New Release Spotlight: November 17, 2020

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I have 13 new titles for you this week, but my stand-out favorites are the first two on the YA list. My picks of the week:

  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (YA)
  • Dragon Mountain by Katie Tsang and Kevin Tsang (MG)
  • Tiny Monsters by Steve Jenkins (Picture Book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #1177-#1189 on The Ginormous book list.

*Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon

When Sunny Dae–self-proclaimed total nerd–meets Cirrus Soh, he can’t believe how cool and confident she is. So when Cirrus mistakes Sunny’s older brother Gray’s bedroom–with its electric guitars and rock posters–for Sunny’s own, he sort of, kind of, accidentally winds up telling her he’s the front man of a rock band.

Before he knows it, Sunny is knee-deep in the lie: He ropes his best friends into his scheme, begging them to form a fake band with him, and starts wearing Gray’s rock-and-roll castoffs. But no way can he trick this amazing girl into thinking he’s cool, right?

THREE starred reviews! More weird YA character names.

  • Genre(s): romance, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Korean Americans, California, diverse characters, lies, secrets, identity, bullying, toxic masculinity, nerds, being true to oneself, music, rock bands, rom-com

*These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

FOUR starred reviews! I love love love that this is set in Shanghai!

  • Genre(s): retelling, historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: 1920s, gangs, Shanghai, Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare, China, monsters, feuds, Opium Wars, communism

This Is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes

Daffodil Franklin has plans for a quiet summer before her freshman year at college, and luckily, she’s found the job that can give her just that: housesitting a mansion for a wealthy couple.

But as the summer progresses and shadows lengthen, Daffodil comes to realize the house is more than it appears. The spacious home seems to close in on her, and as she takes the long road into town, she feels eyes on her the entire way, and something tugging her back.

What Daffodil doesn’t yet realize is that her job comes with a steep price. The house has a long-ago grudge it needs to settle . . . and Daffodil is the key to settling it.

Note: The Kirkus review calls this “another clichéd haunted house story.” I think lots of students will like this one, but I wouldn’t give it to more savvy horror readers.

  • Genre(s): horror, supernatural, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: summer, teens with jobs, housesitting, mansions, haunted houses, Pennsylvania, anxiety, suicidal thoughts

The Way Back by Gavriel Savit

For the Jews of Eastern Europe, demons are everywhere: dancing on the rooftops in the darkness of midnight, congregating in the trees, harrowing the dead, even reaching out to try and steal away the living.

But the demons have a land of their own: a Far Country peopled with the souls of the transient dead, governed by demonic dukes, barons, and earls. When the Angel of Death comes strolling through the little shtetl of Tupik one night, two young people will be sent spinning off on a journey through the Far Country. There they will make pacts with ancient demons, declare war on Death himself, and maybe– just maybe–find a way to make it back alive.

  • Genre(s): adventure, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Jewish folklore, Eastern Europe, demons, death, Angel of Death, journeys

Soulswift by Megan Bannen

Gelya is a Vessel, a girl who channels the word of the One True God through song. Cloistered with the other Vessels of her faith, she believes–as all Ovinists do–that a saint imprisoned Elath the Great Demon centuries ago, saving humanity from earthly temptation.

When Gelya stumbles into a deadly cover-up by the Ovinists’ military, she reluctantly teams up with Tavik, an enemy soldier, to survive. Tavik believes that Elath is actually a mother goddess who must be set free, but while he succeeds in opening Her prison, he inadvertently turns Gelya into Elath’s unwilling human vessel.

Now the church that raised Gelya considers her a threat. In a race against the clock, she and Tavik must find a way to exorcise Elath’s presence from her body. But will this release stop the countdown to the end of the world, or will it be the cause of the earth’s destruction?

  • Genre(s): fantasy, supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: singing, soldiers, demons, cover-ups, military, goddesses, exorcism, end of the world, persecution, spiritualism

Dragon Mountain by Katie Tsang (Author) and Kevin Tsang (Author)

When 12-year-old Billy Chan finds out his parents are sending him to a language and culture camp in the middle-of-nowhere China, he can’t imagine anything worse. He’s not expecting to become friends with fellow campers Dylan O’Donnell, Charlotte Bell, and Liu Ling-Fei. And he’s definitely not planning to meet any dragons. But when the four kids accidentally open a crack in an ancient mountain, they become involved in an ages-old struggle of good versus evil. Now it’s up to them to save the Dragon Realm–if they don’t, the world as they know it might disappear forever.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: China, dragons, Chinese mythology, good versus evil, camp, Chinese Americans, biracial, earthquakes

The Impossible First: An Explorer’s Race Across Antarctica (Young Readers Edition) by Colin O’Brady

Prior to December 2018, no individual had ever crossed the landmass of Antarctica alone, without support, and completely human-powered. But Colin O’Brady was determined to do just that—even though ten years earlier a tragic accident raised doubts that he’d ever walk again normally.

