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New Release Spotlight: March 23, 2021

I’m doing a small change-up this week and posting the NRS on Sunday night. This is an experiment to see if I like it (and can keep up with it), but for now, you can look for the Spotlights on Sunday evenings!

My top picks this week:

  • Bruised by Tanya Boteju (YA)
  • Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile by María José Ferrada (middle grades)
  • Someone Builds the Dream by Lisa Wheeler (picture book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #1468-#1482 on The Ginormous book list.

Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger by Margarita Engle

The people of Cuba are living in el período especial en tiempos de paz–the special period in times of peace. That’s what the government insists that this era must be called, but the reality behind these words is starvation.

Liana is struggling to find enough to eat. Yet hunger has also made her brave: she finds the courage to skip a summer of so-called volunteer farm labor, even though she risks government retribution. Nearby, a quiet, handsome boy named Amado also refuses to comply, so he wanders alone, trying to discover rare sources of food.

A chance encounter with an enigmatic dog brings Liana and Amado together. United in hope and hunger, they soon discover that their feelings for each other run deep. Love can feed their souls and hearts—but is it enough to withstand el período especial?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, free verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Cuba, blingual, Spanish, hunger, starvation, rebellion, civil disobedience, Fidel Castro, dogs

Fadeaway by E. B. Vickers

At 8:53 pm, thousands of people watched as Jake Foster secured the state title for his basketball team with his signature fadeaway.

But by the next morning, he’s disappeared without a trace. Nobody has any idea where he is: not his best friend who knows him better than anyone else, not his ex-girlfriend who may still have feelings for him, not even his little brother who never expected Jake to abandon him.

Rumors abound regarding Jake’s whereabouts. Was he abducted? Did he run away to try to take his game to the next level? Or is it something else, something darker–something they should have seen coming?

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: missing persons, basketball, secrets

The Secret Recipe for Moving On by Karen Bischer

Ellie Agresti’s not sure anything could be worse than being dumped by her boyfriend, Hunter, the first day of senior year.

But sharing a “life skills” class with him and his new girlfriend, Brynn? AND getting partnered with a “family” of misfits–A.J., the loudmouth; Isaiah, the horse-racing obsessive; and Luke, the tattooed stunt-biker?

It’s a recipe for certain disaster…until an in-class competition allows Ellie to channel her angst into beating Hunter and Brynn’s team, and she unexpectedly bonds with her own group–especially Luke–in the process.

But as Ellie soon discovers, it will take more than classroom triumphs to heal her broken heart–and find herself again.

  • Genre(s): romance, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: break-ups, home ec class, high school, senior year, rom-com, revenge

The Immortal Boy by Francisco Montaña Ibáñez (Author) and David Bowles (Translator)

Two intertwining stories of Bogotá.

One, a family of five children, left to live on their own.

The other, a girl in an orphanage who will do anything to befriend the mysterious Immortal Boy.

How they weave together will never leave you.

Presented in English and Spanish.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Bogota, Colombia, siblings, bilingual, Spanish, dual-language, starvation, hunger, orphans, bullies, poverty, gun violence, intersecting stories

Bruised by Tanya Boteju

To Daya Wijesinghe, a bruise is a mixture of comfort and control. Since her parents died in an accident she survived, bruises have become a way to keep her pain on the surface of her skin so she doesn’t need to deal with the ache deep in her heart.

So when chance and circumstances bring her to a roller derby bout, Daya is hooked. Yes, the rules are confusing and the sport seems to require the kind of teamwork and human interaction Daya generally avoids. But the opportunities to bruise are countless, and Daya realizes that if she’s going to keep her emotional pain at bay, she’ll need all the opportunities she can get.

The deeper Daya immerses herself into the world of roller derby, though, the more she realizes it’s not the simple physical pain-fest she was hoping for. Her rough-and-tumble teammates and their fans push her limits in ways she never imagined, bringing Daya to big truths about love, loss, strength, and healing.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: roller derby, pain, grief, orphans, survivors, being on a team, healing

The Follower by Kate Doughty

Debut author! Instagram-famous triplets Cecily, Amber, and Rudy–the children of home renovation superstars–are ready for a perfect summer. They’ve just moved into the site of their parents’ latest renovation project when they begin to receive chilling messages from someone called The Follower.

