fbpx
Currently Reading...
Just finished...

New Release Spotlight: March 30, 2021

More than half of this week’s list is picture books, and they look FANTASTIC! Five of the picture books received two or more starred reviews, and four of them would also be great for older readers. Lots of diversity, too, with one middle grade book set in The Philippines and picture books with China, Belgium, South Africa, and Peru settings.

This week’s top picks:

  • Fear: America in the Era of Red Scares and Cold War by Albert Marrin (YA)
  • We Belong by Cookie Hiponia Everman (middle grades)
  • Watercress by Andrea Wang (picture book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #1483-#1503 on The Ginormous book list.

A Time of Fear: America in the Era of Red Scares and Cold War by Albert Marrin

In twentieth century America, no power–and no threat–loomed larger than the communist superpower of the Soviet Union. America saw in the dreams of the Soviet Union the overthrow of the US government, and the end of democracy and freedom. Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the United States attempted to use deep economic and racial disparities in American culture to win over members and sympathizers.

From the miscarriage of justice in the Scotsboro Boys case, to the tragedy of the Rosenbergs to the theatrics of the Hollywood Ten to the menace of the Joseph McCarthy and his war hearings, Albert Marrin examines a unique time in American history…and explores both how some Americans were lured by the ideals of communism without understanding its reality and how fear of communist infiltration at times caused us to undermine our most deeply held values. The questions he raises ask: What is worth fighting for? And what are you willing to sacrifice to keep it?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9+
  • Themes: cold war, Soviet Union, USSR, communism, democracy, justice, Rosenbergs, Joseph McCarthy, freedom

With You All the Way by Cynthia Hand

Ada’s life is a mess. She just caught her boyfriend cheating on her after a humiliating attempt at losing her virginity, and she’s had it up to here with her gorgeous older sister’s unsolicited advice.

But things really hit the fan during a family vacation in Hawaii, where Ada discovers her own mother is having an affair. Apparently, everyone is falling into bed with people they shouldn’t. Everyone except Ada. But when Ada decides she’s going to stop trying and start doing—sex, that is—her best laid plan overlooks an inconvenient truth:

Feelings, romantic or not, always get in the way.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: blended families, stepfamilies, Hawaii, losing virginity, questioning a romantic relationship, sisters, multiracial families, consent

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman

On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe.

Her poem “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” can now be cherished in this special gift edition. Including an enduring foreword by Oprah Winfrey, this keepsake celebrates the promise of America and affirms the power of poetry.

  • Genre(s): poetry
  • Recommended for: 7-12
  • Themes: presidential inauguration, Joe Biden

Prom Theory by Ann LaBar

Iris Oxtabee has managed to navigate the tricky world of unspoken social interactions by reading everything from neuroscience journals to Wikipedia articles. Science has helped her fit the puzzle pieces into an understandable whole, and she’s sure there’s nothing it can’t explain. Love, for example, is just chemistry.

Her best friend Seth, however, believes love is one of life’s beautiful and chaotic mysteries, without need for explanation. Iris isn’t one to back down from a challenge; she’s determined to prove love is really nothing more than hormones and external stimuli. After all, science has allowed humanity to understand more complex mysteries than that, and Iris excels at science.

The perfect way to test her theory? Get the popular and newly-single Theo Grant, who doesn’t even know Iris exists, to ask her to prom. With prom just two weeks away, Iris doesn’t have any time to waste, so she turns her keen empirical talents and laser-focus attention to testing her theory.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: social awkwardness, science, chemistry, relationships, prom

She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard

The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art.

They’re artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica’s dream girl. The days are long and hot–full of adventure–and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next. One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect…one stalker. This is a summer they won’t survive.

Kirkus starred. Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray.

  • Genre(s): retelling, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: San Diego, California, murder, The Picture of Dorian Gray, stalkers, summer, photographers, artists, theater

*We Belong by Cookie Hiponia Everman

Stella and Luna know that their mama, Elsie, came from the Philippines when she was a child, but they don’t know much else. So one night they ask her to tell them her story.

As they get ready for bed, their mama spins two tales: that of her youth as a strong-willed middle child and immigrant; and that of the young life of Mayari, the mythical daughter of a god. Both are tales of sisterhood and motherhood, and of the difficult experience of trying to fit into a new culture, and having to fight for a home and acceptance.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): free verse, mythology
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: The Philippines, sisters, mothers and daughters, immigrants, storytelling, parallel stories, Tagalog mythology, belonging, novels in verse

The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody

Wildore, book 1. The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure.

Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts.

To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers.

