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New Release Spotlight: October 26, 2021

It’s finally a somewhat-normal week for new book releases. While we may have one or two more long lists, it generally starts to wind down for the year in November. By the latter-half of December, the Spotlights dry up into nothing.

I picked two middle grade titles for my top picks this week. YA is a pretty short list, so I chose two middle grade titles instead.

This week’s top picks:

  • The School Between Winter and Fairyland by Heather Fawcett (middle grades)
  • Daughter of the Deep by Rik Riordan (middle grades)
  • The Longest Letsgoboy by Derick Wilder (picture book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2046-#2065 on The Ginormous book list.

*Disability Visibility (Adapted for Young Adults): 17 First-Person Stories for Today by Alice Wong

The seventeen eye-opening essays in Disability Visibility, all written by disabled people, offer keen insight into the complex and rich disability experience, examining life’s ableism and inequality, its challenges and losses, and celebrating its wisdom, passion, and joy.

The accounts in this collection ask readers to think about disabled people not as individuals who need to be “fixed,” but as members of a community with its own history, culture, and movements. They offer diverse perspectives that speak to past, present, and future generations.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): essays, nonfiction, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: injustice, unfairness, disabilities, overcoming adversity, activism, prejudice
  • Protagonist description: various diverse disabled people

We Light Up the Sky by Lilliam Rivera

Pedro, Luna, and Rafa may attend Fairfax High School together in Los Angeles, but they run in separate spheres. Pedro is often told that he’s “too much” and seeks refuge from his home life in a local drag bar. Luna is pretending to go along with the popular crowd but is still grieving the unexpected passing of her beloved cousin Tasha. Then there’s Rafa, the quiet new kid who is hiding the fact that his family is homeless.

But Pedro, Luna, and Rafa find themselves thrown together when an extraterrestrial visitor lands in their city and takes the form of Luna’s cousin Tasha. As the Visitor causes destruction wherever it goes, the three teens struggle to survive and warn others of what’s coming–because this Visitor is only the first of many. But who is their true enemy–this alien, or their fellow humans?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-11
  • Themes: Los Angeles, California, drag shows, drag queens, grief, homelessness, extraterrestrial beings, aliens, survival, social class, prejudice, discrimination, abuse
  • Protagonist description: 2 male teens, 1 female teen; all three are Hispanic Americans

Why Is Everybody Yelling? by Marisabina Russo

This graphic-novel debut from an acclaimed picture book creator is a powerfully moving memoir of the author’s experiences with family, religion, and coming of age in the aftermath of World War II, and the childhood struggles and family secrets that shaped her.

It’s 1950s New York, and Marisabina Russo is being raised Catholic and attending a Catholic school that she loves–but when she finds out that she’s Jewish by blood, and that her family members are Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, her childhood is thrown into turmoil. To make matters more complicated, her father is out of the picture, her mother is ambitious and demanding, and her older half-brothers have troubles, too.

Following the author’s young life into the tumultuous, liberating 1960s, this heartfelt, unexpectedly humorous, and meticulously illustrated graphic-novel memoir explores the childhood burdens of memory and guilt, and Marisabina’s struggle and success in forming an identity entirely her own.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, memoir
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: New York, 1950s, 1960s, Jews, Holocaust survivors, identity, family secrets, refugees, immigration
  • Protagonist description: white female, Jewish immigrant raised Catholic after Holocaust

I’m Dreaming of a Wyatt Christmas by Tiffany Schmidt

Noelle Partridge is known for three things: being the best ballet dancer, babysitter, and person with the most Christmas spirit in her small town. But lately she’s bored by the lessons at her dance school, and her friends and father are more bah humbug than deck the halls. So when her favorite babysitting clients ask her to accompany them on a ski trip over winter break, she packs her bags for the slopes. It helps that they’re offering double her rate–she’ll need the money for Beacon, an elite ballet academy that has granted her an audition.

Noelle is ready to have fa la la la fun, until Wyatt, the older half-brother of her babysitting charges, decides to surprise his family for the holiday. He’s one of the best dancers at Beacon, and makes Noelle’s head spin faster than pirouettes. Unfortunately, she also manages to step on his toes–spoiling his surprise and complicating his secret plans. After a few missteps, Noelle and Wyatt begin to thaw toward each other and bond over the big decisions looming in each of their lives. With enough Christmas magic, Noelle might just start the New Year with lots of babysitting cash in her pocket and a chance with the pas de deux partner of her dreams.

Yay! YA Christmas books for the win! The protagonist’s name is fab!

