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New Release Spotlight: February 23, 2021

Another awesome-looking week for new books! I pre-ordered The Initial Insult, so that will be on my agenda today. So excited!

This week’s top picks:

    • The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis (YA)
    • Treasure of the World by Tara Sullivan (MG)
    • Bartali’s Bicycle: The True Story of Gino Bartali, Italy’s Secret Hero by Megan Hoyt (picture book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #1384-#1400 on The Ginormous book list.

*The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

This is the first book in a planned duology. Tress Montor’s family used to mean something–until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. The entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo.”

Felicity Turnado has it all: looks, money, and a secret. One misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is…only that she can’t look at Tress without feeling shame and guilt.

But Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity–brick by brick–as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. Tress will have her answers–or settle for revenge.

SLJ and Kirkus starred. I will so be reading this! “The Cask of Amontillado” is my favorite Poe story and one of my favorite short stories.

  • Genre(s): retelling, horror
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: gothic, The Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allan Poe, revenge, former friends, missing parents, grandfathers, Ohio, Halloween, parties, alternating perspectives, panthers, unique narrations

*Like Home by Louisa Onome

Debut author! Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and the memories she has growing up there with her friends. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, most of her friends’ families moved away. Kate, whose family owns the local corner store, is still there and as long as that stays constant, Nelo’s good.

When Kate’s parent’s store is vandalized and the vandal still at large, Nelo is shaken to her core. And then the police and the media get involved and more of the outside world descends upon Ginger East with promises to “fix the neighborhood.” Suddenly, Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale.

Worse yet, Kate is acting strange. She’s pushing Nelo away at the exact moment they need each other most. Now Nelo’s entire world is morphing into something she hates and she must figure out how to get things back on track or risk losing everything–and everyone–she loves.

Kirkus and SLJ starred. The SLJ reviewer recommends this as a middle school alternative to The Hate You Give (Thomas) and Dear Martin (Stone).

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6-12
  • Themes: friends, community, neighborhoods, crime, Nigerian Canadians, Toronto, Canada, home, gentrification

Love Is for Losers by Wibke Brueggemann

Fifteen-year-old Phoebe thinks falling in love is vile and degrading, and vows never to do it. Then, due to circumstances not entirely in her control, she finds herself volunteering at a local thrift shop. There she meets Emma…who might unwittingly upend her whole theory on life.

Publishers Weekly starred. Kirkus and SLJ reviews are lukewarm–you might want to have a look before purchasing for the library.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: London, England, LGBTQIA+, Down Syndrome, teens with jobs, volunteering, godmothers, diary format, epistolary, sexuality, anti-Valentine’s Day, anti-romance

*Mazie by Melanie Crowder

Mazie has always longed to be on Broadway. But growing up in her small Nebraska town, that always seemed like an impossible dream. So when an opportunity presents itself to spend six weeks auditioning, Mazie jumps at the chance, leaving behind everything–and everyone–she’s ever known.

New York City is a shock to the senses: thrilling, but lonely. Auditions are brutal. Mazie’s homesick and she misses the boyfriend whose heart she broke when she left. Nothing is as she expected.

With money running out, and faced with too many rejections to count, Mazie is more determined than ever to land a role. But when she discovers that booking a job might mean losing sight of herself, everything Mazie always thought she wanted is called into question.

Mazie is the story of a girl caught between two lives–and two loves–as she navigates who she is, what matters most, and the cost of following her dream.

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: New York City, Broadway, theater, acting, singers, music, auditions, homesickness, following a dream, performance arts, 1950s

*The Valley and the Flood by Rebecca Mahoney

Debut author! Rose Colter is almost home, but she can’t go back there yet. When her car breaks down in the Nevada desert, the silence of the night is broken by a radio broadcast of a voicemail message from her best friend, Gaby. A message Rose has listened to countless times over the past year. The last one Gaby left before she died.

So Rose follows the lights from the closest radio tower to Lotus Valley, a small town where prophets are a dime a dozen, secrets lurk in every shadow, and the diner pie is legendary. And according to Cassie Cyrene, the town’s third most accurate prophet, they’ve been waiting for her. Because Rose’s arrival is part of a looming prophecy, one that says a flood will destroy Lotus Valley in just three days’ time.

Rose believes if the prophecy comes true then it will confirm her worst fear–the PTSD she was diagnosed with after Gaby’s death has changed her in ways she can’t face. So with help from new friends, Rose sets out to stop the flood, but her connection to it, and to this strange little town, runs deeper than she could’ve imagined.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): magical realism, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: PTSD, flashbacks, death of a friend, prophecies, small towns, Nevada, trauma, anxiety, car trouble, grief

Destination Anywhere by Sara Barnard

Peyton King has always wanted to belong. She seizes the opportunity to start over at a new school and finally finds real connections with the friends she’s always dreamed of and even an actual boyfriend!