But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: beasts, magic, orphans, banishment

*The House That Wasn’t There by Elana K. Arnold

Alder has always lived in his cozy little house in Southern California. And for as long as he can remember, the old, reliable, comforting walnut tree has stood between his house and the one next door. That is, until a new family–with a particularly annoying girl his age–moves into the neighboring house and, without warning, cuts it down.

Oak doesn’t understand why her family had to move to Southern California. She has to attend a new school, find new friends, and live in a new house that isn’t even ready–her mother had to cut down a tree on their property line in order to make room for a second floor. And now a strange boy next door won’t stop staring at her, like she did something wrong moving here in the first place.

As Oak and Alder start school together, they can’t imagine ever becoming friends. But the two of them soon discover a series of connections between them—mysterious, possibly even magical puzzles they can’t put together. At least not without each other’s help.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly charged.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: neighbors, trees, being new in school, unlikely friendships

Horse Girl by Carrie Seim

Wills is a seventh grader who’s head-over-hoof for horses, and beyond excited when she gets the chance to start training at the prestigious Oakwood Riding Academy. But Amara–the Queen of the #HorseGirls–and her posse aren’t going to let the certifiably dork-tagious Wills trot her way into their club so easily.

Between learning the reins of horse riding, dealing with her Air Force pilot mom being stationed thousands of miles from home, and keeping it together in front of (gasp!) Horse Boys, Wills learns that becoming a part of the #HorseGirl world isn’t easy. But with her rescue horse, Clyde, at her side, it sure will be fun.

Complete with comedic, original hoof notes to acquaint the less equestrian among us, Horse Girl delivers everything a young readers wants: mean girls, boy problems, and embarrassingly goofy dad jokes. And it does so on the back of a pony.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, sports
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: horses, mean girls, cliques, deployed parent, animal rescue, equestrians

*Watercress by Andrea Wang (Author) and Jason Chin (Illustrator)

Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can.

At first, she’s embarrassed. Why can’t her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family’s time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress.

Andrea Wang tells a moving autobiographical story of a child of immigrants discovering and connecting with her heritage, illustrated by award winning author and artist Jason Chin, working in an entirely new style, inspired by Chinese painting techniques. An author’s note in the back shares Andrea’s childhood experience with her parents.

FOUR starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book, picture book for older readers
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: Ohio, foraging, food, watercress, family, immigrants, heritage, famine, hunger, Chinese Americans, Chinese Cultural Revolution, empathy, generation gap

Trillions of Trees: A Counting and Planting Book by Kurt Cyrus

Companion to: Billions of Bricks.

Grab a shovel and get ready to plant some trees! From poplars to pines, alder, apple, peach, and plum, this rhyming story introduces the concept of orders of magnitude and celebrates the importance of planting different trees and preserving diverse ecosystems. Nurturing a new sapling is one of the first steps in growing hundreds, millions, even trillions of trees.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: rhyming books, trees, Earth Day, science, botany, reforestation, tree life cycle, biodiversity

The Lost Little Bird by David McPhail

When a little bird bumps his head one day, he loses his memory. He can’t even remember what kind of bird he is! Determined to find out, he sets off on a great journey. Along the way, he meets many new birds―including some scary crows, an inquisitive owl, and two helpful chickens―but none who are quite like him. Where is his bird of a feather?

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: process of elimination, birds, confusion, head injuries, animals, nature

Hugo and the Impossible Thing by Renée Felice Smith (Author), Chris Gabriel (Author), and Sydney Hanson (Illustrator)

At the edge of the forest stood the Impossible Thing. All the animals in the forest often wondered what was beyond the Impossible Thing, but since everyone said getting through it would be impossible, no animal ever tried.

Until a brave little dog named Hugo decides he just might be up to the challenge. With determination and some unexpected help from his friends, Hugo learns that what may seem impossible might just be possible after all.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: perseverance, goals, determination, taking risks, STEAM, dogs, pets, pessimism

*We Became Jaguars by Dave Eggers (Author) and Woodrow White (Illustrator)

When Grandma comes to visit and a young boy’s parents leave, the rules of the house–and the world–change: grandson and grandmother transform into jaguars! Readers follow their journey into the undiscovered world of nature, experience true freedom, and lose themselves in an exhilarating adventure. After a day of playing, running, and climbing through sumptuous landscapes, the ending will leave you wondering what’s real and what’s imagined.

FOUR starred reviews! Look closely at the illustrations for visual cues.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: grandparents, grandmothers, jaguars, imagination, play, ambiguity

The King’s Golden Beard by Klaas Verplancke

The lush, golden royal beard is a wondrous thing–especially to the king himself. He spends his days admiring and grooming it, and passes laws making it a crime punishable by death for anyone else’s face to sport even a single hair. As the people of the kingdom nervously shave daily, the royal beard grows and grows until it appears at the palace’s back gate.

