New Release Spotlight: October 13, 2020

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After four days without any internet, two days with extremely slow and intermittent internet, and six days (and counting) without cell service, I am ready to call it quits with the hurricanes. Delta hit our area head-on on overnight on Tuesday-Wednesday last week. We were very lucky because it was downgraded from Cat 4 to Cat 3 right before it hit us, but holy smokes, it was a wild ride.  Cleanup is still happening all over Playa del Carmen, and plenty of people still don’t have power or internet. We were super-lucky, and we know it.

Anyway, I put this week’s list together in record time! I thought about skipping it this week, but there are WAY too many great titles to skip! Just look at all those *ed books! Every book on this list received at least one starred professional review, and several received 3 or more starred reviews.

My picks for this week:

  • Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel (Jason Reynolds)
  • Class Act (Jerry Craft)
  • Crossings (Katy Duffield)

This week’s titles are #1104-#1121 on The Ginormous book list.

*Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds (Author) and Danica Novgorodoff (Illustrator)

Most-anticipated release of the week!

Will’s older brother, Shawn, has been shot.

Will feels a sadness so great, he can’t explain it. But in his neighborhood, there are THE


No. 1: Crying.
No matter what.

No. 2: Snitching
No matter what.

No. 3: Revenge
No matter what.

But bullets miss. You can get the wrong guy. And there’s always someone else who knows to follow the rules…

Four starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: gun violence, gangs, revenge, brothers, grief, shootings, murder, ghosts, African Americans

*The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice by Lisa DeSelm

Debut author! Impressed by the work of the puppetmaster and his apprentice, Tavia’s ruler, The Margrave, has ordered dozens of life-size marionette soldiers to be sent to Wolfspire Hall. When the orders for more soldiers come in with increasingly urgent deadlines, the puppetmaster’s health suffers and Pirouette, his daughter and protégé, is left to build in his stead. But there is something far more twisted brewing at Wolfspire―the Margrave’s son wants Pirouette to create an assassin. And he wants her to give it life.

With Tavia teetering on the brink of war and her father dying in the dungeons, Pirouette has no choice but to accept. Racing against the rise of the next blue moon―the magic that will bring her creations to life―she can’t help but wonder, is she making a masterpiece…or a monster?

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred. This is being described as a mash-up of Frankenstein and Pinocchio.

  • Genre(s): horror, fantasy, retelling
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: tyrants, Pinocchio, Frankenstein, marionette puppets, magic, nature, master craftsmen, artisans, loneliness, lying

Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald

Debut author! Emanuela Ragno always gets what she wants. With her daring mind and socialite schemes, she refuses to be the demure young lady everyone wants her to be. In her most ambitious move yet, she’s about to marry Alessandro Morandi, her childhood best friend and the heir to the wealthiest house in Occhia. Emanuela doesn’t care that she and her groom are both gay, because she doesn’t want a love match. She wants power, and through Ale, she’ll have it all.

But Emanuela has a secret that could shatter her plans. In the city of Occhia, the only source of water is the watercrea, a mysterious being who uses magic to make water from blood. When their first bruise-like omen appears on their skin, all Occhians must surrender themselves to the watercrea to be drained of life. Everyone throughout history has given themselves up for the greater good. Everyone except Emanuela. She’s kept the tiny omen on her hip out of sight for years.

When the watercrea exposes Emanuela during her wedding ceremony and takes her to be sacrificed, Emanuela fights back…and kills her. Now Occhia has no one to make their water and no idea how to get more. In a race against time, Emanuela and Ale must travel through the mysterious, blood-red veil that surrounds their city to uncover the secrets of the watercrea’s magic and find a way to save their people-no matter what it takes.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: marriage, LGBTQIA, human sacrifice, water, magic, droughts, blood, self-harm

*The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

Real life isn’t a fairytale. But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through?

Is there a way to tell them he’s gay?

A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected. The Magic Fish tackles tough subjects in a way that is accessible with readers of all ages, and teaches us that no matter what—we can all have our own happy endings.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Vietnamese language, Vietnamese culture, LGBTQIA, bookish, fairytales, coming out, identity, refugees, learning to speak English

*Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron

In the Jim Crow South, white supremacy reigns and tensions are high. But Evalene Deschamps has other things to worry about. She has two little sisters to look after, an overworked single mother, and a longtime crush who is finally making a move.

On top of all that, Evvie’s magic abilities are growing stronger by the day. Her family calls it jubilation—a gift passed down from generations of black women since the time of slavery. And as Evvie’s talents waken, something dark comes loose and threatens to resurface…

And when the demons of Evvie’s past finally shake free, she must embrace her mighty lineage, and summon the power that lies within her.