But after flying high in her newfound happiness, Peyton comes crashing down when reality sets in and the ones she cares about let her down. Peyton’s friends can’t fix her and she can’t help them if they won’t let her. If she wants to find real, lasting happiness, Peyton will have to search somewhere else.

With nothing but her sketchpad and a backpack, she buys a one-way ticket and gets on a plane. How far will she go to change her story?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: new student at school, making friends, starting over, drawing, travel, coming of age, trauma, Canada, college, self-discovery, emotional journeys, road trips

Prepped by Bethany Mangle

Debut author!

Always be ready for the worst day of your life.

This is the mantra that Becca Aldaine has grown up with. Her family is part of a community of doomsday preppers, a neighborhood that prioritizes survivalist training over class trips or senior prom. They’re even arranging Becca’s marriage with Roy Kang, the only eligible boy in their community. Roy is a nice guy, but he’s so enthusiastic about prepping that Becca doesn’t have the heart to tell him she’s planning to leave as soon as she can earn a full ride to a college far, far away.

Then a devastating accident rocks Becca’s family and pushes the entire community, including Becca’s usually cynical little sister, deeper into the doomsday ideology. With her getaway plans thrown into jeopardy, the only person Becca can turn to is Roy, who reveals that he’s not nearly as clueless as he’s been pretending to be.

When Roy proposes they run away together, Becca will have to risk everything–including her heart–for a chance to hope for the best instead of planning for the worst.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): romance, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: preppers, doomsday, survival, pretending, arranged marriage, Ohio, parental expectations, Korean Americans

Living the Confidence Code: Real Girls. Real Stories. Real Confidence by Katty Kay, Claire Shipman, JillEllyn Riley

From Bali to Brazil, South Africa to Seattle, Australia to Afghanistan, these girls took risks, doubted themselves, and sometimes failed. But they also hung in there when things got hard. Along the way they discovered what matters to them: everything from protesting contaminated water to championing inclusive books to the accessibility of girls’ basketball shoes, and so much more.

Different goals, different stories, different personalities, all illustrating the multitude of ways to be confident in the world.

School Library Connection starred.

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: global, girls, women, overcoming adversity, true stories

Meltdown: Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima by Deirdre Langeland

On March 11, 2011, the largest earthquake ever measured in Japan occurred off the northeast coast. It triggered a tsunami with a wall of water 128 feet high. The tsunami damaged the nuclear power plant in Fukushima triggering the nightmare scenario–a nuclear meltdown.

For six days, employees at the plant worked to contain the meltdown and disaster workers scoured the surrounding flooded area for survivors.

This book examines the science behind such a massive disaster and looks back at the people who experienced an unprecedented trifecta of destruction.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: Japan, tsunamis, earthquakes, natural disasters, nuclear power plants, nuclear meltdown, survival

How to Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other by Naomi Klein (Author) and Rebecca Stefoff (Adapter)

Warmer temperatures. Fires in the Amazon. Superstorms. These are just some of the effects of climate change that we are already experiencing.

The good news is that we can all do something about it. A movement is already underway to combat not only the environmental effects of climate change but also to fight for climate justice and make a fair and livable future possible for everyone. And young people are not just part of that movement, they are leading the way. They are showing us that this moment of danger is also a moment of great opportunity—an opportunity to change everything.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5+
  • Themes: conservation, environment, Earth Day, climate change, activism,

*Treasure of the World by Tara Sullivan

Twelve-year-old Ana wants nothing more than to escape the future set for her and her classmates in her small mining village. Boys her age are beginning to leave school to become silver miners and girls her age are destined to one day be the wives of miners. But when her often ill eleven-year-old brother is forced by their demanding father to start work in the mines, Ana gives up her dreams of school to volunteer in his place.

The world of silver mining though is dark and dangerous and the men who work there don’t want a girl in their way. Ana must find the courage to not only survive but save her family after the worst happens and a mining accident kills her father and leaves her brother missing.

SLJ and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: silver mining, traditional gender roles, accidents, Bolivia, South America, abusive parent, alcoholic parent Andes Mountains, child labor

*The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas by Maria Garcia Esperon (Author), Amanda Mijangos (Illustrator), David Bowles (Translator)

Fifteen thousand years before Europeans stepped foot in the Americas, people had already spread from tip to tip and coast to coast. Like all humans, these Native Americans sought to understand their place in the universe, the nature of their relationship with the divine, and the origin of the world into which their ancestors had emerged.

