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New Release Spotlight: March 16, 2021

Lots of fun titles this week! I am currently reading I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall, who has a new book on this week’s list. I’m really enjoying I Am Still Alive, so I may give Our Last Echoes a shot also. The Seventh Raven is a bit of an enigma, with a scant publisher’s summary, a terrible early Goodreads rating, and two starred professional reviews. It’s also an illustrated YA novel based on a Grimm story. I am intrigued…

For middle grades, there’s a new Linda Sue Park title with three starred reviews, practically a must-buy for elementary and middle school libraries. Picture books are a bit less impressive this week, but I’ve found a few gems that are great choices for libraries looking for new multicultural or Earth Day titles. Have a great week, everyone!

This week’s top picks:

  • My Summer With Cass (Mark Crilley)
  • The One Thing You’d Save (Linda Sue Park)
  • Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn (Cynthia Schumerth) –What fun for storytime experiments and crafts with popcorn!

This week’s Spotlight titles are #1444-#1467 on The Ginormous book list.

Bones of a Saint by Grant Farley

Debut author! Fifteen-year-old RJ Armante has never known a life outside his deadend hometown of Arcangel, CA. The Blackjacks rule as they have for generations, luring the poorest kids into their monopoly on petty crime. For years, they’ve left RJ alone, but now they have a job for him: prey upon an old loner in town.

In spite of the danger, RJ begins to resist. He fights not only for himself, but for his younger brother, Charley, whose disability has always made RJ feel extra protective of him. For Roxanne, the girl he can’t reach, and the kids in his crew who have nothing to live for. Even for the old loner, who has secrets of his own. If RJ is to break from the Blackjacks’ hold, all of Arcangel must be free of its past.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: 1970s, California, gangs, disabilities, brothers, Catholic symbolism, The Canterbury Tales, priests

Five Ways to Fall Out of Love by Emily Martin

Aubrey Cash learned the hard way not to rely on love. After all, Webster Casey, the new boy next door she’d been falling for all summer, stood her up at homecoming in front of everyone with no explanation.

Proving her theory that love never lasts seems easy when she’s faced with parents whose marriage is falling apart and a best friend who thinks every boy she dates is “the one.” But when sparks fly with a boy who turns out to be Webster’s cousin, and then Webster himself becomes her lab partner for the rest of senior year, Aubrey finds her theory–and her commitment to stay single–put to the test.

As she navigates the breakdown of her family, the consequences her cynicism has on her relationship with her best friend, and her own confusing but undeniable feelings for Webster, Aubrey has to ask herself: What really happened the night Webster stood her up? And if there are five ways to fall out of love…could there perhaps be even more ways to fall back in?

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: cynicism, anti-romance, dating, being stood up, family problems, being stood up, Homecoming

My Last Summer with Cass by Mark Crilley

Megan and Cass have been joined at the brush for as long as they can remember. For years, while spending summers together at a lakeside cabin, they created art together, from sand to scribbles…to anything available. Then Cass moved away to New York.

When Megan finally convinces her parents to let her spend a week in the city, too, it seems like Cass has completely changed. She has tattoos, every artist in the city knows her. She even eats chicken feet now! At least one thing has stayed the same: They still make their best art together.

But when one girl betrays the other’s trust on the eve of what is supposed to be their greatest artistic feat yet, can their friendship survive? Can their art?

Kirkus starred. The SLJ review calls this an additional purchase that “misses the mark,” but I would absolutely buy it for my library. It reminds me a bit of Tamaki’s This One Summer.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: artists, changing friendships, moving away, New York City, summer, strict parents, coming of age

Our Last Echoes by Kate Alice Marshall

In 1973, the thirty-one residents of Bitter Rock disappeared. In 2003, so did my mother. Now, I’ve come to Bitter Rock to find out what happened to her–and to me. Because Bitter Rock has many ghosts. And I might be one of them.

Sophia’s earliest memory is of drowning. She remembers the darkness of the water and the briny taste as it filled her throat, the sensation of going under. She remembers hands pulling her back to safety, but that memory is impossible–she’s never been to the ocean.