  • Genre(s): romance, holiday stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-10
  • Themes: babysitting, skiing, Christmas, ballet, Pennsylvania
  • Protagonist description: female, white; male love interest is from a native Hawaiian family and age 15

*How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino (Author), Bruno Navasky (Translator), and Neil Gaiman (Foreword)

First published in 1937, Genzaburō Yoshino’s How Do You Live? has long been acknowledged in Japan as a crossover classic for young readers. Academy Award–winning animator Hayao Miyazaki has called it his favorite childhood book and announced plans to emerge from retirement to make it the basis of a final film.

How Do You Live? is narrated in two voices. The first belongs to Copper, fifteen, who after the death of his father must confront inevitable and enormous change, including his own betrayal of his best friend. In between episodes of Copper’s emerging story, his uncle writes to him in a journal, sharing knowledge and offering advice on life’s big questions as Copper begins to encounter them. Over the course of the story, Copper, like his namesake Copernicus, looks to the stars, and uses his discoveries about the heavens, earth, and human nature to answer the question of how he will live.

This first-ever English-language translation of a Japanese classic about finding one’s place in a world both infinitely large and unimaginably small is perfect for readers of philosophical fiction like The Alchemist and The Little Prince, as well as Miyazaki fans eager to understand one of his most important influences.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, classics, historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-AD
  • Themes: dual narratives, Tokyo, Japan, Japanese history, death of a parent (father), betrayal, best friends diaries and journals, self-discovery
  • Protagonist description: male, age 15, Japanese

Scene of the Crime: Tracking Down Criminals with Forensic Science by HP Newquist

What is evidence and how do investigators gather it? How do you determine how long a body has been dead? Do fingerprints differ from person to person? How did some of the world’s great fictional detectives, like Sherlock Holmes, further the study of forensics?

Packed with lively photos, classroom activities, and engaging prose, budding private eyes and scientists will be eager to find the answers to these and other questions in HP Newquist’s latest, and to learn about everything from the world’s first autopsy in Ancient Rome to the role that DNA plays in solving crimes along the way.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6+
  • Themes: forensic science, detectives, police work, fingerprints, science, autopsies, history of forensics, criminal investigations, STEM, true crime, at-home experiments
  • Protagonist description: all detectives are white, but several are women

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

Ana Dakkar is a freshman at Harding-Pencroft Academy, a five-year high school that graduates the best marine scientists, naval warriors, navigators, and underwater explorers in the world. Ana’s parents died while on a scientific expedition two years ago, and the only family’s she’s got left is her older brother, Dev, also a student at HP. Ana’s freshman year culminates with the class’s weekend trial at sea, the details of which have been kept secret. She only hopes she has what it’ll take to succeed. All her worries are blown out of the water when, on the bus ride to the ship, Ana and her schoolmates witness a terrible tragedy that will change the trajectory of their lives.

But wait, there’s more. The professor accompanying them informs Ana that their rival school, Land Institute, and Harding-Pencroft have been fighting a cold war for a hundred and fifty years. Now that cold war has been turned up to a full broil, and the freshman are in danger of becoming fish food. In a race against deadly enemies, Ana will make amazing friends and astounding discoveries about her heritage as she puts her leadership skills to the test for the first time.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, science fiction, retellings
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: marine biology, orphans, siblings, elite schools, private school, boarding school, cold wars, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Asian Americans, Captain Nemo, The Mysterious Island, Jules Verne
  • Protagonist description: female, 9th grader, Bundeli Indian American

*The School Between Winter and Fairyland by Heather Fawcett

Twelve-year-old Autumn Malog is a servant at the enchanting Inglenook School, where young magicians study to become the king’s future monster-hunters. Along with her Gran and three too many older brothers, she works as a beastkeeper, tending to Inglenook’s menagerie of terrifying monsters.

But when she isn’t mucking out the wyvern stalls or coaxing the resident boggart to behave, Autumn searches for clues about her twin brother’s mysterious disappearance. Everyone else thinks he was devoured by the feared Hollow Dragon, but Autumn is convinced she’s heard–and glimpsed–him calling to her from within the castle walls. But who will believe a lowly servant?

So when Cai Morrigan, the “Chosen One” prophesied to one day destroy the Hollow Dragon, comes to her for help, Autumn agrees on one condition: Together, they’ll search for her brother and uncover the dark truth at the heart of enchanting Inglenook School once and for all.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: monsters, beastkeepers, magic, magicians, twins, siblings, missing persons, servants, boarding schools, dragons, boggarts, prophecies
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, white, has white hair

*Neverforgotten by Alejandra Algorta (Author), Iván Rickenmann (Illustrator), and Aida Salazar (Translator)

Debut author! Fabio flies through the streets of Bogotá on his bicycle, the children of his neighborhood trailing behind him. It is there that life feels right–where the world of adults, and their lies, fades away. But then one day, he simply forgets. Forgets how to ride his bicycle. And Fabio will never be the same again.

