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New Release Spotlight: November 3, 2020

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Welcome to November! This week’s list is pretty short, as is often the case at this time of year.

My picks of the week:

  • Young Adult–The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein
  • Middle Grades–The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan
  • Picture Book–The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney

This week’s Spotlight titles are #1144-#1155 on The Ginormous book list.

*The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

1940. Facing a seemingly endless war, fifteen-year-old Louisa Adair wants to fight back, make a difference, do something-anything to escape the Blitz and the ghosts of her parents, who were killed by enemy action. But when she accepts a position caring for an elderly German woman in the small village of Windyedge, Scotland, it hardly seems like a meaningful contribution. Still, the war feels closer than ever in Windyedge, where Ellen McEwen, a volunteer driver with the Royal Air Force, and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, a flight leader for the 648 Squadron, are facing a barrage of unbreakable code and enemy attacks they can’t anticipate.

Their paths converge when a German pilot lands in Windyedge under mysterious circumstances and plants a key that leads Louisa to an unparalleled discovery: an Enigma machine that translates German code. Louisa, Ellen, and Jamie must work together to unravel a puzzle that could turn the tide of the war? but doing so will put them directly in the cross-hairs of the enemy.

This was released in the UK in May 2020, so if you buy titles from the UK, be sure to check to make sure you don’t already own this one. The cover is very different for the UK release, so it will be easy to miss and end up with two copies. Three starred reviews, but that’s no surprise for this author!

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: 7-12
  • Themes: orphans, war, Scotland, UK, WWII, codes, prisoners of war, alternating perspectives

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

Chronic overachiever Prudence Daniels is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her.

Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to mean gossips, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner. Quint is annoyingly cute and impressively noble, especially when it comes to his work with the rescue center for local sea animals.

When Pru resigns herself to working at the rescue center for extra credit, she begins to uncover truths about baby otters, environmental upheaval, and romantic crossed signals―not necessarily in that order. Her newfound karmic insights reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed…love and hate…and fate.

  • Genre(s): romance, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: overachievers vs. slackers, karma, powers, animal rescue, environmentalism, sustainability, fate, moral judgment

The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige

At first glance, the sisters of ultra-exclusive Kappa Rho Nu—the Ravens—seem like typical sorority girls. Ambitious, beautiful, and smart, they’re the most powerful girls on Westerly College’s Savannah, Georgia, campus.

But the Ravens aren’t just regular sorority girls. They’re witches.

Scarlett Winter has always known she’s a witch—and she’s determined to be the sorority’s president, just like her mother and sister before her. But if a painful secret from her past ever comes to light, she could lose absolutely everything.

Vivi Devereaux has no idea she’s a witch and she’s never lived in one place long enough to make a friend. So when she gets a coveted bid to pledge the Ravens, she vows to do whatever it takes to be part of the magical sisterhood. The only thing standing in her way is Scarlett, who doesn’t think Vivi is Ravens material.

But when a dark power rises on campus, the girls will have to put their rivalry aside to save their fellow sisters. Someone has discovered the Ravens’ secret. And that someone will do anything to see these witches burn…

  • Genre(s): fantasy, supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: witches, covens, sororities, sisters, Savannah, Georgia, secrets, powers, rivalry, alternating perspectives

The Lemon Tree (Young Readers’ Edition): An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan

In 1967, a twenty-five-year-old refugee named Bashir Khairi traveled from the Palestinian hill town of Ramallah to Ramla, Israel, with a goal: to see the beloved stone house with the lemon tree in its backyard that he and his family had been forced to leave nineteen years earlier. When he arrived, he was greeted by one of its new residents: Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student whose family had fled Europe following the Holocaust. She had lived in that house since she was eleven months old.

On the stoop of this shared house, Dalia and Bashir began a surprising friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and later tested as political tensions ran high and Israelis and Palestinians each asserted their own right to live on this land. Adapted from the award-winning adult book and based on Sandy Tolan’s extensive research and reporting, The Lemon Tree is a deeply personal story of two people seeking hope, transformation, and home.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-10
  • Themes: 1960s, refugees, Middle East, Palestine, Israel, friendship, Holocaust, world history, childhood homes

Rocket Science: A Beginner’s Guide to the Fundamentals of Spaceflight by Andrew Rader (Author) and Galen Frazer (Illustrator)

Earth’s gravity keeps our feet on the ground, and also prevents us from soaring into space. So how do we explore that vast frontier?

We use rockets! Discover how rockets work—from staging to orbits to power generation, from thermal control to navigation and more. Learn how rockets and other spacecraft travel to and explore the moon, Mars, Jupiter, and beyond.

Speculate about the future of space exploration—and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. In a guide ideal for aspiring rocket engineers, planetary scientists, and others who love learning about space exploration, Galen Frazer’s distinctive yet accessible illustrations pair perfectly with Andrew Rader’s straightforward text, together taking readers to the edge of our knowledge of space travel.

Something for librarians to consider: The author has a PhD in aerospace engineering, but the Kirkus review questions its accuracy and says that some parts are child-friendly while others are too hard for children. The SLJ review says that its appeal will depend largely on the child. Before purchasing, I suggest librarians and teachers take a look at these two reviews on Titlewave. You can also see a few two-page spreads on Amazon.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: rockets, gravity, science, STEAM, outer space, universe, space exploration, moon, planets, extraterrestrial life, engineering, space travel

The Metric System by David A. Adler (Author) and Ed Miller (Illustrator)

Used in almost every country in the world, the metric system is an easy-to-use way of calculating length, distance, weight, and volume. Look at the label of a soft drink. You’ll see both ounces and milliliters or gallons and liters listed. For kids who love to interact with their environment and measure and build things, knowledge of the metric system is a must.

