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New Release Spotlight: August 17, 2021

Starting this week’s Spotlight with two titles that should have been on last week’s list. I’ve added both to last week, but I wanted to make sure they weren’t missed because they both look really interesting. Middle grades are sparse this week, but YA and picture books both look great.

This week’s top picks:

  • In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers by Don Brown (YA)
  • Child of the Flower-Song People by Gloria Amescua (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #1844-#1855 on The Ginormous book list.

*How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

When her twin sister reaches social media stardom, Moon Fuentez accepts her fate as the ugly, unwanted sister hidden in the background, destined to be nothing more than her sister’s camerawoman. But this summer, Moon also takes a job as the “merch girl” on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers and her fate begins to shift in the best way possible.

Most notable is her bunkmate and new nemesis, Santiago Phillips, who is grumpy, combative, and also the hottest guy Moon has ever seen.

Moon is certain she hates Santiago and that he hates her back. But as chance and destiny (and maybe, probably, close proximity) bring the two of them in each other’s perpetual paths, Moon starts to wonder if that’s really true. She even starts to question her destiny as the unnoticed, unloved wallflower she always thought she was.

THREE starred reviews! This one should have been on last week’s list, but I missed it. I have gone back and added it, but I wanted to make sure it was seen here, too.

  • Genre(s): magical realism, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: twins, sisters, social media influencers, jealousy, family problems, mothers and daughters, fat shaming, homophobia, abuse, coming of age, photography, fate, destiny
  • Protagonist description: girl, Mexican American, age 17, fat

*In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks by Don Brown

A graphic novel chronicling the immediate aftermath and rippling effects of one of the most impactful days in modern history: September 11, 2001. From the Sibert Honor and YALSA Award–winning creator behind The Unwanted and Drowned City.

The consequences of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, both political and personal, were vast, and continue to reverberate today. Don Brown brings his journalistic eye and attention to moving individual stories to help teens contextualize what they already know about the day, as well as broaden their understanding of the chain of events that occurred in the attack’s wake.

SLJ and Hornbook starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: September 11, 2001, 9/11, terrorism, US History, New York City, war, interrogation tactics

*Living Beyond Borders: Growing up Mexican in America by Margarita Longoria

Twenty stand-alone short stories, essays, poems, and more from celebrated and award-winning authors make up this YA anthology that explores the Mexican American experience.

In this mixed-media collection of short stories, personal essays, poetry, and comics, this celebrated group of authors share the borders they have crossed, the struggles they have pushed through, and the two cultures they continue to navigate as Mexican Americans. Living Beyond Borders is at once an eye-opening, heart-wrenching, and hopeful love letter from the Mexican American community to today’s young readers.

A powerful exploration of what it means to be Mexican American. Includes works by Francisco X. Stork, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, David Bowles, Rubén Degollado, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Diana López, Xavier Garza, Trinidad Gonzales, Alex Temblador, Aida Salazar, Guadalupe Ruiz-Flores, Sylvia Sánchez Garza, Dominic Carrillo, Angela Cervantes, Carolyn Dee Flores, René Saldaña Jr., Justine Narro, Daniel García Ordáz, and Anna Meriano.

Booklist and SLJ starred. I’m planning to read this one!

  • Genre(s): anthology, short stories, poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: mixed media, Mexican Americans, border crossing, immigration, culture, identity, discrimination, prejudice, social justice
  • Protagonist description: Mexican immigrants in the US and Mexican Americans

*Me (Moth) by Amber McBride

Debut author! Moth has lost her family in an accident. Though she lives with her aunt, she feels alone and uprooted.

Until she meets Sani, a boy who is also searching for his roots. If he knows more about where he comes from, maybe he’ll be able to understand his ongoing depression. And if Moth can help him feel grounded, then perhaps she too will discover the history she carries in her bones.

Moth and Sani take a road trip that has them chasing ghosts and searching for ancestors. The way each moves forward is surprising, powerful, and unforgettable.

SLJ and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, novel in verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: grief, death of entire family, accidents, depression, mental health, road trips, healing, abuse, suicidal ideation, Virginia
  • Protagonist description: Moth is a Black girl; Sani is a Navajo and white boy living with his white mother and (abusive) white stepfather

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top-ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to “the Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app.

They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow the Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy’s full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too.

No starred reviews, but this will be easy to booktalk with fans of Truly Devious and One of Us Is Lying.

  • Genre(s): mystery, psychological thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: murder, social media, secrets, Asian Americans, prep schools, text messages, bullying, suicide, teacher-student romantic relationships
  • Protagonist description: girl, Chinese American

Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit by Colby Cedar Smith

Debut author! This book is based on the author’s grandmother’s story. Mary is the American-born daughter of Greek and French immigrants living in Detroit in the 1930s, creating a historically accurate portrayal of life as an immigrant during the Great Depression, hunger strikes, and violent riots.

Mary lives in a tiny apartment with her immigrant parents, her brothers, and her twin sister, and she questions why her parents ever came to America. She yearns for true love, to own her own business, and to be an independent, modern American woman–much to the chagrin of her parents, who want her to be a “good Greek girl.”

Mary’s story is peppered with flashbacks to her parents’ childhoods in Greece and northern France; their stories connect with Mary as they address issues of arranged marriage, learning about independence, and yearning to grow beyond one’s own culture. Though Call Me Athena is written from the perspective of three profoundly different narrators, it has a wide-reaching message: It takes courage to fight for tradition and heritage, as well as freedom, love, and equality.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, novel in verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Great Depression, immigration, hunger strikes, 1930s, Detroit, Michigan, Greek immigrants, French immigrants
  • Protagonist description: girl, age 16, American-born daughter of Greek and French immigrants to the US

Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis

Lindsey Gillett is missing.