From Colombia comes a special debut talent, Alejandra Algorta, and a first novel of discovery and heartbreak. Algorta’s distinct and poetic prose has been translated by award-winning author Aida Salazar, and presented in English and Spanish.

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus starred. Illustrated, sometimes for multiple wordless pages.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Bogota, Colombia, bilingual, English and Spanish, #ownvoices, bicycles, Hispanic, Latin Americans, accidents, brain trauma, intergenerational friendships, neighbors, overcoming adversity, depression, kids with jobs, translations
  • Protagonist description: male, age 10, Colombian

Disasters by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics by Steve Jenkins

From Caldecott Honor–winning author-illustrator Steve Jenkins comes an in-depth look at the world’s natural disasters, broken down into four distinct categories: earth, weather, life, and space.

From timelines of causes and outcomes of each disaster, graphs highlighting humans’ effect on the earth, and a text teeming with fresh, unexpected, and accurate information ready for readers to easily devour, Disasters by the Numbers is unmatched and sure to wow fans old and new.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, fact books
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: natural disasters, Earth, climate change, infographics, Covid-19, hurricanes, AIDS, earthquakes volcanoes

The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams by Mindy Thompson

It’s 1944 Sutton, NY, and Poppy’s family owns and runs, Rhyme and Reason, a magical bookshop that caters to people from all different places and time periods. Though her world is ravaged by World War II, customers hail from the past and the future, infusing the shop with a delightful mix of ideas and experiences.

Poppy dreams of someday becoming shopkeeper like her father, though her older brother, Al, is technically next in line for the job. She knows all of the rules handed down from one generation of Bookseller to the next, especially their most important one: shopkeepers must never use the magic for themselves.

But then Al’s best friend is killed in the war and her brother wants to use the magic of the shop to save him. With her father in the hospital suffering from a mysterious illness, the only one standing between Al and the bookstore is Poppy. Caught between her love for her brother and loyalty to her family, she knows her brother’s actions could have devastating consequences that reach far beyond the bookshop as an insidious, growing Darkness looms. This decision is bigger than Poppy ever dreamed, and the fate of the bookshops hangs in the balance.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: magic, bookish, WWII< 1940s, time travel, booksellers, bookshops, siblings, brothers and sisters, Sutton, New York, grief, loss
  • Protagonist description: female, age 13, white, American

Pighearted by Alex Perry

Debut author! Jeremiah’s heart skips a beat before his first soccer game, but it’s not nerves. It’s the first sign of a heart attack. He knows he needs to go to the hospital, but he’s determined to score a goal. Charging after the ball, he refuses to stop…even if his heart does.

J6 is a pig and the only one of his five brothers who survived the research lab. Though he’s never left his cell, he thinks of himself as a therapy pig, a scholar, and a bodyguard. But when the lab sends him to live with Jeremiah’s family, there’s one new title he’s desperate to have: brother.

At first, Jeremiah thinks his parents took in J6 to cheer him up. But before long, he begins to suspect there’s more to his new curly-tailed companion than meets the eye. When the truth is revealed, Jeremiah and J6 must protect each other at all costs–even if their lives depend on it.

  • Genre(s): animal stories, magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: heart defects, organ harvesting, pigs, alternating perspectives, animal research, medical ethics, animal rights, Houston, Texas, anthropomorphism
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, white

*Forty Winks: A Bedtime Adventure by Kelly DiPucchio (Author) and Lita Judge (Illustrator)

It’s time for bed!” the Wink parents said.
Their routine was the same every night.
Mama and Papa lined up their big brood,
all thirty-eight children in sight…

When the sun sets on this mouse family’s house, it’s the start of a bedtime routine for the ages! Come along as all 38 Wink children have snacks and baths, brush their teeth, read stories, and finally, finally settle down to sleep.

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: bedtime, large families, mice, routines, end rhyme, alliteration, internal rhyme
  • Protagonist description: all characters are mice; 38 mice children and two parent mice (male and female)

Gladys the Magic Chicken by Adam Rubin (Author) and Adam Rex (Illustrator)

Gladys the chicken must be magic. After all, for everyone who encounters her, a wish is granted. The Shepherd Boy wishes to be beautiful, the Brave Swordsman wishes to join the Royal Guard, the Purple Pooh-bah wishes for his only daughter to be happy, and the Learned Princess wishes to escape the palace.