But then Sophia gets a mysterious call about an island named Bitter Rock, and learns that she and her mother were there fifteen years ago–and her mother never returned. The hunt for answers lures her to Bitter Rock, but the more she uncovers, the clearer it is that her mother is just one in a chain of disappearances.

People have been vanishing from Bitter Rock for decades, leaving only their ghostly echoes behind. Sophia is the only one who can break the cycle–or risk becoming nothing more than another echo haunting the island.

  • Genre(s): horror, supernatural, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: missing persons, ghosts, islands, Alaska, foster kids

*Can’t Stop Won’t Stop (Young Adult Edition): A Hip-Hop History by Jeff Chang and Dave Cook

Hip hop is one of the most dominant and influential cultures in America, giving new voice to the younger generation. It defines a generation’s worldview. Exploring hip hop’s beginnings up to the present day, Jeff Chang and Dave “Davey D” Cook provide a provocative look into the new world that the hip hop generation has created.

Based on original interviews with DJs, b-boys, rappers, activists, and gang members, with unforgettable portraits of many of hip hop’s forebears, founders, mavericks, and present day icons, this book chronicles the epic events, ideas and the music that marked the hip hop generation’s rise.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: music, hip-hop, musical genres, rap, music history

*The Seventh Raven by David Elliott (Author) and Rovina Cai (Illustrator)

This book has really mixed early Goodreads reviews. I had to look at those reviews because the publisher’s summary is sorely lacking. Here’s all we get: “Bestselling author David Elliott examines the timeless themes of balance, transformation, and restoration in this evocative tale about a girl who will stop at nothing to reverse a curse that turned her seven brothers into ravens.”

Titlewave and Amazon also have no real summary beyond that. I know from reviews that it is a novel in verse and based on the Grimm story of “The Seven Ravens.” It’s also illustrated, which is unique for a YA book.

I would not normally even include a book with such a vague summary and a 3.24 average Goodreads review as of today. But it did receive starred reviews from SLJ and Publishers Weekly.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, retelling
  • Recommended for: Grades 6+
  • Themes: Grimm’s fairy tales, “The Seven Ravens,” brothers, identity, fate, poetry

*The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown.

Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: sexual assault, bisexuality, LGBTQIA+, rape, high school, magic

*Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Debut author! Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. She dreams of a fresh start at college, but when family tragedy strikes, Daunis puts her future on hold to look after her fragile grandmother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team.

Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into an FBI investigation of a lethal new drug.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, drawing on her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine to track down the source. But the search for truth is more complicated than Daunis imagined, exposing secrets and old scars. At the same time, she grows concerned with an investigation that seems more focused on punishing the offenders than protecting the victims.

Now, as the deceptions–and deaths–keep growing, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go for her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Native Americans, reservation, Ojibwe, caring for an infirm parent, traditional medicine, murder, drugs, detectives

That Way Madness Lies: 15 of Shakespeare’s Most Notable Works Reimagined by Dahlia Adler

West Side Story. 10 Things I Hate About You. Kiss Me, Kate. Contemporary audiences have always craved reimaginings of Shakespeare’s most beloved works. Now, some of today’s best writers for teens take on the Bard in these 15 whip-smart and original retellings!

Contributors include Dahlia Adler (reimagining The Merchant of Venice), Kayla Ancrum (The Taming of the Shrew), Lily Anderson (All’s Well That Ends Well), Melissa Bashardoust (A Winter’s Tale), Patrice Caldwell (Hamlet), A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy (Much Ado About Nothing), Brittany Cavallaro (Sonnet 147), Joy McCullough (King Lear), Anna-Marie McLemore (Midsummer Night’s Dream), Samantha Mabry (Macbeth), Tochi Onyebuchi (Coriolanus), Mark Oshiro (Twelfth Night), Lindsay Smith (Julius Caesar), Kiersten White (Romeo and Juliet), and Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (The Tempest).

  • Genre(s): retelling, anthology
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Shakespeare, revenge, rage, madness, jealousy, love, murder

List of Ten by Halli Gomez

Debut author! Ten: three little letters, one ordinary number. No big deal, right? But for Troy Hayes, a 16-year-old suffering from Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the number ten dictates his life, forcing him to do everything by its exacting rhythm.

