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New Release Spotlight: June 29, 2021

The end of June brings us a slightly shorter list! This week, we have fat camp (with zombies!!!), surfing, Greek mythology, and Dr. Fauci. Diversity includes fat girls, Muslim refugees, several Asians, queer and lesbian characters, a Black teen, and a boy in a wheelchair. All the middle grade and YA titles feature female protagonists, several of whom are white. We need more boys!

This week’s top picks:

  • Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly deVos (YA)
  • Matasha by Pamela Erens (MG)
  • Best Day Ever! by Marilyn Singer (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #1749-#1762 on The Ginormous book list.

Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly deVos

In the next few hours, one of three things will happen:

1–We’ll be rescued (unlikely)

2–We’ll freeze to death (maybe)

3–We’ll be eaten by thin and athletic zombies (odds: excellent)

Vivian Ellenshaw is fat, but she knows she doesn’t need to lose weight. So she’s none too happy to find herself forced into a weight-loss camp’s van with her ex-best friend, Allie, a meathead jock who can barely drive, and the camp owner’s snobby son. And when they arrive at Camp Featherlite at the start of the worst blizzard in the history of Flagstaff, Arizona, it’s clear that something isn’t right.

Vee barely has a chance to meet the other members of her pod, all who seem as unhappy to be at Featherlite as she does, when a camper goes missing down by the lake. Then she spots something horrifying outside in the snow. Something…that isn’t human. Plus, the camp’s supposed “miracle cure” for obesity just seems fishy, and Vee and her fellow campers know they don’t need to be cured. Of anything.

Even worse, it’s not long before Camp Featherlite’s luxurious bungalows are totally overrun with zombies. What starts out as a mission to unravel the camp’s secrets turns into a desperate fight for survival–and not all of the Featherlite campers will make it out alive.

Booklist starred. How awesome is that title?

  • Genre(s): thriller, horror
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: overweight teens, camp, weight loss, zombies, snow, stepfamilies, Arizona, winter break, fatphobia, satire, government conspiracies, survival
  • Protagonist description: all main characters are white

*This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it…until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: teens with powers, New York state, deadly plants, magic, ancient estates, inheritance, curses, Greek mythology
  • Protagonist description: American girl, Black, in high school

The Girl Least Likely by Katy Loutzenhiser

Gretchen has always been more of a “least likely” than a “most likely” kind of girl. So how does she somehow find herself living out every trope from her favorite rom-coms?

The Best Friend Crush: Why is it suddenly so hard to act normal around her childhood BFF, Samuel? Must be time for a—

Makeover(!): Black leather pants and some red lipstick are apparently enough to lend Gretchen the bravado to do an impromptu set at a comedy club and catch the eye of–

The Roguish Bad Boy: Jeremy, the alluring young comic who thinks her name is Sabrina. It might just be–

The Perfect Cover: A way for Gretchen to escape into her new funny-girl alter ego and figure out who she really is–and what she really wants. But as rom-coms have taught her, leading a double life can only last so long.

  • Genre(s): romance, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: rom-com movies, dating, comedians, self-acceptance, double lives, secret identity, Maine
  • Protagonist description: American girl, white, high school junior

That Weekend by Kara Thomas

It was supposed to be the perfect prom weekend getaway. But it’s clear something terrible happened when Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours.

Now everyone wants answers–most of all, Claire. She remembers Friday night, but after that…nothing. And now Kat and Jesse–her best friends–are missing.

What happened on the mountain? And where are Kat and Jesse? Claire knows the answers are buried somewhere in her memory. But as she’s learning, everyone has secrets–even her best friends. And she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like what she remembers.

  • Genre(s): thriller, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: camping trips, missing persons, amnesia, crime, memory, flashbacks, criminal investigations, FBI
  • Protagonist description: girl, white, high school age

Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta

The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.

Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.

As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer–as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more.

  • Genre(s): post-apocalypse, science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: rebels, oppression, prison, LGBTQIA+, war
  • Protagonist description: South Korean girl, lesbian

Matasha by Pamela Erens

It’s 1970’s Chicago. Eleven-year-old Matasha Wax is in the sixth grade and just starting to feel the pressures of growing up. Her best friend Jean has been blowing her off, while her parents are in a standoff over her mother’s desire to adopt a refugee from Vietnam.

And while the bullies in school have started to grow breasts and inches, Matasha remains a puny four-foot-four–which means she will need growth hormone shots, and she is terrified of needles. Apart from her daily reading of the advice columns in the newspaper, keeping up with the Patty Hearst and Watergate scandals, and tracking her parents’ deteriorating marriage, Matasha is fixated by the story of Martin Kimmel, a nine-year-old boy who disappeared a few months ago, and whose body has yet to be found.

But none of these ongoing problems could have prepared Matasha for her mother’s sudden disappearance. When the letters start coming from Switzerland, she knows something is very, very wrong. No one will tell her what’s going on, so Matasha has to figure it all out for herself. A tale of growing up and growing apart, Matasha is a poignant look at resilience in the face of adolescent loneliness, divorce, bullying and slow development.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: Chicago, Illinois, 1970s, Vietnam, refugees, bullying, mean girls, news events of 1970s, family problems, missing persons, divorce, growth hormone injections, resilience
  • Protagonist description: girl, age 11, Grade 6, Jewish

Turtle in Paradise: The Graphic Novel by Jennifer L. Holm (Author) and Savanna Ganucheau (Author)

Graphic adaptation of Turtle in Paradise (Holm, 2010). Eleven-year-old Turtle is smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it’s 1935 and money–and sometimes even dreams–is scarce.