What happens next will have readers laughing along–and cheering for the astronomers who, unlike the tyrannical king, know that the earth is round.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: beards, vanity, kings, unfair laws, astronomers, arrogance, Belgium, flat earth, allegory, fable

*What Is A River? by Monika Vaicenavičiene

“What is a river?” an inquisitive young girl asks her grandmother as the pair sits together on the river’s banks. Like many questions posed by curious children, this one is deceptively simple in its asking. Yet, its answer spans the very world itself: geography and history, science and religion, industry and environmentalism.

Through author-illustrator Monika Vaicenavičienė’s eyes, the river becomes a vessel for enormous complexity, a lens through which the interconnectedness of our shared earth can be understood.

Booklist and Kirkus starred. Translated from Swedish.

  • Genre(s): picture book. nonfiction, picture book for older readers
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: rivers, water, grandmothers, grandparents, nature, facts, interconnectedness

Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree by Mary Murphy

Trees have leaves that turn sunshine into food. Amazing! Birds build nests, sing songs, hatch eggs, and fly. Dogs are our friends and can move their ears to tell us how they feel, while fish live in water, flashing like jewels. As for people, every person on Earth is different, each with their own thoughts and feelings.

With a simple narrative and joyful, welcoming illustrations celebrating a world full of remarkable creatures, Mary Murphy reminds little ones that we are all unique, and that we are the only ones who know how to be us.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture books
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: trees, individuality, animals, plants, biodiversity, wonder, unique personalities, being oneself

A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation by Lindsey McDivitt (Author) and Charly Palmer (Illustrator)

As Nelson Mandela lived and worked under the unjust system of apartheid, his desire for freedom grew. South Africa separated people by races, oppressing the country’s non-white citizens with abusive laws and cruel restrictions. Every day filled Mandela with grief and anger. But he also had hope–hope for a nation that belonged to everyone who lived in it.

From his work with the African National Congress, to his imprisonment on Robben Island, to his extraordinary rise to the presidency, Nelson Mandela was a rallying force against injustice. This stirring biography explores Mandela’s long fight for equality and the courage that propelled him through decades of struggle. Illustrated in the bold, bright colors of South Africa, A Plan for the People captures the spirit of a leader beloved around the world.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography, picture book for older readers
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-7
  • Themes: apartheid, Nelson Mandela, South Africa, segregation, discrimination, oppression, unfair laws

The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation by Alice B. McGinty (Author) and Shonto Begay (Illustrator)

Underneath the New Mexico sky, a Navajo boy named Cody finds that his family’s barrels of water are empty. He checks the chicken coop– nothing. He walks down the road to the horses’ watering hole. Dry.

Meanwhile, a few miles away, Darlene Arviso drives a school bus and picks up students for school. After dropping them off, she heads to another job: she drives her big yellow tanker truck to the water tower, fills it with three thousand gallons of water, and returns to the reservation, bringing water to Cody’s family, and many, many others. Here is the incredible and inspiring true story of a Native American woman who continuously gives back to her community and celebrates her people.

Kirkus starrerd.

  • Genre(s): picture book, picture book for older readers
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: New Mexico, Navajo, Native Americans, reservations, water, water shortage, jobs, drivers

*Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer

When two curious kids embark on a “wonder walk,” they let their imaginations soar as they look at the world in a whole new light. They have thought-provoking questions for everything they see: Is the sun the world’s light bulb? Is dirt the world’s skin? Are rivers the earth’s veins? Is the wind the world breathing? I wonder…Young readers will wonder too, as they ponder these gorgeous pages and make all kinds of new connections. What a wonderful world indeed!

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: wonder, imagination, metaphors, Earth, nature, vocabulary, creativity, discovery

*Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal

Zonia’s home is the Amazon rain forest, where it is always green and full of life. Every morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia, and every morning, she answers. She visits the sloth family, greets the giant anteater, and runs with the speedy jaguar. But one morning, the rain forest calls to her in a troubled voice. How will Zonia answer?

Acclaimed author-illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal explores the wonders of the rain forest with Zonia, an Asháninka girl, in her joyful outdoor adventures. The engaging text emphasizes Zonia’s empowering bond with her home, while the illustrations—created on paper made from banana bark—burst with luxuriant greens and delicate details. Illuminating back matter includes a translation of the story in Asháninka, information on the Asháninka community, and resources on the Amazon rain forest and its wildlife.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: rain forest, Peru, South America, Amazon, nature, animals, deforestation, conservation, environment, sustainability, Asháninka

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (YA):

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (MIDDLE GRADES):

 

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy