New Release Spotlight: December 8, 2020

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It’s the second-to-last Spotlight for 2020! Next week’s list will be for all “Spotlight-worthy” new releases for the remainder of 2020. I will pick up again on January 5, 2021. The January 5th list already looks to be huge, with many popular authors releasing new titles! January does tend to be a good month for new releases.

But for today…only seven titles! It is December, after all, and last week’s long list was an anomaly.

This week’s Spotlight titles are #1222-#1228 on The Ginormous book list.

Escaping Eleven by Jerri Chisholm

Eleven Trilogy, book 1. In Compound Eleven, the hierarchy of the floors is everything. My name is Eve Hamilton, and on my floor, we fight.

Which at least is better than the bottom floor, where they toil away in misery. Only the top floor has any ease in this harsh world; they rule from their gilded offices.

Because four generations ago, Earth was rendered uninhabitable―the sun too hot, the land too barren. Those who remained were forced underground. While not a perfect life down here, I’ve learned to survive as a fighter.

The Publishers Weekly review twice mentions a high level of violence.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, dystopia, survival
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: fighting, freedom, future, caste system, oppression, climate change, uninhabitable Earth, strong female characters, star-crossed lovers

A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology by Dhonielle Clayton (ed.)

In the fourth collaboration with We Need Diverse Books, fifteen award-winning and celebrated diverse authors deliver stories about a princess without need of a prince, a monster long misunderstood, memories that vanish with a spell, and voices that refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. This powerful and inclusive collection contains a universe of wishes for a braver and more beautiful world.

AUTHORS INCLUDE: Samira Ahmed, Jenni Balch, Libba Bray, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, V. E. Schwab, Tara Sim, Nic Stone.

  • Genre(s): anthology, short stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: diversity, multiple genres, collaborations

The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips (Author) and Isabelle Follath (Illustrator)

Beast and the Bethany, book 1. Beauty comes at a price. And no one knows that better than Ebenezer Tweezer, who has stayed beautiful for 511 years. How, you may wonder? Ebenezer simply has to feed the beast in the attic of his mansion. In return for meals of performing monkeys, statues of Winston Churchill, and the occasional cactus, Ebenezer gets potions that keep him young and beautiful, as well as other presents.

But the beast grows ever greedier with each meal, and one day he announces that he’d like to eat a nice, juicy child next. Ebenezer has never done anything quite this terrible to hold onto his wonderful life. Still, he finds the absolutely snottiest, naughtiest, and most frankly unpleasant child he can and prepares to feed her to the beast.

The child, Bethany, may just be more than Ebenezer bargained for. She’s certainly a really rather rude houseguest, but Ebenezer still finds himself wishing she didn’t have to be gobbled up after all. Could it be Bethany is less meal-worthy and more…friend-worthy?

  • Genre(s): humor, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: beauty, kidnapping, unpleasant children, monsters, eternal youth, wealth, orphans

My Dad is a Super Secret Agent by Writer Christine Beigel (Author) and Illustrator Pierre Foiullet (Illustrator)

Lola is a girl like any other, except for one tiny detail: her father, Robert Darkhair, is James Blond, a top-secret agent so secretive, that not even he knows what he does, or at least that is what Blond wants us to believe.

When the villains of Friendly Falls kidnap Lola’s parents, she becomes Super-Lola. Accompanied by her toy dinosaur Super-James (in undies) who can grow to the size of an actual dinosaur (thus stretching the undies), their cat Hot Dog, a pencil, an eraser, and an infallible duckie pool toy, she is off to the rescue. Ah, imagination. It is our most powerful weapon.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: secret agents, fathers and daughters, kidnapping, cats, imagination

The Abba Tree by Devora Busheri (Author) and Gal Shkedi (Illustrator)

Hannah and Abba–Hebrew for “Dad”–are spending time together in nature on Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish Arbor Day.

As Abba rests under a carob tree, Hannah declares that she wants to climb a tree. The carob tree’s trunk is too skinny, but can she climb a eucalyptus tree or a pine tree or an olive tree?

When each poses a challenge–for being too scratchy, for not having footholds–Abba offers new inspiration for climbing and insight into what Hannah and the carob tree share in common.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: Jewish characters, trees, Arbor Day, overcoming challenges, conservation, fathers and daughters, climbing trees, life cycles

*A Year of Everyday Wonders by Cheryl B. Klein (Author) and Qin Leng (Illustrator)

With each new year come countless little wonders. From the highs—first snowfall, first new
umbrella, first beach trip—to the lows—first missed bus, first lost umbrella, first sunburn—
every year older means another cycle of everyday experiences.

SLJ and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-3
  • Themes: wonder, seasons, cycles, growing up, life, joy, disappointment

Sincerely, Emerson: A Girl, Her Letter, and the Helpers All Around U by Emerson Weber (Author) and Jaclyn Sinquett (Illustrator)

Based on a true story that went viral. Sincerely, Emerson follows eleven-year-old Emerson Weber as she writes a letter of thanks to her postal carrier, Doug, and creates a nationwide outpouring of love. This is a story of gratitude, hope, and recognition: for all the essential helpers we see everyday, and all those who go unseen.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-4
  • Themes: gratitude, letter writing, community helpers, mail, postal workers



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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