Only one thing is clear: Talin is ready to fight to the death alongside her fellow Strikers for the only homeland she has left…with or without the boy who might just be the weapon to save―or destroy―them all.

  • Genre(s): science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: refugees, mutants, war, prisoners, soldiers, immigration, imperialism

Breathless by Jennifer Niven

Before: With graduation on the horizon, budding writer Claudine Henry is focused on three things: college in the fall, become a famous author, and the ever-elusive possibility of sex. She doesn’t even need to be in love–sex is all she’s looking for. Then her dad drops a bombshell: he and Claude’s mom are splitting up. Suddenly, Claude’s entire world feels like a lie, and the ground under her feet anything but stable.

After: Claude’s mom whisks them both away to a remote, mosquito-infested island off the coast of Georgia, a place where the two of them can start the painful process of mending their broken hearts. It’s the last place Claude can imagine finding her footing, but then Jeremiah Crew happens. Miah is a local trail guide with a passion for photography, and a past he doesn’t like to talk about. He’s brash, enigmatic, and even more infuriatingly, he’s the only one who seems to see Claude for who she wants to be. So when Claude decides to sleep with Miah, she tells herself it’s just sex–exactly what she has planned. There isn’t enough time to fall in love, especially if it means putting her already broken heart at risk.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: senior year, sex, dating, parental separation, Georgia, nature, island life, life changes

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy, even leaving behind the Kingship and her uncle, the emperor, for a life of exploring.

But when her dying uncle announces a crownchase—a search for the royal seal hidden in the empire that will determine the next ruler—Alyssa is thrust into her greatest, most dangerous adventure yet.

  • Genre(s): science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grade 9-12
  • Themes: kings, rulers, royalty, politics, races, space operas

Shine by Jessica Jung

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girls Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success—and love—might be even higher. It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE.

  • Genre(s): romance, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: K-pop, Korean Americans, musicians, fame

*Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., members of the Little family, each present the vivid story of their young lives, spanning three generations. Their separate stories–beginning in a cotton field in 1927 and ending at the presidential election of 1968–come together to create one unforgettable journey.

Through an evocative mix of fictional first-person narratives, spoken-word poems, folk myths, gospel rhythms and blues influences, Loretta Little Looks Back weaves an immersive tapestry that illuminates the dignity of sharecroppers in the rural South. Inspired by storytelling’s oral tradition, stirring vignettes are presented in a series of theatrical monologues that paint a gripping, multidimensional portrait of America’s struggle for civil rights as seen through the eyes of the children who lived it. The novel’s unique format invites us to walk in their shoes. Each encounters an unexpected mystical gift, passed down from one family member to the next, that ignites their experience what it means to reach for freedom.

FOUR starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: poetry, folklore, myths, US history, African Americans, sharecroppers, rural South USA, oral storytelling, civil rights, prejudice, racism, discrimination, Mississippi

The Secret Life of Sam by Kim Ventrella

When Sam’s dad dies in a car accident, Sam is shuttled off to the dusty town of Holler, Oklahoma, to live with a long-lost aunt. There he encounters a mysterious mangy cat who leads him to an unassuming tree that turns out to be a portal—a passage through which Sam can revisit his old life for a few minutes at a time.

Sam’s visits to the bayou become stranger and stranger. Pa’s old stories unfold around him in beautiful but sinister detail, and Pa is not quite himself. Still, Sam is desperate to find a way for them to stay together—no matter what it takes.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): magical realism, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: death of a parent, car accidents, grief, Oklahoma, aunts, cats, portals, second chances, magic

*The Teachers March!: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace (Author), Rich Wallace (Author), and Charly Palmer (Illustrator)

Reverend F.D. Reese was a leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a teacher and principal, he recognized that his colleagues were viewed with great respect in the city. Could he convince them to risk their jobs–and perhaps their lives–by organizing a teachers-only march to the county courthouse to demand their right to vote?

On January 22, 1965, the Black teachers left their classrooms and did just that, with Reverend Reese leading the way. Noted nonfiction authors Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace conducted the last interviews with Reverend Reese before his death in 2018 and interviewed several teachers and their family members in order to tell this story, which is especially important today.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction, picture book for older readers
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: voting rights, Alabama, teachers, principals, marches, protests, 1960s, civil rights, interviews, US history

Picture Book by Dog by Michael Relth

Debut author! This is the voice–and artwork!–of a loyal pup sharing the simple, sweet, and funny rhyming story of finding a forever family. It’s a clever take on a dog’s journey from being lost to found, from shelter to home. Ideal for pet owners, animal enthusiasts and growing families, Picture Book by Dog is brimming with heart and highlights the power of belonging.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: dogs, pets, adoption, animal welfare, dog shelters, lost, family, compassion

The Alphabet’s Alphabet by Chris Harris (Author) and Dan Santat (Illustrator)

Here’s a totally twisted take on the alphabet that invites readers to look at it in a whole new way: An A is an H that just won’t stand up right, a B is a D with its belt on too tight, and a Z is an L in a tug-of-war fight! Twenty-six letters, unique from each other–and yet, every letter looks just like one another! Kind of like…one big family.

From two bestselling masters of wordplay and visual high jinks comes a mind-bending riddle of delightful doppelgängers and surprising disguises that reveal we’re more alike than we may think. You’ll never look at the alphabet the same way again!

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: alphabet, spelling, wordplay, puns, ABC books

Julia’s House Moves On by Ben Hatke

Sequel to: Julia’s House for Lost Creatures. Julia’s house is restless.

Julia and her family of lost creatures are ready to move on. But where will they go? And how will they get there?

Don’t worry―Julia has a plan for that! Julia always has a plan. But when Julia’s plans all fail…

What’s left for her?

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: homes, animals, imagination, kindness

Saving Eli’s Library by Ruth Horowitz (Author) and Brittany Jackson (Illustrator)

Eli loves going to the library for Story Circle, but, one stormy day, the nearby river threatens to flood it. Eli and his dad must brave the storm to help save the books, and, when the storm is over, the whole town must come together to rebuild the library.

Inspired by the residents of Lincoln, Vermont, who rebuilt their library on three separate occasions, Saving Eli’s Library showcases one community’s bigheartedness, and the power of water and nature.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: library, books, flooding, natural disaster, rebuilding, Lincoln, Vermont, bookish, based on a true story

 

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (YA):

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (MIDDLE GRADES):

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.

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