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New Release Spotlight: April 27, 2021

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A short list ahead of a HUGE one next week! May is historically a great month for new book releases.

We are moving to a new town on Saturday, plus after six months of paperwork and lawyer visits and waiting, waiting, waiting, my Mexican residency is expected to be ready for the final steps any day now. It will be a challenge to keep up with my usual pace in the next couple of weeks!

Since this week’s list is so short, I’ve only picked two top picks:

  • Slingshot by Mercedes Helnwein (YA)
  • Keeping the City Going by Brian Floca (picture book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #1571-#1583 on The Ginormous book list.

Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve

Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian–including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out.

But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: LGBTQIA+, transgender, Romeo and Juliet, theater, performing arts, identity, coming out

Fade into the Bright by Jessica Koosed Etting and Alyssa Embree Schwartz

Abby needs to escape a life that she no longer recognizes as her own. Her old life–the one where she was a high school volleyball star with a textbook-perfect future–has been ripped away. Abby and her sister, Brooke, have received a letter from their estranged dad informing them he has Huntington’s disease, a fatal, degenerative disorder that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And when the sisters agree to genetic testing, one of them tests positive.

Fleeing to Catalina Island for the summer, Abby is relieved to be in a place where no one knows her tragic history. But when she meets aspiring documentary filmmaker Ben–tall, outdoorsy, easygoing, with eyes that don’t miss a thing–she’s thrown off her game. Ben’s the kind of guy who loves to figure out people’s stories. What if he learns hers?

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: terminal illness, Huntington’s Disease, estranged parents, summer, documentary filmmakers, sisters

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal

Debut author! Priya worked hard to pursue her premed dreams at Stanford, but a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease during her sophomore year sends her back to her loving but overbearing family in New Jersey–and leaves her wondering if she’ll ever be able to return to the way things were.

Thankfully she has her online pen pal, Brigid, and the rest of the members of “oof ouch my bones,” a virtual support group that meets on Discord to crack jokes and vent about their own chronic illnesses.

When Brigid suddenly goes offline, Priya does something out of character: she steals the family car and drives to Pennsylvania to check on Brigid. Priya isn’t sure what to expect, but it isn’t the horrifying creature that’s shut in the basement.

With Brigid nowhere to be found, Priya begins to puzzle together an impossible but obvious truth: the creature might be a werewolf–and the werewolf might be Brigid. As Brigid’s unique condition worsens, their friendship will be deepened and challenged in unexpected ways, forcing them to reckon with their own ideas of what it means to be normal.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Lyme Disease, pen pals, social media, online friendships, werewolves, chronic illness, chronic pain

The Power of Style by Christian Allaire

As a fashion-obsessed Ojibwe teen, Christian Allaire rarely saw anyone that looked like him in the magazines or movies he looked to for inspiration. Now the Fashion and Style Writer for Vogue, he is working to change that–because clothes are never just clothes.

Men’s heels are a statement of pride in the face of LGTBQ+ discrimination, while ribbon shirts honor Indigenous ancestors and keep culture alive. Allaire takes the reader through boldly designed chapters to discuss additional topics like cosplay, make up, hijabs, and hair, probing the connections between fashion and history, culture, politics, and social justice.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6+
  • Themes: Native Americans, Ojibwe, fashion writers, LGBTQIA+, men’s fashion, cosplay, clothing, creativity, drag queens

*Slingshot: A Novel by Mercedes Helnwein

Grace Welles is stuck at a third-tier boarding school in the swamps of Florida, where her method of survival is a strict, self-imposed loneliness. And it works. Her crap attitude keeps people away because without friends, there are fewer to lose.

But when she accidentally saves the new kid, Wade Scholfield, from being beaten up, everything about her precariously balanced loner world collapses and, in order to find her footing again, she has no choice but to discover a completely new way to exist.

Because with Wade around, school rules are optional, weird is okay, and conversations about wormholes can lead to make-out sessions that disrupt any logical stream of thought. Nothing’s perfect, but that’s not the point. When they’re together everything seems uncomplicated in a way that Grace knows is not possible.

Kirkus and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: boarding school, Florida, bullying, pushing people away, self-preservation, crush on a teacher

Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville’s Famous Conjoined Twins by Sarah Miller

Violet and Daisy. They were as sweet and pretty as their names would suggest, the pair of them as alike as two flower buds on a single stem. They were also joined, back-to-back, at the base of their spine.

Freaks, monsters–that’s what conjoined twins were called in 1908. And so their mother abandoned Violet and Daisy to the care of her midwife, who immediately put the babies on exhibition in the back room of her pub, embarking on a course of blatant exploitation that would range from the Brighton seashore to Australian amusement parks, American sideshows, and eventually to the most phenomenal success in vaudeville’s history.

But Violet and Daisy were more than just an exhibit, of course. They were two distinct individuals with remarkably harmonious personalities: Violet thoughtful yet candid, Daisy impulsive and easygoing. Above all, they were sisters.

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6+
  • Themes: conjoined twins, sisters, early 20th Century, human exploitation, sideshows, vaudeville, sensationalism

River Magic by Ellen Booraem

Donna’s always liked her life by the river–that is, until her beloved aunt Annabelle died in a tragic kayaking accident. Now money’s tight, her mom works all the time, and her best friend, Rachel, would rather hang out with her basketball teammates than with Donna.