SLJ and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: discrimination, racism, prejudice, Jim Crow, white supremacy, single parents, sisters, magical powers, coming of age

Breaking the News: What’s Real, What’s Not, and Why the Difference Matters by Robin Terry

Headlines leap out at us from mobile phones, TV screens, computers, newspapers, and everywhere we turn. Technology has opened up exciting new ways to tell interesting stories, but how much of it is news…and how much is just noise? This refreshing and up-to-date media literacy book gives kids the tools they need to distinguish what is fact from what is fiction so that they can make smart choices about what to believe.

Topics cover a broad range, from defining freedom of speech, the journalists’ code of ethics, the dangers of propaganda, and the future of news.

Packed with profiles of influential journalists, fun facts, and iconic photographs, this ultimate guide to the information age will get kids thinking about their relationship and responsibility to media.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-11
  • Themes: journalism, ethics, propaganda, fake news, information, media literacy, social issues

*Class Act by Jerry Craft

Sequel to: New Kid. Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying “You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.” His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted?

To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it’s hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn’t know how to keep the group together.

As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?

How did I miss this MAJOR new release last week? I’ve already ordered this for my 8th grade son, and I will be reading it myself, also. SIX starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: African Americans, privilege, friendship, accepting differences, inequality, microaggressions, middle school

Of Salt and Shore by Annet Schaap (Author) and Laura Watkinson (Translator)

Every evening Lampie, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, must light a lantern to warn ships away from the rocks, but one stormy night disaster strikes. The lantern is not lit, a ship is wrecked, and someone must pay.

To work off her debt, Lampie is banished to the Admiral’s lonely house, where a monster is rumored to live. The terrors inside the house aren’t quite what she thought they would be–they are even stranger. After Lampie saves the life of the neglected, deformed son of the admiral, a boy she calls Fish, they form a close bond. Soon they are pulled into a fairytale adventure swimming with mermaids, pirates, and misfits. Lampie will discover the courage to fight for friendship, knowledge, and the freedom to be different.

Booklist starred. Originally published in the Netherlands.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, historical fiction, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: fairy tales, lighthouses, monsters, mermaids, pirates, gothic fables, mermen

*All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

On June 23, 2018, twelve young players of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach enter a cave in northern Thailand seeking an afternoon’s adventure. But when they turn to leave, rising floodwaters block their path out. The boys are trapped!

Before long, news of the missing team spreads, launching a seventeen-day rescue operation involving thousands of rescuers from around the globe. As the world sits vigil, people begin to wonder: how long can a group of ordinary kids survive in complete darkness, with no food or clean water?

Combining firsthand interviews of rescue workers with in-depth science and details of the region’s culture and religion, author Christina Soontornvat—who was visiting family in Northern Thailand when the Wild Boars went missing—shows how both the complex engineering operation above ground and the mental struggles of the thirteen young people below proved critical in the life-or-death mission.

FIVE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-10
  • Themes: caving, true stories, in the news, teams, Thailand, rescues, engineering, courage, survival

*Chance: Escape from the Holocaust: Memories of a Refugee Childhood by Uri Shulevitz

Caldecott Medal-winning picture book author-illustrator Uri Shulevitz details the eight-year odyssey of how he and his Jewish family escaped the terrors of the Nazis by fleeing Warsaw for the Soviet Union in Chance.

It was during those years, with threats at every turn, that the young Uri experienced his awakening as an artist, an experience that played a key role during this difficult time. By turns dreamlike and nightmarish, this heavily illustrated account of determination, courage, family loyalty, and the luck of coincidence is a true publishing event.

FOUR starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): memoir
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: Holocaust, Poland, Soviet Union, refugees, Jews, Nazis, family, courage, survival, world history, 1940s, WWII, anti-Semitism, art, storytelling

Cinders & Sparrows by Stefan Bachman

Twelve-year-old Zita, an orphan and a housemaid, has resigned herself to a life of drudgery when a strange letter arrives, naming her the only living heir to the Brydgeborn fortune. Now the mistress of the castle, Zita soon realizes foul play led to the death of her family. And as she is guided through lessons in the art of witchcraft by the somewhat mysterious Mrs. Cantanker, Zita begins to wonder who is friend and who is foe.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: orphans, scarecrows, housemaids, heirs, castles, murder, witchcraft, magic

Yara’s Spring by Sharon McKay and Jamal Saeed

Growing up in East Aleppo, Yara’s childhood has long been shadowed by the coming revolution. But when the Arab Spring finally arrives at Yara’s doorstep, it is worse than even her Nana imagined: sudden, violent, and deadly. When rescuers dig Yara out from under the rubble that was once her family’s home, she emerges to a changed world. Her parents and Nana are gone, and her brother, Saad, can’t speak—struck silent by everything he’s seen. Now, with her friend Shireen and Shireen’s charismatic brother, Ali, Yara must try to find a way to safety. With danger around every corner, Yara is pushed to her limits as she discovers how far she’ll go for her loved ones—and for a chance for freedom.