O’Brady’s quest drew him into a head-to-head battle with British SAS Captain Louis Rudd—also striving to be “the first.” Enduring Antarctica’s sub-zero temperatures and pulling a sled that initially weighed 375 pounds in complete isolation and through a succession of whiteouts, storms, and a series of near-disasters, O’Brady journeyed 932 miles to a world first. Honest, deeply moving, filled with moments of vulnerability—and set against the backdrop of some of the most extreme environments on earth, from Mount Everest to Antarctica—The Impossible First reveals how anyone can reject limits, overcome immense obstacles, and discover what matters most.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6+
  • Themes: Antarctica, endurance, survival, winter, cold, snow, overcoming obstacles, man vs. nature, willpower

I Am the Wind by Michael Karg (Author) and Sophie Diao (Illustrator)

Join the wind as it swings, swirls, and soars on its remarkable journey around the globe.

I whoosh over tundra,
yodel over Everest,
skim westward on whitecaps!

This book invites you to celebrates the world all around us through the unique perspective of the wind. Journey through the frozen forests and bayou bogs, wonder at the northern lights, and meet unique animals like wolverines and olinguitos along the way.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: wind, weather, nature, animals, habitats, continents, journeys

Into the Forest by Christiane Dorion (Author) and Jane McGuinness (Illustrator)

The world is rich with marvelous forests and amazing communities of plants, animals, fungi, and minute creatures that populate them. Marvel at the peaceful twilight of the deciduous forest, where birds gather twigs, bats shelter in tree trunks, and the carpet of fallen leaves becomes small creatures’ homes.

Spot a bald eagle soaring high up in the winter sky through the towering green giants of the redwood forest. Discover all the noises in the Amazonian rain forest, where most creatures live in the tree canopy together, creating a symphony of sounds. Each forest has something special to offer and is invaluable.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: deciduous forests, plants, animals, fungi, birds, bats, trees, biomes, ecosystems

Tiny Monsters: The Strange Creatures That Live On Us, In Us, and Around Us by Steve Jenkins (Author), Robin Page (Author)

You may not know it…but you share your home with monsters!

Some of these monsters are so tiny that they were barely recognized, even by scientists, until the invention of the electron microscope. Although they may seem like aliens from another planet, these miniscule creatures live right alongside us. Just about all of them are harmless, and some are even helpful!

In his signature cut- and torn-paper style, Steve Jenkins shows readers that–seen up close–these pesky critters are as fantastic looking as any creature on Earth. This Caldecott Honor–winning duo also uses informational graphics and diagrams to demonstrate just how big the critters are, where they live, and how many there might be in your home right this second!

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: microorganisms, microscopic life, biology, insects, arthropods, monsters

Brenda is a Sheep by Morag Hood

Brenda is exactly like all the other sheep. Well, except for the sharp teeth, gray fur, sharp claws, and orange sweater. All the sheep think that Brenda is just the best! Despite Brenda’s best efforts to enjoy the ultimate sheep feast, Brenda realizes that she is, after all, a sheep. A funny reminder that what you look like doesn’t dictate who you are.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: identity, wolf in sheep’s clothing

Song of the Old City by Anna Pellicioli (Author) and Merve Atilgan (Illustrator)

Follow one little girl on her busy day through the old city of Istanbul–from the Galata bridge to the Grand Bazaar–as the city opens its arms to her. All along the way, the generous people she meets share many gifts with her: sesame rounds, hot tea, a boat ride, rose candy, pomegranate juice, even a scrub in a Turkish bath! But she doesn’t just keep the gifts for herself. At every turn, she finds a way to share what has been given to her and pass it on so others can enjoy it too.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: Istanbul, Turkey, kindness, neighbors, generosity, wandering, curiosity

The Runaway No-wheeler by Peter Stein (Author) and Bob Staake (Illustrator)

Tony is a sturdy, long-hauling 18-wheeler with a delivery to make, but many obstacles are in the way–from potholes to slime to rescue missions to aliens’ space rockets. In the style of counting classics like Dr. Seuss’ Ten Apples Up on Top–though in this case, subtractive counting–Tony finds himself losing wheel after wheel with each hurdle he encounters. Will he be able to make his delivery?

According to Kirkus, this book has a Seinfeld reference? That is something I need to see!

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: trucks, things that go, perseverance, subtracting, math, counting





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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