It soon becomes clear that this anonymous threat is more than a simple Internet troll, and he can’t wait to shatter the Cole family’s perfect veneer and take back what’s his. The Follower examines the implications of what it is to be watched in the era of social media fame–as well as the lies we tell and the lengths we’ll go to uphold a perfect image, when our lives depend on it.

  • Genre(s): thrillers, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: triplets, siblings, social media, celebrities, stalkers, secrets, lies, alternating perspectives, murder, mansions, gambling addiction

*The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty

Esther is a middle child, in her own mind a pale reflection of siblings who are bright, shining stars. Her mother doesn’t show the slightest bit of interest, no matter what Esther does. Still, she’s content to go back to school, do her best, hang out with her friends, and let others take care of things.

But her best friends aren’t AT school when she gets there. Why didn’t they tell her they wouldn’t be coming back? Why were they silent all summer? But stuff like that happens. And it’s bad luck that her new teacher makes Esther the butt of all kinds of jokes. Mrs. Pollock is rumored to be an ogre–and maybe she IS one. Could be.

Then things go from unfortunate to outright dangerous. The mountains surrounding the school–usually sparkling with glaciers and lakes, alive with Faeries, and sheltering a quaint town with really great bakeries–are now crowded with Shadow Mages, casting a noticeable pall, and clearly–to Esther–signifying something very dark and threatening.

As the people she might have depended on to help are either strangely absent or in hiding, it’s left to ordinary, middle-child Esther (“just Esther”) to act. But she’ll have to burst out of the box of mediocrity she’s been but in, and do something absolutely extraordinary.

SLJ and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: siblings, middle children, strange occurrences, mediocrity, faeries, self-confidence

Rivals by Tommy Greenwald

The people of Walthorne love their basketball. One of the things they love most is the special rivalry between the Walthorne North Middle School Cougars and the Walthorne South Middle School Panthers. As the season begins, two star players are feeling the heat: Austin Chambers, captain of Walthorne North, worries that he’s not good enough to live up to his father’s legacy, while across town, the brilliantly talented Carter Haswell, captain of Walthorne South, is already under pressure to get a scholarship that might ease his family’s financial stress.

While both boys do whatever they can to make sure their team wins, Alfie Jenks, a school sports reporter, discovers that behind-the-scenes scandals are just as much a part of youth sports as on-the-court action. When she blows the story wide open, the whole season is jeopardized.

Told through a series of flashbacks, newspaper reports, social media posts, and interviews, Rivals will have readers tearing through the pages to see what happens next–and asking themselves if winning has become more important than doing the right thing.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, sports fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: media, basketball, sports, school newspaper, interviews, flashbacks, socioeconomic status, financial problems, comptetition

The Digestive System: A Tour Through Your Guts by Jason Viola (Author) and Andy Ristaino (Illustrator)

Part of the Science Comics series. Visit the inside of your mouth, stomach, liver, intestines, and other organs that make up the gastrointestinal tract!

Your guide to the gut is a friendly bacterium who will take you on a journey beyond imagination. Uncover how food is transformed into nutrients! Explore strange and dangerous glands! Behold the wonders of saliva, mucus, and vomit! Writer Jason Viola and illustrator Andy Ristaino provide a trip to the toilet you will never forget!

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: digestive system, science, human body, bacteria, body systems, organs

Where We Used to Roam by Jenn Bishop

When Emma starts sixth grade, things finally begin to change. She may still be in the shadow of her older brother, Austin, the popular high school quarterback, but she’s made artsy new friends who get her way more than her bookish best friend, Becca.