When a strange old woman moves in next door and hires Donna to clean part-time, she figures this is the perfect chance to get over her friendship troubles and help her family out–especially since the woman pays in gold. Turns out, Donna’s new neighbor is an ancient, ornery thunder mage, and it doesn’t take much to make her angry. Before Donna knows it, Rachel is in danger and Donna’s family is about to lose their home. To save the day, Donna will need the help of a quirky new friend and the basketball team…plus the mysterious, powerful creature lurking in the river.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: magic, family, neighbors, Maine, grief, poverty, kids with jobs, dragons

Trouble in the Stars by Sarah Prineas

Trouble knows two things: they are a shapeshifter, and they are running from something–but they don’t know what. So when the StarLeague shows up, Trouble figures it’s time to flee.

Changing from blob of goo form, to adorable puppy form, to human boy form, Trouble stows away on the Hindsight, a ship crewed by the best navigators and engineers in the galaxy, led by the fearsome Captain Astra.

As the ship travels, Trouble uses the time to figure out how to be a good human boy, and starts to feel safe. But when a young StarLeague cadet shows up to capture Trouble, things get complicated, especially when Trouble reveals a shapeshifter form that none of them could have expected. Soon a chase across the galaxy begins. Safety, freedom, and home are at stake, and not just for Trouble.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, humor, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: shapeshifters, space opera, outer space, stowaways, aliens

Rescue at Lake Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson

Everyone knows that twelve-year-old Madison “Madi” Lewis is not allowed to bring home any more animals. After she’s saved hairless mice, two birds, a rabbit, and a stray tom cat that ended up destroying the front porch, Madi’s parents decide that if they find one more stray animal in the house, she won’t be allowed to meet Jane Goodall at an upcoming gala event.

But when Madi and her two best friends, Aaron and Jack, rescue beaver kits whose mother was killed, they find themselves at the center of a local conspiracy that’s putting the beavers and their habitats in danger. As Madi and her friends race to uncover the threat targeting the beavers, Madi must put her animal whisperer skills to the test in both raising the orphaned beaver kits and staying out of trouble long enough.

School Library Connection starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: animal lovers, animal rescue, stray animals, Jane Goodall, beavers, human impact on the environment, habitats

Horse Power: How Horses Changed the World by Jennifer Thermes

For thousands of years, horses and humans lived, worked, and played together, side by side. From the time they were first domesticated to the invention of the wheel, saddle, bit, and bridle; horses brought far-flung lands closer together at the speed of a gallop. Trade, agriculture, transportation, and more were expanded in new ways—all made possible by the power of the horse.

In dazzling spreads packed with maps, sidebars, and other hidden gems, explore the special connection between horses and humans. Discover how horses evolved and track their migration as they come to live on six continents. See the everyday jobs done by horses for centuries. And consider the profound changes that came about when gasoline-powered engines arrived on the scene.

An encyclopedic look at this magnificent animal, Horse Power offers a unique view of world history from the ancient past to today.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): informational picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: horses, animal domestication, animals, human history, human migration, animal jobs

Secret Life of Bees by Moira Butterfield (Author) and Vivian Mineker (Illustrator)

Did you know that bees love to dance? Or that they have an amazing sense of smell to help them find the best flowers? In The Secret Life of Bees, Buzzwing shares with you all the details of her life as a bee, in and out of the hive, starting with the day she was born.

Learn the secrets of this worker bee’s tiny world, including:

–The bee life cycle

–Bee anatomy

–How bees collect nectar and make honey

–What happens inside the hive

–The different types of bees

–Why bees are so important to humans

–How bees can thrive in the city

–Bee folk tales from around the world

With things to search for and find throughout, tips for making your own environment welcoming to bees, and even a poetry-writing exercise, The Secret Life of Bees is brimming with reasons to admire and respect the hardworking honeybee.

I only found one professional review (SLJ for this title, so there’s not much for me to go on without reading it myself. There are lots of bee books available, but I love that this one has bee folklore. It also contains hidden pictures, which is always a hit!

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-4
  • Themes: bees, honeybees, insects, animals, conservation, folktales, hidden pictures

*Keeping the City Going by Brian Floca

We are here at home now, watching the world through our windows. Outside we see the city we know, but not as we’ve seen it before. The once hustling and bustling streets are empty.

Well, almost empty. Around the city there are still people, some, out and about. These are the people keeping us safe. Keeping us healthy. Keeping our mail and our food delivered. Keeping our grocery stores stocked. Keeping the whole city going.

Brian Floca speaks for us all in this stirring homage to all the essential workers who keep the essentials operating so the rest of us can do our part by sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: community helpers, essential workers, Covid-19, pandemic, shelter in place, New York City, cities, tributes

Star of the Party: The Solar System Celebrates!: The Solar System Celebrates! by Jan Carr

The planets are throwing Sun a birthday party! Mercury wants to thank Sun for how close they are. (Being the closest planet has its perks.) Earth enjoys Sun’s warmth. And all the planets want to celebrate Sun’s magnetic personality.

But party planning takes work. Do they even have room for all of Jupiter’s moon? Don’t space out. It’s time for this star-studded event!

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-4
  • Themes: solar system, sun, stars, birthday parties, outer space, Milky Way

 

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.

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