And she’s not the first girl at Waverly Prep to vanish without a trace.

To help cope with the tragedy, new history teacher Aubrey LeRoux organizes a small student investigation team. But when the members start turning up dead across campus, Aubrey suspects there’s more going on than anyone is willing to admit.

The murdered students all had something in common with Lindsey. They shared a secret. And what they uncovered could threaten the future of the historic school.

At Waverly Prep, someone wants to keep the past buried–along with anyone who gets in their way.

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: prep schools, missing persons, secrets
  • Protagonist description: adult female, early 20s, a first-year teacher

The Smashed Man of Dread End by J.W. Ocker

Noe Wiley couldn’t be more excited to move. After the slumber party sleepwalking incident of last year, she’s ready to make some new friends.

But Noe didn’t expect the sullen, strange girls who live on her new street. And she certainly didn’t expect the strange warning they give her–to stay out of her basement, no matter what.

Noe’s not going to let these girls boss her around. She’ll go in her own basement whenever she wants.

So she does. And there he is.

And now there’s no going back.

  • Genre(s): mystery, suspense, horror, scary stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: monsters, basements, Halloween, warnings, new kid in town, sleepwalking
  • Protagonist description: girl, white, age 13; most secondary cast is also white except for one girl who is Black

*Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua by Gloria Amescua (Author) and Duncan Tonatiuh (Illustrator)

As a young Nahua girl in Mexico during the early 1900s, Luz learned how to grind corn in a metate, to twist yarn with her toes, and to weave on a loom. By the fire at night, she listened to stories of her community’s joys, suffering, and survival, and wove them into her heart.

But when the Mexican Revolution came to her village, Luz and her family were forced to flee and start a new life. In Mexico City, Luz became a model for painters, sculptors, and photographers such as Diego Rivera, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti. These artists were interested in showing the true face of Mexico and not a European version. Through her work, Luz found a way to preserve her people’s culture by sharing her native language, stories, and traditions. Soon, scholars came to learn from her.

This moving, beautifully illustrated biography tells the remarkable story of how model and teacher Luz Jiménez became “the soul of Mexico”–a living link between the indigenous Nahua and the rest of the world. Through her deep pride in her roots and her unshakeable spirit, the world came to recognize the beauty and strength of her people.

Publishers Weekly and Booklist starred. How beautiful is Tonatiuh’s artwork? It’s distinctive and among my favorite styles!

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-6
  • Themes: Aztecs, Mexico, Nahua, 20th Century, community, Mexican Revolution, refugees, Mexican artists, indigenous peoples
  • Protagonist description: Mexican girl

Moon Pops by Heena Baek (Author) and Jieun Kiaer (Translator)

One sweltering summer night, while the many residents of one apartment building are struggling to fall asleep, the moon begins to melt. Granny hears it dripping and runs out to catch the moon drops in a bucket. At first unsure what do with the drops, she is soon inspired to turn them into popsicles–moon pops!–to help cool down her neighbors.

But as everyone drifts off to sleep, a new problem arises. The fabled rabbits who, according to folklore live on the moon, have lost their home! With the last of the moon drops, Granny grows a new moon from the potted plant in her window. As the moon ascends to the starry sky above, the rabbits return to their home, and Granny returns to her bed.

Illustrated in otherworldly mixed-media 3D shoebox dioramas that use unique and exquisite collage art, this quirky and colorful picture book spins a new story from the common East Asian fable of the rabbit in the moon.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grades 2
  • Themes: moon, grandmothers, popsicles, rabbits, nature, East Asia, Korean folktales, nighttime, wolves, animals
  • Protagonist description: bespectacled wolf grandmother

The Very Hungry Plant by Renato Moriconi

One morning, a beautiful plant sprouts out of the ground, and it is very, very hungry. But water and sunlight aren’t the only things this plant craves: it’s a carnivore! The plant gobbles up everything in its path, from caterpillars to geckos to spaceships. But the plant isn’t the only one who’s hungry…

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: plants, botany, carnivores, eating, hunger, absurdity
  • Protagonist description: a plant (“it”)

When We Fly by Jess McGeachin

Lucy has always been good at fixing things–the wonky mailbox, broken watches, even Dad’s old binoculars. And Lucy is happy to help her dad; they share a special bond. It’s just the two of them, after all. So when Lucy finds a tiny bird with a broken wing, she’s sure she can fix him too–but not everything that’s broken can be fixed.

A tender and loving story about loss, healing, and the special connection between fathers and daughters.

Kirkus starred.

    • Genre(s): picture book
    • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
    • Themes: fathers and daughters, fixing things, birds, loss, grief, injured animals
    • Protagonist description: girl, white; mother is in a wheelchair




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.


  • Dear Mrs. Readerpants,

    As I prepare for retirement at the end of September, I want to let you know how valuable your new release spotlights have been for me. As the director of a very small public library, I am truly a jack of all trades and have very little time to keep up with the latest and greatest in literature. Your lists have been an invaluable resource for making purchases for my children’s and YA collections.

    With warmest thanks and best wishes,
    Annie Miller, Director
    Greenwich Free Library
    Greenwich, NY

    • Awww…thank you so much Annie! The Spotlights are a labor of love. Best of luck to you in your retirement.



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