The answers lay in their sacred stories.

This is a collection of stories from nations and cultures across our two continents–the Sea-Ringed World, as the Aztecs called it–from the edge of Argentina all the way up to Alaska.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, short stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-12
  • Themes: Native Americans, history, South America, North America, Central America, indigenous peoples

Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers by Juliet Menéndez

Discover how 40 influential Latinas became the women we celebrate today! In this collection of short biographies from all over Latin America and across the United States, Juliet Menéndez explores the first small steps that set the Latinitas off on their journeys. With gorgeous, hand-painted illustrations, Menéndez shines a spotlight on the power of childhood dreams.

From Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to singer Selena Quintanilla to NASA’s first virtual reality engineer, Evelyn Miralles, this is a book for aspiring artists, scientists, activists, and more. These women followed their dreams–and just might encourage you to follow yours!

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): collected biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-6
  • Themes: Latinas, Women’s History Month, influential women, activists, scientists, artists, overcoming adversity

J.D. and the Great Barber Battle by J. Dillard (Author) and Akeem S. Roberts (Illustrator)

J.D. has a big problem–it’s the night before the start of third grade and his mom has just given him his first and worst home haircut.

When the steady stream of insults from the entire student body of Douglass Elementary becomes too much for J.D., he takes matters into his own hands and discovers that, unlike his mom, he’s a genius with the clippers. His work makes him the talk of the town and brings him enough hair business to open a barbershop from his bedroom.

But when Henry Jr., the owner of the only official local barbershop, realizes he’s losing clients to J.D., he tries to shut him down for good. How do you find out who’s the best barber in all of Meridian, Mississippi? With a GREAT BARBER BATTLE!

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, early chapter book
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: barbers, kids with jobs, haircuts, Meridian, Mississippi, competition, African Americans

Trouble by Katherine Battersby

When a very large bear moves in next door, Squirrel is sure he can only be trouble for her and her beloved pet mouse, Chamomile. He has terrible teeth, and knife like claws, and huge, horrifying hungers…at least that’s how Squirrel sees him.

But where Squirrel sees trouble, Chamomile sees a new neighbor just trying to be friendly. Who is right…and who is really causing trouble? Here is a charming story with an important and age-appropriate message about making assumptions.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: animals, appearances, neighbors, squirrels, mice, bears, “don’t judge a book by its cover”

Walking toward Peace: The True Story of a Brave Woman Called Peace Pilgrim by Kathleen Krull (Author) and Annie Bowler (Illustrator)

She gave up everything: her home, her possessions, even her real name. She called herself Peace Pilgrim, put on her sneakers, and started off on her quest to walk thousands of miles all around America. Step by step, mile after mile, Peace Pilgrim traveled tirelessly, inviting everyone she met to consider a world where each person and each nation chooses peace.

This true story about a little-known woman who sacrificed everything for her convictions inspires us to step out for what we believe in, gathering others to join us along the way.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: walking, peace, activists

Bartali’s Bicycle: The True Story of Gino Bartali, Italy’s Secret Hero by Megan Hoyt (Author) and Iacopo Bruno (Illustrator)

Gino Bartali pedaled across Italy for years, winning one cycling race after another, including the 1938 Tour de France. Gino became an international sports hero! But the next year, World War II began, and it changed everything. Soldiers marched into Italy. Tanks rolled down the cobbled streets of Florence. And powerful leaders declared that Jewish people should be arrested.

To the entire world, Gino Bartali was merely a champion cyclist. But Gino’s greatest achievement was something he never told a soul–that he secretly worked with the Italian resistance to save hundreds of Jewish men, women, and children, and others, from certain death, using the one thing no authority would question: his bicycle.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography, picture book for older readers
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: Italy, cycling, Tour de France, WWII, Jews, Holocaust, heroes, sports, courage

G My Name Is Girl: A Song of Celebration from Argentina to Zambia by Dawn Masi

A, my name is ALBA and my sister’s name is AYELÉN. We come from ARGENTINA and we are ADVENTUROUS.

Girls from 26 different countries—Argentina to Zambia–are beautifully and thoughtfully represented in this A to Z tribute to global girlhood. Children will enjoy reading about each girl’s name, empowering chracter trait, and country, while learning how we are all connected.

Globally-minded kids can also find the countries on a map at the back of the book and dream of places they’d like to visit. A little sneak preview: this book will go great with a new Genre Personality I’m introducing this summer!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: world travel, names, girls, countries, alphabet books, alliteration, playground games





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.

One Comment

  • I love love love that Iacopo Bruno is the illustrator for Bartali‘s Bicycle. They couldn’t have found a more perfect person for it.


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