Finally, fed up with the daily humiliation, loneliness, and physical pain he endures, Troy writes a list of ten things to do by the tenth anniversary of his diagnosis–culminating in suicide on the actual day. But the process of working his way through the list changes Troy’s life: he becomes friends with Khory, a smart, beautiful classmate who has her own troubled history. Khory unwittingly helps Troy cross off items on his list, moving him ever closer to his grand finale, even as she shows him that life may have more possibilities than he imagined. This is a dark, intense story, but it’s also realistic, hopeful, and deeply authentic.

This looks depressing to me–along the lines of Butter, which I just couldn’t finish–but it will be easy to booktalk, and I like the inclusion of Tourette’s and OCD. It will certainly find a teen audience.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Tourette Syndrome, OCD, mental health, suicide, #ownvoices, twins, kidnapping, social acceptance

Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kuzki

Twelve-year-old Nozomi lives in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. She wasn’t even born when the bombing of Hiroshima took place.

Every year Nozomi joins her family at the lantern-floating ceremony to honor those lost in the bombing. People write the names of their deceased loved ones along with messages of peace, on paper lanterns and set them afloat on the river.

This year Nozomi realizes that her mother always releases one lantern with no name. She begins to ask questions, and when complicated stories of loss and loneliness unfold, Nozomi and her friends come up with a creative way to share their loved ones’ experiences. By opening people’s eyes to the struggles they all keep hidden, the project teaches the entire community new ways to show compassion.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: Japan, Hiroshima, WWII, grief, loss, bombs, war, family, lanterns, traditions

Across the Pond by Joy McCullough

Callie can’t wait for her new life to start. After a major friendship breakup in San Diego, moving overseas to Scotland gives her the perfect chance to reinvent herself. On top of that, she’s going to live in a real-life castle!

But as romantic as life in a castle sounds, the reality is a little less comfortable: it’s run-down, freezing, and crawling with critters. Plus, starting off on the wrong foot with the gardener’s granddaughter doesn’t help her nerves about making new friends. So she comes up with the perfect solution: she’ll be homeschooled. Her parents agree, on one condition: she has to participate in a social activity.

Inspired by a journal that she finds hidden in her bedroom, Callie decides to join a birding club. Sure, it sounds unusual, but at least it’s not sports or performing. But when she clashes with the club leader, she risks losing a set of friends all over again. Will she ever be able to find her flock and make this strange new place feel like home?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: Scotland, moving to a new country, arguments with friends, making new friends, castles, homeschooling, birds, journals

*The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park (Author) and Robert Sae-Heng (Illustrator)

When a teacher asks her class what one thing they would save in an emergency, some students know the answer right away. Others come to their decisions more slowly. And some change their minds when they hear their classmates’ responses.

A lively dialog ignites as the students discover unexpected facets of one another–and themselves.

THREE starred reviews! I can see this one taking off with teachers for whole-class read-alouds, particularly at the beginning and end of the school year. This will foster some interesting discussions and writing prompts for sure.

  • Genre(s): novels in verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: survival, teachers, classrooms, school, emergencies, personal values

The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy by Mary Winn Heider

When Lenny Volpe, former quarterback of the worst professional football team in the nation, leaves his family and disappears, the Chicago Horribles win their first game in a long time. Fans are thrilled. The world seems to go back to normal. Except for the Volpe kids.

Winston throws himself into playing the tuba, and Louise starts secret experiments to find a cure for brain injuries, and they’re each fine, just fine, coping in their own way. That is, until the investigation of some eccentric teacher behavior and the discovery of a real live bear paraded as the Horribles’ new mascot make it clear that things are very much Not Fine. The siblings may just need each other, after all.

SLJ starred. For more CTE brain injuries due to football, pair this one with Jacqueline Woodson’s Before the Ever After.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: football, Chicago, siblings, missing parent, grief, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), brain injuries, concussions

Upstaged by Diana Harmon Asher

Seventh grader Shira Gordon is painfully shy. She rarely speaks and blushes at everything. And yet, when she’s alone in her room, she’ll sing and dance, dreaming she were different. So when her best friend forces her to audition for their school’s production of The Music Man, she’s mostly hoping the play will get canceled…but a tiny part of her hopes she’ll get in.

