Welcome to the last Spotlight of 2020! It’s been a wild year, but there have been SO MANY amazing new books for kids and teens! Though today’s Spotlight takes us through the rest of December, it’s still pretty small. Publishers just don’t release many new books at the end of December. We’ll resume the Spotlight on January 5th with a HUGE list of 2021 titles! Whatever you celebrate this December, I hope it’s happy and healthy and brings you joy!
This week’s Spotlight titles are #1229-#1235 on The Ginormous book list.
17-year-old vegan feminist Ellen Lopez-Rourke has one muggy Houston summer left before college. She plans to spend every last moment with her two best friends before they go off to the opposite ends of Texas for school. But when Ellen is grounded for the entire summer by her (sometimes) evil stepmother, all her plans are thrown out the window.
Determined to do something with her time, Ellen (with the help of BFF Melissa) convinces her parents to let her join the local muggle Quidditch team. An all-gender, full-contact game, Quidditch isn’t quite what Ellen expects. There’s no flying, no magic, just a bunch of scrappy players holding PVC pipe between their legs and throwing dodgeballs. Suddenly Ellen is thrown into the very different world of sports: her life is all practices, training, and running with a group of Harry Potter fans.
Even as Melissa pulls away to pursue new relationships and their other BFF Xiumiao seems more interested in moving on from high school (and from Ellen), Ellen is steadily finding a place among her teammates. Maybe Quidditch is where she belongs.
But with her home life and friend troubles quickly spinning out of control–Ellen must fight for the future that she wants, now she’s playing for keeps.
Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.
- Genre(s): realistic fiction, retelling
- Recommended for: Grades 7+
- Themes: summer, vegans, Houston, Texas, punishment, stepfamilies, Harry Potter fandom, sports, family problems, senior year, Cinderella, biracial characters, genderqueer, diverse characters, Mexican Americans
Debut author! Ever since her mom’s cancer scare, Hadley hasn’t been one for taking risks. And after seeing her sister go through one too many heartbreaks, she definitely has no interest in dating. Hadley just wants to keep her head down and enjoy the rest of high school with her friends, focusing on her photography and getting into the art school of her dreams.
Then enters Braden, star of the swim team and precisely the kind of person Hadley avoids, all bravado and charm and impulsivity. From their first moment together, they are perfect sparring partners, equally matched. And it’s intoxicating. Braden sees her, really sees her, and Hadley decides it might be time to break all her rules.
Braden shows Hadley how to live again, and soon Hadley is happier than she’ll ever admit out loud. But that’s before her family is faced with devastating news, and Braden starts hiding a growing, dark secret. As it threatens to shatter everything they’ve built, Hadley must confront her own actions and determine if she has the strength to walk away.
- Genre(s): romance, realistic fiction
- Recommended for: Grades 8+
- Themes: art, photography, dating, first love, family problems, terminal illness, secrets, opioid addiction, foreshadowing
“Bad luck follows lies.” That was the first rule for life that Leo’s Greek grandmother, Yia Yia, gave him before she died. But Leo’s anxiety just caused a fight at school, and though he didn’t lie, he wasn’t exactly honest about how it all went down–how he went down. Now Leo’s father thinks a self-defense class is exactly what his son needs to “man up.”
“Leave the Paros family alone.” That was Yia Yia’s second rule for life. But who does Leo see sitting at the front desk of the local gym? Evey Paros, whose family supposedly cursed Leo’s with bad luck. Seeing that Leo is desperate to enroll in anything but self-defense class, Evey cuts him a deal: she’ll secretly enroll him in hot yoga instead–for a price. But what could the brilliant, ruthless, forbidden Evey Paros want from Leo?
- Genre(s): realistic fiction
- Recommended for: Grades 8-12
- Themes: grandparents, grandmothers, anxiety, alcoholics (parent), toxic masculinity, traditional gender roles, curses, luck, destiny, Greek Americans, journaling, yoga, epistolary, bullying, grief, mental illness
Mighty Justice (Young Readers’ Edition): The Untold Story of Civil Rights Trailblazer Dovey Johnson Roundtree by Katie McCabe (Author) and Jabari Asim (Author)
Raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the height of Jim Crow, Dovey Johnson Roundtree felt the sting of inequality at an early age and made a point to speak up for justice. She was one of the first Black women to break the racial and gender barriers in the US Army; a fierce attorney in the segregated courtrooms of Washington, DC; and a minister in the AME church, where women had never before been ordained as clergy. In 1955, Roundtree won a landmark bus desegregation case that eventually helped end “separate but equal” and dismantle Jim Crow laws across the South.
Developed with the full support of the Dovey Johnson Roundtree Educational Trust and adapted from her memoir, this book brings her inspiring, important story and voice to life.
- Genre(s): biography, nonfiction
- Recommended for: Grades 7-10
- Themes: Jim Crow laws, racism, segregation, prejudice, Charlotte, North Carolina, justice, African Americans, gender roles, US Army, military service, Washington, DC, lawyers, ministers, “separate but equal,” social issues, LGBTQIA+, strong women
Publishers Weekly starred.
- Genre(s): picture book
- Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
- Themes: snow, wildlife, wilderness, forests, winter, animals
Amy loves craft time at school. But when her teacher asks everyone to make their own dragon, Amy feels stuck. Her first dragon has a long, wingless body, stag-like horns, and eagle claws, but her friends don’t think it’s a real dragon. Then she makes dragons like theirs, but none of them feels quite right…None of them feels like hers.
After school, a story from Grandma sparks new inspiration, and Amy rounds up her family to help her. Together, can they make Amy’s perfect dragon?
- Genre(s): picture book
- Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
- Themes: crafts, dragons, Chinese New Year, grandparents, school, art, Chinese Americans, diverse characters, culture
- Genre(s): picture book
- Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
- Themes: polar bears, parents, babies, Arctic, friendship, family, winter animals
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.