But things are changing for Austin, too. After undergoing surgery for a football injury, Austin has become addicted to opioid painkillers. By the end of the school year, everything blows up with Austin–and Becca. When their parents decide to send Austin to rehab and Emma to stay with family friends in Wyoming for the summer, Emma seizes the chance to get away.

Wyoming turns out to be a perfect fresh start, especially after Emma makes friends with Tyler, a kindred spirit who doesn’t judge her–then again, he doesn’t know what she did to Becca. Still, Emma can’t hide forever…or go back to the way things were with Austin or with Becca. But can she find a way to confront the truth and move forward?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: opioid addiction, siblings, painkillers, art

The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice by A.F. Harrold (Author) and Mini Grey (Illustrator)

Among the seemingly nonsensical stanzas on onions, sausages, and kilted koalas are exercises in critical thinking–what advice should readers follow, and what should they dismiss?

Harrold’s short poems work seamlessly alongside Mini Grey’s art to create visual gags that will have readers in stitches. Both silly and poignant, this book is perfect for curious readers, poets, and cabbages everywhere!

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): poetry collection, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: advice, silly poems, food, animals

Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile by María José Ferrada (Author) and María Elena Valdez (Illustrator)

On September 11, 1973, a military coup plunged Chile into seventeen long years of dictatorial rule. Only the return of democracy could reveal the full horrors of Augusto Pinochet’s regime: 3,197 people dead or disappeared–including thirty-four children under the age of fourteen.

This book is a stirring memorial to those victims and to the cost of extremism. Thirty-four poems–one for each child lost–consider the diverse hopes of these fragile young lives. From Alicia to Jaime, Héctor to Paola, Soledad to Rafael, they were brave and creative, thoughtful and strong. In these pages, some children watch for the changing seasons. Some listen for new sounds on rainy afternoons. And some can’t wait for their next birthday.

Kirkus starred. My boys and I recently studied Chile in our World Geography homeschool class. We talked about this event and the missing Chileans. Interestingly, Argentina also had a coup take over the government around the same time as the Chilean coup.

  • Genre(s): poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-AD
  • Themes: Argentina, Argentine history, coups, 1970s, missing children, missing people, memorials

One-Osaurus, Two-Osaurus by Kim Norman (Author) and Pierre Collet-Derby (Illustrator)

Look there, in a child’s bedroom, where some prehistoric pals are gathered in a counting game. Nine dinosaurs are playing a sing-song rendition of hide-and-seek—but something isn’t adding up.

Where is number ten? Stomp, stomp, stomp! CHOMP, CHOMP, CHOMP! Ready or not, here he comes, and he sounds…big! With big, bold numerals, an array of dinosaurs in comical poses, and a humorous twist at the end, this tribute to a child’s imagination makes learning numbers a gigantic treat.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-K
  • Themes: numbers, math, dinosaurs, games, onomatopoeia

Someone Builds the Dream by Lisa Wheeler (Author) and Loren Long (Illustrator)

This is an eye-opening exploration of the many types of work that go into building our world–from the making of a bridge to a wind farm, an amusement park, and even the very picture book that you are reading.

An architect may dream up the plans for a house, but someone has to actually work the saws and pound the nails. This book is a thank-you to the skilled women and men who work tirelessly to see our dreams brought to life.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture books
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: jobs, bridges, technology, work, tools

Blue Floats Away by Travis Jonker (Author) and Grant Snider (Illustrator)

Little Blue lives at the North Pole with his parents until, one day, he floats away and strikes out on his own. Along the way, Blue encounters new things (sharks) and beautiful things (sailboats). He starts to wonder which way is home when something unexpected starts to happen.

Little Blue is getting smaller and smaller until…he transforms!

After mixing with the warm ocean water, Blue reappears as a cloud. He encounters new things (airplanes) and beautiful things (birds). He charts a course for home. As it gets colder and colder, Blue gets bigger and bigger until…hey, is that a snowflake?
A story about the water cycle, Blue Floats Away explores the power of transformation and growing up.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreK-Grade 1
  • Themes: water cycle, nature, ocean, North Pole





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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