Filled with do-it-yourself activities, bright illustrations, and valuable kid-friendly information on how to convert inches into centimeters, pounds into kilograms, and much more, this latest from trusted STEM creators David A. Adler and Edward Miller will have kids thinking in metric in no time. Each book includes a ruler with metric and imperial measurements that can be cut out from the jacket flaps.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-6
  • Themes: math, metric system, measurement, STEAM

The Mouse Watch by J. J. Gilbert

The Mouse Watch, book 1. Around the globe, exceptional mice live in the shadows. Under the direction of famed mouse inventor Gadget Hackwrench, they work together as a team to solve BIG problems using SMALL gadgets. They are high trained. They are nearly invisible. And they love cheese. Their mission: save the world.

Bernadette is a small-but brave-mouse with a score to settle. Jarvis is a sensitive rat with a big appetite and unmatched puzzle-solving skills. Both are eager to prove their worth as the youngest, newest recruits to the Mouse Watch.

But before their first day of training is through, Bernie and Jarvis find themselves at the center of an evil plot orchestrated by the Rogue Animal Thieves Society (R.A.T.S.). Soon they are catapulted from new recruits into full-on action heroes, as they learn how to work together to save the Mouse Watch-and the world as they know it.

  • Genre(s): animal fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: mice, animals, inventors, problem-solving, heroes

Music: A Fold-out Graphic History by Nicholas O’Neill (Author), Susan Hayes (Author), and Ruby Taylor (Illustrator)

Learn about how different genres started–including classical, folk, jazz, gospel, rock ‘n’ roll, country, punk, grunge and pop. Explore the histories of music linked to particular cultures or regions–including Indigineous American, Asian, and African music; Son Cubano and Caribbean styles; and Australian bush music.

Discover the stories of music maestros from around the world–including Beethoven, Wei Liangfu, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Maria Callas, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong, and Beyoncé. Marvel at the orchestra with a huge illustration set in London’s Royal Albert Hall, and find out about the ancient instruments discovered all over the globe.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: music, musical genres, music history, orchestra, musical instruments

A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer! by Anika Aldamuy Denise (Author) and Leo Espinosa (Illustrator)

When young Rosita moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States, she didn’t know what to expect—but she knew she loved to sing and dance. Working to overcome the language barrier and bullying she experienced in a strange new country, Rita eventually made her way to Hollywood with a dream to be a star. There, she fought to be seen and heard and eventually reached the pinnacle of success, landing her iconic role in West Side Story and, finally, winning her groundbreaking Oscar.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: dancers, Puerto Ricans, Rita Moreno, West Side Story, actors, singers, Latinx performers, immigrants, Hollywood, Oscar winners

*The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney

Melody, the littlest sea princess, is not content just to sing in the choir of mermaids like her sisters. She is an explorer who wonders about what lies above the water’s surface…especially the young girl she has spied from a distance. To meet her requires a terrible sacrifice: she trades her beautiful voice for a potion that gives her legs, so that she may live on land instead. It seems like a dream come true at first. But when trouble stirs beneath the ocean, Melody faces another impossible choice–stay with her friend, or reclaim her true identity and save her family.

THREE starred reviews! I love that Pinkney replaced the romance with a friendship story!

  • Genre(s): retelling, picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: princesses, mermaids, Hans Christian Anderson, friendship, African Americans

This Pretty Planet by Tom Chapin (Author), John Forster (Author), and Lee White (Illustrator)

Winds blow. Tides flow.
Shooting stars descend.
Our lives begin, middle, and end on
This pretty planet.

From icy tundras to sandy beaches, lush forests to tall mountains, this exuberant picture book journeys around the globe and presents the natural wonders of the planet with a contagious sense of awe and whimsy. Young readers will get lost in the detailed illustrations as the narration serves as a gentle reminder of why we must care for and protect our pretty planet.

  • Genre(s): picture book, poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: songs, poems, environmentalism, Earth Day, sustainability, landforms

Saving Stella: A Dog’s Dramatic Escape from War by Bassel Abou Fakher (Author), Deborah Blumenthal (Author), and Nadine Kaadan (Illustrator)

Life for musician Bassel and his dog Stella in Damascus, Syria, has changed since the civil war began. Instead of enjoying long walks through their neighborhood, they hear bombs toppling buildings and sharp blasts of gunfire through the night. When it becomes too dangerous for him to stay, Bassel makes the difficult decision to escape, leaving his family, friends–and Stella–behind.

After a long, dangerous journey, Bassel finally finds refuge in Belgium, but misses his family, his home, and most of all…Stella. With the help of friends in his new home, Bassel hatches a dramatic plan to rescue his beloved dog.

  • Genre(s): picture book for older readers
  • Recommended for: Grades K=6
  • Themes: Damascus, Syria, refugees, civil war, musicians, dogs, Belgium

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (YA):

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (MIDDLE GRADES):

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS & FAVORITE CHARACTERS (ELEMENTARY):

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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