So when Turtle’s mother gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn’t like kids, Turtle heads off to Florida to live with relatives. Florida’s like nothing Turtle’s ever seen before, though. It’s full of ragtag boy cousins, family secrets to unravel…and even a little bit of fun. Before she knows what’s happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of her shell. And as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: 1930s, Great Depression, Key West, Florida, cousins, babysitting
  • Protagonist description: American girl, age 11, white

Samira Surfs by Rukhsanna Guidroz (Author) and Fahmida Azim (Illustrator)

Set in 2012. Samira thinks of her life as before and after: before the burning and violence in her village in Burma, when she and her best friend would play in the fields, and after, when her family was forced to flee. There’s before the uncertain journey to Bangladesh by river, and after, when the river swallowed her nana and nani whole. And now, months after rebuilding a life in Bangladesh with her mama, baba, and brother, there’s before Samira saw the Bengali surfer girls of Cox’s Bazar, and after, when she decides she’ll become one.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, free verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: Burma, refugees, Bangladesh, Myanmar, surfing, novels in verse
  • Protagonist description: girl, age 11, Rohingya Muslim refugee living in Bangladesh

A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land. Her parents inherited the home from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard. Her Ma Ma likes to remind Meixing the family never could have afforded to move here otherwise, so she should be thankful for this opportunity.

Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing in this supposedly wonderful place. She is embarrassed by her second-hand clothing, has trouble understanding her peers, and is finding it hard to make new friends. Meixing’s only solace is a rundown greenhouse, that her Uncle called his glasshouse, at the far end of her backyard that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and the secrets of her memory and imagination.

When her fragile universe is rocked by tragedy, it will take all of Meixing’s resilience and bravery to finally find her place of belonging in this new world.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: poverty, secrets, imagination, having to speak a new language, immigration, greenhouses, magic
  • Protagonist description: Asian girl, approximately age 11-12

Generation Misfits by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Millie is attending a real school for the first time, and she dreams of finally having friends and a little bit of freedom. She finds her chance when she joins an imitation band of her favorite J-Pop group, where she’s thrilled to meet a group of misfits who quickly become a tightknit group of friends that are like family.

But Millie soon realizes that one of them is dealing with problems bigger than what notes to hit when it comes time for their performance. Can Millie help her friend, even when their problem feels too big to say out loud?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: friendship, music, new kid in school, performance arts, Oregon, pushy parents
  • Protagonist description: girl, age 11, Japanese American

Long Distance by Whitney Gardner

Vega’s summer vacation is not going well.

When her parents decide it’s time to pack up and leave her hometown of Portland, Oregon, behind for boring Seattle, Washington, Vega is more than upset—she’s downright miserable. Forced to leave her one and only best friend, Halley, behind, Vega is convinced she’ll never make another friend again.

To help her settle into her new life in Seattle, her parents send Vega off to summer camp to make new friends. Except Vega is determined to get her old life back. But when her cellphone unexpectedly calls it quits and things at camp start getting stranger and stranger, Vega has no choice but to team up with her bunkmates to figure out what’s going on!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-5
  • Themes: Seattle, Washington, new kid in town, summer camp, friendship, astronomy
  • Protagonist description: girl, American, age 9, light-brown skin, has two dads; secondary characters are diverse

*Best Day Ever! by Marilyn Singer (Author) and Leah Nixon (Illustrator)

This playful puppy thinks she’s having the best day ever! She’s so happy to be out with her friend, she doesn’t even realize that she’s being a little naughty. But then he scolds her, and suddenly–Worst. Day. Ever. Will puppy be able to make amends and turn their day back around?

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: puppies, naughtiness, unconditional love, behavior, wheelchair, rhyme, dogs
  • Protagonist description: puppy is main character; her brown-skinned boy uses a manual wheelchair

Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor by Kate Messner (Author) and Alexandra Bye (Illustrator)

Before he was Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci was a curious boy in Brooklyn, delivering prescriptions from his father’s pharmacy on his blue Schwinn bicycle. His father and immigrant grandfather taught Anthony to ask questions, consider all the data, and never give up–and Anthony’s ability to stay curious and to communicate with people would serve him his entire life.

This engaging narrative, which draws from interviews the author did with Dr. Fauci himself, follows Anthony from his Brooklyn beginnings through medical school and his challenging role working with seven US presidents to tackle some of the biggest public health challenges of the past fifty years, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Extensive backmatter rounds out Dr. Fauci’s story with a timeline, recommended reading, a full spread of facts about vaccines and how they work, and Dr. Fauci’s own tips for future scientists.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: Dr. Fauci, Covid-19, pandemic, Brooklyn, New York, curiosity, doctors, US presidents, public health
  • Protagonist description: boy, white, American

T. Rexes Can’t Tie Their Shoes by Anna Lazowski (Author) and Steph Laberis (Illustrator)

Bees can’t ride bicycles, penguins can’t play ping-pong, and zebras can’t go zip-lining. No one is good at everything, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying! Here is a funny and encouraging picture book for any child learning how to tie their shoes, ride a bike, spell their name, or do a variety of new things.

Follow a hilarious alphabet of animals, and see all the things they can’t do but kids can–from doing gymnastics to flipping pancakes to playing a xylophone. Along the way, young readers will learn that it’s okay if they can’t do everything; they can still have a LOT of fun trying.

Pair with Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: animals, dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus Rex, alphabet books, differing abilities
  • Protagonist description: various animal characters






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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