And she does. As a member of the barbershop quartet. Playing a dude with a mustache is not exactly her dream role, but Shira is surprised by how much she loves rehearsing with her quirky new friends. When her teacher asks her to understudy the lead role, Marian the Librarian, she reluctantly accepts.

It’s not easy to understudy Monica Manley, an eighth-grade diva who will not be upstaged. And things get even more complicated when a mysterious prankster starts playing tricks on Monica and Shira’s crush joins the cast.

But something keeps Shira going, and it might just be Marian herself. Sure, Marian is a leading lady, but she’s also misunderstood, lonely…and shy. And if a star can be shy, then maybe, just maybe, a shy person can be a star.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: shyness, theater, musicals, unlikely friends, Jewish characters

Waluk: The Great Journey by Ana Miralles (Author)and Emilio Ruiz (Illustrator)

Wáluk and Eskimo are two inseparable bears. Wáluk is very young and Eskimo is very old. Between the two they’ve found a way to survive in an extremely hostile environment, combining the agility of the younger with the experience of the older. When Eskimo decides they should go further north in search of better hunting, they set off on a great journey neither are truly prepared for…

A heartwarming, fun and funny adventure that spotlights the impact of global warming and mankind moving into wildlands, forcing nature to find new ground to thrive.

The cover image here looks like a picture book, but it’s actually a 128-page graphic novel. It’s dimensions remind me of the Bad Machinery or Calvin & Hobbes books, which don’t fit easily on most graphic novel bookshelves.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, animal stories, animal fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: polar bears, intergenerational friendships, survival, Arctic animals, snow, winter, climate change, environmental destruction


A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu, and You by Mike Barfield

Join the hilarious exploration of “a day in the life” of nearly 100 things on Earth. Find out what exactly your tongue does all day long, how a Japanese knotweed destroys everything in its path, and why no two snowflakes are ever the same. From the gross and smelly to the beautiful and fascinating, this book is a treasure trove of entertaining information.

Kirkus starred. Books like this are exactly why I created the Erudite Genre Personality!

  • Genre(s): graphic nonfiction, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-8
  • Themes: fact books, human body, comics, diagrams, trivia, poop, boogers

Good Dogs on a Bad Day by Rachel Wenitsky (Author), David Sidorov (Author), and Tor Freeman (Illustrator)

Good Dogs, book 1. The sequel, Good Dogs with Bad Haircuts, publishes simultaneously. Meet Hugo: the loyal and lovable family dog that would do just about anything to keep his owners happy. A very Good Dog, all of the time.

Meet King: the newest puppy in town! Always full of energy and ready to make new friends, King is still learning the ropes of how to be a Good Dog.

Meet Lulu: Lights! Camera! Action! Lulu is an Instagram star with an affinity for all things fancy–make sure her fur and collar look perfect in that photo! Always a Good Dog, especially with her owner Jasmine.

When these three doggy day care pals come together for an unlikely adventure away from their owners, a small taste of being just a little bit bad starts a hilarious series of events none of them saw coming!

  • Genre(s): humor, animal stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: dogs, friends, animals, Instagram, social media,

Scaredy Cat by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

When shelter cats Pasha and Poop move in with their new human family, they find themselves up against a ghostly bully. Scaredy Cat demands they follow his rules or he’ll cause all kinds of trouble-knock over lamps, spill kitty litter, and even get them shipped back to the animal shelter!

But Pasha and Poop are stubborn and rebellious. They won’t follow the Scaredy Cat’s ridiculous rules like all of the other pets on the block. Together, they set out to find the truth behind who the Scaredy Cat really is, and how they can end his mischief-making for good.

  • Genre(s): humor, animal stories, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: cats, animal shelters, rules, ghosts, bullying

My Day with the Panye by Tami Charles (Author) and Sara Palacios (Illustrator)

In the hills above Port-au-Prince, a young girl named Fallon wants more than anything to carry a large woven basket to the market, just like her Manman. As she watches her mother wrap her hair in a mouchwa, Fallon tries to twist her own braids into a scarf and balance the empty panye atop her head, but realizes it’s much harder than she thought. BOOM! Is she ready after all?

