New Release Spotlight: September 8, 2020 (Picture Books)

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I’m trying something new this week with my Spotlights! There are some weeks that just have a lot of books to Spotlight. This week is one of them, so I have three different Spotlights for you: YA, Middle Grade, and Picture Books.

For this week, I have picked my five very favorite books in each category. The rest of the books still appear on The Ginormous book list, but I figure if this is a true Spotlight, I should highlight the best of the best. Below, you will find my picks for the best picture books of this week.

For a full list of this week’s YA titles, see #1017-#1032 on The Ginormous book list.



*Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky (Author) and Julie Morstad (Illustrator)

One day, a girl gets on her motorcycle and rides away. She wants to wander the world. To go…Elsewhere. This is the true story of the first woman to ride a motorcycle around the world alone. Each place has something to teach her. Each place is beautiful. And despite many flat tires and falls, she learns to always get back up and keep riding.

Why I chose it: This book has a wide range of recommended age groups, from Grade 1-10. The School Library Journal review even compares it to Thoreau’s Waldem. It also got two starred reviews (Booklist and BCCB).

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-10 (seriously–what a range!)
  • Themes: motorcycles, strong women, perseverance, adventure, Paris, France, wonder, independence, travel, trips around the world, picture books for older readers

The Haunted Lake by P. J. Lynch

Jacob and his father are the only people who fish Lake Spetzia, which was formed when the river was dammed and their town was flooded. The villagers say the lake is haunted, but Jacob and his father don’t want to leave, because Jacob’s mother is buried in the cemetery below the water. As Jacob grows up, a village girl named Ellen falls in love with him, and he with her. But before they are married, Jacob disappears—lured underwater by the ghosts who inhabit the sunken village. Years go by, with Jacob held captive by the watery spirits and Ellen never giving up hope that she will find him, until a fateful night when Jacob sees the light of Ellen’s boat floating above. Can he break free and reach the surface?

Why I chose it: How unique is this? Reviews are fantastic (none starred though), and I love the idea of an eerie, haunted lake.

  • Genre(s): picture book, folklore, supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-7
  • Themes: lakes, ghosts, cemeteries, love, floods, picture books for older readers

Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall

Companion to: Jabari Jumps. Jabari is making a flying machine in his backyard! “It’ll be easy. I don’t need any help,” he declares. But it doesn’t work! Jabari is frustrated. Good thing Dad is there for a pep talk and his little sister, Nika, is there to assist, fairy wings and all. With the endearing father-child dynamic of Jabari Jumps and engaging mixed-media illustrations, Gaia Cornwall’s tale shows that through perseverance and flexibility, an inventive thought can become a brilliant reality.

Why I chose it: Apparently, the little sister wears a different outfit on each page, but no one in the story notices or comments on it. I love this idea! I also think lots of readers will identify with Jabari’s frustrations. Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: perseverance, resilience, fathers, sisters and brothers, siblings, inventions, African Americans, STEM, mindfulness, frustration

*Lights on Wonder Rock by David Litchfield

Heather wants more than anything to go to outer space, where the stars sparkle with magic and wonder. When a UFO lands behind her house and she meets a friendly alien, it seems that all of her dreams have come true. But soon her new friend has to return home. Will the spaceship ever come back for her? And if it does, is Heather ready to leave everything on Earth behind?

Why I chose it: This quote from the Booklist starred review says all I need to hear: “This book displays some of the best visual storytelling on (quite literally) the planet.” I mean, wow. What a testimony. SLJ also starred it.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: UFOs, aliens, dreams, spaceships, friends, time, aging

*My Day with Gong Gong by Sennah Yee (Author) and Elaine Chen (Illustrator)

May isn’t having fun on her trip through Chinatown with her grandfather. Gong Gong doesn’t speak much English, and May can’t understand Chinese. She’s hungry, and bored with Gong Gong’s errands. Plus, it seems like Gong Gong’s friends are making fun of her! But just when May can’t take any more, Gong Gong surprises her with a gift that reveals he’s been paying more attention than she thought.

Why I chose it: Two starred reviews (Publishers Weekly and Kirkus), plus it’s about language barriers within a family. This does happen, but I don’t know of any recent picture books that address it.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: grandparents, Chinatown, language barriers, Cantonese, boredom, Asian Americans


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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  • I have to say, I prefer the old format of having lots of books in each new release. I usually don’t look at the ginormous spreadsheet, and I love seeing more books. I review one a day at my blog, http://www.kidsbookaday.com, so I need plenty of new ideas! Thanks for all your work…I love your ideas!

  • Hi Leigh – I’m torn. I like the new format because I don’t feel overwhelmed, but I guess I don’t mind being overwhelmed by lots of new books! It’s unlikely that I will also check in the Ginormous List, and I worry that I might miss something wonderful. I’ll be interested to see what others have to say…
    Thank you for all that you do. I rely on your new release lists for book-buying suggestions for my school library collection. Thanks for your hard work (and great literary taste)!

    • Thanks, Anne! I’m glad the Spotlights are useful for you! So far, it sounds like the consensus is to keep it the way it was. I’m glad you guys are chiming in today!

  • First of all, thank you for all the work you put into the spotlights and the ginormous spreadsheet! You are appreciated!!

    I have only glanced at the spreadsheet but I love the spotlights!! I have to say I preferred having the larger spotlights because it gives so many more options — I just skim through them then focus on the ones that would best serve my school’s library. I read the top 5 spotlights today, but found myself longing for more…

    Thanks and have a blessed day!

    • Thanks for your feedback, Michelle! It matters little to me because it’s the same amount of work, TBH. I just worry because it’s such difficult times right now. I hate to think about librarians who have very small budgets or no budget just reading the list and sighing. So far though, it doesn’t sound like that’s the case at all!

  • I think I prefer the previous format – I like working my way through the books in one place (largely because I forget to go look at the Ginormous!)!

    My 2 cents!

    Thanks so much for all your work, Leigh!

    • Thanks, Emma! That does seem to be the consensus, so I’ll resume the previous format on the next Spotlight.


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