Crafted through the focused lens of Jamal Saeed’s own experiences in Syria and brought to life with acclaimed author Sharon E. McKay, Yara’s Spring is a story of coming of age against all odds and the many kinds of love that bloom even in the face of war.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, survival, historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6-8
  • Themes: war, violence, Aleppo, Syria, freedom, refugees, orphans, Canada

*The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azúa Kramer (Author) and Cindy Derby (Illustrator)

On the day of his mother’s funeral, a young boy conjures the very visitor he needs to see: a gorilla. Wise and gentle, the gorilla stays on to answer the heart-heavy questions the boy hesitates to ask his father: Where did his mother go? Will she come back home? Will we all die?

Yet with the gorilla’s friendship, the boy slowly begins to discover moments of comfort in tending flowers, playing catch, and climbing trees. Most of all, the gorilla knows that it helps to simply talk about the loss—especially with those who share your grief and who may feel alone, too.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: grief, death of a parent, gorillas, coping mechanisms, loss, hope

*Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals by Katy S. Duffield (Author) and Mike Orodán (Illustrator)

Around the world, bridges, tunnels, and highways are constantly being built to help people get from one place to another. But what happens when construction spreads over, under, across, and through animal habitats? Thankfully, groups of concerned citizens, scientists, engineers, and construction crews have come together to create wildlife crossings to help keep animals safe.

From elk traversing a wildlife bridge across a Canadian interstate to titi monkeys using rope bridges over a Costa Rican road to salamanders creeping through tiny tunnels beneath a Massachusetts street, young readers are certain to be delighted and inspired by these ingenious solutions that are saving the lives of countless wild animals.

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book nonfiction
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: migration, seasons, animals, habitat, bridges, engineering, animal welfare, wildlife

*Every Color of Light: A Book about the Sky by Hiroshi Osada (Author), Ryoji Arai (Illustrator), David Boyd (Translator)

This bedtime story opens on a lush, green forest in the rain. The calm is shattered when the wind picks up and lightning cuts the sky. Yet out of this turbulence, the day blooms bright, the flowers open, and raindrops roll and drip down to the forest floor. The sun sets. The moon rises, and in a pool of water we see its reflection. We go to sleep with the forest, sinking into the pool, into the calm reflection of the moon. Harmonizing our human experience to the natural world, Arai invites the reader to hold imaginative space for our oneness with the natural world.

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 7 (not sure I agree with this for Grade 7–it sounds very young to me)
  • Themes: nature, weather, seasons, rain, flowers, storms, bedtime stories

*Jacob’s Fantastic Flight by Philip Waechter (Author) and Elisabeth Lauffer (Translator)

When his parents plan a trip to the sea, Jacob says he will fly there himself. Along the way, he meets new friends and has wonderful adventures. And when his bird friends need help, Jacob and the flock work together to rescue their friend and outsmart the nefarious birdcatcher.

With gorgeous illustrations and a humorous, resonant story about independence, kindness, and embracing the unknown, Jacob’s Fantastic Flight shows what happens when a child uses their strengths and differences to help others in need. Printed on FSC-certified paper with vegetable-based inks.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: flying, birds, independence, kindness, imagination, magic, adventure

*A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett (Author) and Shawn Harris (Illustrator)

Follow a magnificent polar bear through a fantastic world of snow and shockingly blue sea. Over the ice, through the water, past Arctic animals and even a human…where is he going? What does he want?

Acclaimed author Mac Barnett’s narration deftly balances suspense and emotion, as well as poignant, subtle themes, compelling us to follow the bear with each page turn. Artist Shawn Harris’s striking torn-paper illustrations layer white-on-white hues, with bolts of blue and an interplay of shadow and light, for a gorgeous view of a stark yet beautiful landscape. Simple and thought-provoking, illuminating and intriguing, this engaging picture book will have readers pondering the answer to its final question long after the polar bear has continued on his way.

I’m not a fan of this super-flowery publisher’s description, but this book did get FOUR starred reviews. And it’s by Mac Barnett, who is a major picture book writer. And yes, it does look really cute, too!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: wildlife, Arctic, animals, polar bears, winter

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield by Susan Goldman Rubin (Author) and Richie Pope (Illustrator)

Mary Seacole spent much of her life on the front lines of the Crimean War, ministering to the wounded, caring for soldiers, and making her mark on the world of medicine.

This biography honors Mary Seacole’s life, from her childhood in Kingston, Jamaica, and her encounters with racist Americans to her treatment of cholera patients in Panama and her bitter run-in with Florence Nightingale, who declined to work with her in Crimea because she wasn’t white.

Mary Seacole knew that the sick and wounded needed her compassion and care, and despite all obstacles, she answered the call to help them. Author Susan Goldman Rubin gives voice to this fearless nurse and healer through captivating details drawn from Mary Seacole’s own writings, while debut illustrator Richie Pope vividly captures her service at the bedside and on the battlefield. Inspiring and engaging, this biography introduces a compelling heroine who rose above barriers to earn a place in history.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography, picture book for older readers
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: nurses, Crimean War, compassionracism, prejudice, discrimination, perseverance, determination




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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