And one by one, each of these wishes comes true. But…is Gladys really magic? Or is everyone making their own fortune? Either way, it adds up to one heck of an adventure for a chicken named Gladys. Blending a classic storybook feel with a thoroughly modern sense of humor, this side-splitting read aloud is perfect for anyone who wishes to see magic in the world–even if they are only looking at a chicken.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: wishes, chickens, royalty, making your own fortune, animals, luck

Penguin Journey by Angela Burke Kunkel (Author) and Catherine Odell (Illustrator)

Packed Snow / Moon glow
Wind-blown / All alone

This young picture book is about the incredible lengths to which emperor penguins go for their young ones. Angela Burke Kunkel’s lyrical text and Catherine Odell’s gorgeous illustrations detail the penguins’ amazing journey, and an author’s note and bibliography provide added context.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: rhyme, emperor penguins, growing up, journeys, animal parents, family, Antarctica, winter
  • Protagonist description: emperor penguins

*The Real Santa by Nancy Redd (Author) and Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Illustrator)

It’s not Christmas without Santa! But what does Santa truly look like? Does he match the figurines on the mantel, or the faces on our favorite holiday sweaters? Does he look like you or like me?

Find out in this joyous and cozy celebration of family, representation, and holiday spirit! Destined to be a new classic, and perfect for any child looking to see some of themselves in Santa Claus.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, holiday stories
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: Christmas, Santa Claus, family, African Americans
  • Protagonist description: young boy, Black, with his Black family

The Message: The Extraordinary Journey of an Ordinary Text Message by Michael Emberley

Ever wonder how your text message gets from your phone to your friend’s phone? You type it, hit send, and boom–the text appears on your friend’s phone just moments later. But how?!

From your brain to your fingers to your phone, once you hit send, off your message goes on a journey that seems impossibly far: traveling through the air, underground, under oceans, and even through mountains, in seconds. Turns out texts are big on adventure, and this book explains exactly what they do and how. No planes, trains, or automobiles involved, but lots and lots of hair-thin fibers, ocean-length cables, and satellites!

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-4
  • Themes: technology, STEM, text messages, journeys, how things work, cell phones
  • Protagonist description: child and mother, both with white skin and dark, straight hair

*The Longest Letsgoboy by Derick Wilder (Author) and Catia Chien (Illustrator)

As a dog and his little girl go on their final walk together, he experiences the sights, smells, and wonders of this world one last time before peacefully passing on. But for such a good boy (oh yes, he is!) and his foreverfriend, that doesn’t mean it’s the end.

Offering a unique and noteworthy take on death, this book balances the somber topic with a dog’s ever-optimistic viewpoint, all woven together with its unconventional yet fitting approach to language.

THREE starred reviews! Am I the only one who wiped away tears after reading the summary? I would never be able to read this aloud to a class, but it could be very helpful for children grieving over lost pets.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-AD
  • Themes: death of a pet, dogs, from a dog’s perspective, afterlife, grief
  • Protagonist description: narrator is a black dog with a gray beard and floppy ears

Some Days A Tale of Love, Ice Cream, and My Mom’s Chronic Illness by Julie A. Stamm (Author) and Chamisa Kellogg (Illustrator)

Even when Wyatt’s mom isn’t feeling her best, he still thinks she’s a superhero! Rosie and Wyatt go on adventures every day: On sleepy days, they build a cozy pillow fort just for two. On wobbly days, Wyatt gets out Rosie’s magical walking stick and they cast spells on his toys. And on one super-special day, the whole family heads to town for the big “funraiser”!

Warm and uplifting, Some Days is the perfect story to share with your child about life with multiple sclerosis–or any chronic illness. Although some days are fast and some are slow, Rosie and Wyatt fill each one with love, excitement, and fun…not to mention ice cream!

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: mothers and sons, chronic illness, multiple sclerosis, MS, parent-child bond, superheroes, family
  • Protagonist description: mother and young son, both white with dark hair

Ruffles and the Red, Red Coat by David Melling

Ruff! Ruff! Hello, Ruffles! Ruffles is a typical toddler who experiences all the highs and lows of preschool life as he learns about the world around him.

There are lots of things he likes…and lots of things he doesn’t! He LOVES scratching, digging and chewing but he does NOT like wearing his coat on rainy days. No, no, no, no, NO! But when Ruffles wants to splash in puddles with his best friend, Ruby, he soon learns that some things are definitely worth wearing your coat for!

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-K
  • Themes: preschool, toddlers, dogs, puppies, coats, likes and dislikes, play, friendship
  • Protagonist description: a white puppy




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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