Lyrical and inspiring, with vibrant illustrations highlighting the beauty of Haiti, My Day with the Panye is a story of family legacy, cultural tradition, and hope for the future.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, growing up, following the lead of a parent, Caribbean, mothers and daughters

Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! by Cynthia Schumerth (Author) and Mary Reaves Uhles (Illustrator)

A group of children shows the step-by-step process of how America’s favorite snack comes about.

Beginning with the planting of seeds, the cycle moves through the caretaking of the plant (watering and weeding), all the way to its harvest. Finally, it’s time to shuck, then pop the kernels, and enjoy the finished product!

So I love experiments with clothes irons! I once made s’mores in the library with an iron. So…would popcorn pop with an iron? Might be a fun storytime experiment! I don’t see why it wouldn’t pop, but I’ve never tried it. This book might be a fun intro to popcorn crafts (see Pinterest for ideas).

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades PreS-3
  • Themes: science, popcorn, rhyming book, how food is made, agriculture, STEAM, onomatopoeia

If You Go Down to the Woods Today by Rachel Piercey (Author) and Freya Hartas (Illustrator)

My woodland’s full of animals,
of every different kind.
So shall we stay here for a while
and see what we can find?

Experience the everyday wonder of nature in this first book of poetry, exploring a magical woodland year. With poems by acclaimed writer Rachel Piercey, join Bear on his journey from spring to winter with lots of friends to meet, places to explore, and things to spot along the way.

Kirkus starred. Includes 16 poems for four seasons.

  • Genre(s): poetry, picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: poetry, seasons, winter, spring, summer, fall, nature, woods, rhyme, animals, trees, forest

Riley Can’t Stop Crying by Stéphanie Boulay (Author), Agathe Bray-Bourret (Illustrator), and Charles Simard (Translator)

Riley is inconsolable. He can’t stop crying and nothing is making him feel better. His sister, Regina, tries her best to help him figure out what’s wrong, but four-year-old Riley isn’t sure. It’s not his tummy, or his head, or the monsters under the bed. Regina and their dad try everything they can to make Riley smile, but nothing works until one day Regina has an idea. Maybe it’s Riley that is making Riley upset.

Regina knows what it feels like to be uncomfortable in her body, but she also knows that she’s pretty amazing and really good at a lot of things. So how can she help Riley see that he’s pretty amazing and really good at a lot of things? A charming story about a child’s search for his true self under the compassionate eye of his older sister.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: crying, sadness, siblings, sisters, identity, self-worth, dysmorphia, self-acceptance

If Bees Disappeared by Lily Williams

The rolling hills and lush climate of Kent, England are home to many creatures. These creatures are fluffy, sneaky, spikey, and…small, like the bee.

Though bees are small, their importance is BIG. Today there are over 250,000 species of bees but all of them are in danger. Because of disease, pesticide exposure, lack of foraging habitats, and poor nutrition, entire honey bee hives are dying. What would happen if bees disappeared completely?

SLJ starred. The SLJ review calls it “a standout among the many books about honeybees.”

  • Genre(s): nonfiction picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: bees, environment, Earth Day, sustainability, ecology, beekeeping

Carpenter’s Helper by Sybil Rosen (Author) and Camille Garoche (Illustrator)

Renata and her Papi are hard at work at renovating their bathroom. Renata can’t wait to build castles of bubbles in the deep, old-fashioned bathtub.

But one morning, she finds dried leaves and pine needles heaped on a shelf in the corner. How did they get there? She soon realizes that a bird has built a nest on the shelf, and inside it are four rosy eggs! Weeks pass, and Renata watches as the wrens come and go, building a home in her bathroom… until, one day, with a little help from Renata, the birds are ready to fly.

Kirkus starred. Check out the details in the illustrations!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: fathers and daughters, birds, bird nests, bird eggs, wrens, baby animals, home renovation, illustration details






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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