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New Release Spotlight: November 2, 2021

Happy November! Here are this week’s top picks:

  • Gilded by Marissa Meyer (YA)
  • The Swag Is in the Socks by Kelly J. Baptist (MG)
  • Our Table by Peter Reynolds (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2066-#2085 on The Ginormous book list.

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora by Saraciea J. Fennell (Editor)

These fifteen original pieces delve into everything from ghost stories and superheroes, to memories in the kitchen and travels around the world, to addiction and grief, to identity and anti-Blackness, to finding love and speaking your truth. Full of both sorrow and joy, Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed is an essential celebration of this rich and diverse community.

The bestselling and award-winning contributors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Cristina Arreola, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Naima Coster, Natasha Diaz, Saraciea J. Fennell, Kahlil Haywood, Zakiya Jamal, Janel Martinez, Jasminne Mendez, Meg Medina, Mark Oshiro, Julian Randall, Lilliam Rivera, and Ibi Zoboi.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): short stories, anthology
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Latinx authors, Caribbean, mythology, stereotypes, grief, addiction
  • Protagonist description: various Latinx characters

*Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim

Previously released in Australia and Japan. Ming survived the famine that killed his parents during China’s “Great Leap Forward”, and lives a hard but adequate life, working in the fields.

When a group of city boys comes to the village as part of a Communist Party re-education program, Ming and his friends aren’t sure what to make of the new arrivals. They’re not used to hard labor and village life. But despite his reservations, Ming befriends a charming city boy called Li. The two couldn’t be more different, but slowly they form a bond over evening swims and shared dreams.

But as the bitterness of life under the Party begins to take its toll on both boys, they begin to imagine the impossible: freedom.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: China, Chinese Cultural Revolution, Communism, freedom, oppression, swimming, Mao Zedong, 1960s, 1970s, based on a true story (author’s father)
  • Protagonist description: teen boy, Chinese, grows into adulthood throughout story

The Story of More (Adapted for Young Adults): How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here by Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren, acclaimed geochemist and geobiologist, details the science behind key inventions, clarifying how electricity, large-scale farming, and automobiles have both helped and harmed our world.

Jahren explains the current and projected consequences of unchecked global warming, from superstorms to rising sea levels, resulting from the unprecedented amounts of greenhouse gases being released into our atmosphere. The links between human consumption habits and our endangered existence are very real, with consequences leading to a crossroads of survival and extinction.

Still, Jahren maintains that our ever-broadening science-based knowledge can help us counter this dilemma. The eye-opening information provided in The Story of More will help readers understand the path we must take. If we collectively make informed choices now, Jahren reassures us, our future can be as bright as we imagine it can be.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-10
  • Themes: adaptations, climate change, science, Earth Day, global warming, weather, pollution, world problems, over-consumption, consumerism, sustainability

Black Was the Ink by Michelle Coles

Malcolm Williams hasn’t been okay for a while. He’s angry and despondent and feels like nothing good ever happens for teens like him in D.C. All he wants is to be left alone in his room for the summer to draw or play video games–but no such luck. With growing violence in his neighborhood, his mother ships him off to his father’s family farm in Mississippi, and Malcolm is anything but pleased.

A few days after his arrival, his great-aunt tells him that the State is acquiring the farm to widen a highway. It’s not news Malcolm is concerned about, but someone plans to make it his concern. One minute Malcolm is drawing in the farmhouse attic, and the next he’s looking through the eyes of his ancestor Cedric Johnson in 1866.

As Cedric, Malcolm meets the real-life Black statesmen who fought for change during the Reconstruction era: Hiram Revels, Robert Smalls, and other leaders who made American history. But even after witnessing their bravery, Malcolm’s faith in his own future remains shaky, particularly since he knows that the gains these statesmen made were almost immediately stripped away. If those great men couldn’t completely succeed, why should he try? Malcolm must decide which path to take. Can Cedric’s experiences help him construct a better future? Or will he resign himself to resentments and defeat?

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: 6-12
  • Themes: little-known history, African American politicians, US Civil War Reconstruction period, US history, diaries and journals, Washington, D.C., Mississippi, eminent domain, attics, ancestors, time travel, 1860s, 1870s, 19th Century, racism, prejudice, post-slavery America
  • Protagonist description: male, age 16, Black, African American

A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by Ariel Henley

I am ugly. There’s a mathematical equation to prove it.

At only eight months old, identical twin sisters Ariel and Zan were diagnosed with Crouzon syndrome–a rare condition where the bones in the head fuse prematurely. They were the first twins known to survive it.

Growing up, Ariel and her sister endured numerous appearance-altering procedures. Surgeons would break the bones in their heads and faces to make room for their growing organs. While the physical aspect of their condition was painful, it was nothing compared to the emotional toll of navigating life with a facial disfigurement.

Ariel explores beauty and identity in her young-adult memoir about resilience, sisterhood, and the strength it takes to put your life, and yourself, back together time and time again.

  • Genre(s): memoir, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Crouzon Syndrome, rare disorders, twins, disability, health problems, surgeries, sisters, appearance, beauty standards, facial disfigurement, bullying, Pablo Picasso, cubism, resilience, overcoming adversity
  • Protagonist description: female, white, has Crouzon Syndrome, a rare facial deformity

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller’s daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue.

Or so everyone believes.

When one of Serilda’s outlandish tales draws the attention of the sinister Erlking and his undead hunters, she finds herself swept away into a grim world where ghouls and phantoms prowl the earth and hollow-eyed ravens track her every move. The king orders Serilda to complete the impossible task of spinning straw into gold, or be killed for telling falsehoods. In her desperation, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious boy to her aid. He agrees to help her…for a price. Love isn’t meant to be part of the bargain.

Soon Serilda realizes that there is more than one secret hidden in the castle walls, including an ancient curse that must be broken if she hopes to end the tyranny of the king and his wild hunt forever.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, retelling, fairytales
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Rumpelstiltskin, curses, storytelling, zombies, impossible tasks, secrets, kingdoms, lies, kings, tyranny, star-crossed love
  • Protagonist description: teen female in a medieval fairytale world

Into the Bloodred Woods by Martha Brockenbrough

Once upon a time there was a kingdom, and a forest that liked to eat men, and a girl who would change everything, but not alone…

Except…There’s no such thing as once upon a time.

In a faraway land, populated by were-beasts and surrounded by a powerful forest, lies a kingdom about to be sent into chaos. On his deathbed, King Tyran divides his land, leaving half to each of his two children–so they’ll rule together. However, his son, Albrecht, is not satisfied with half a kingdom. And even though his sister, Ursula, is the first born, he decides that, as a girl and were-bear, she is unfit to rule. So he invades her land, slaughtering her people and most of the were beasts, and claims it for himself.

As King Albrecht builds his iron rule and an army to defend his reign, Ursula is gathering the survivors and making plans to seize back the kingdom. Not just her half–the whole thing. Because Albrecht should have never been allowed to sit on the throne, and Ursula is going to take his crown. And if he’s not careful, he might not get to keep his head either.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: siblings, brothers and sisters, werewolves, beasts, kings and queens, tyranny, mix of classic fairytales
  • Protagonist description: brother and sister, both white, the sister is a were-bear and brother is human

Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy by Misty Copeland (Author) and Salena Barnes (Illustrator)

As a young girl living in a motel with her mother and her five siblings, Misty Copeland didn’t have a lot of exposure to ballet or prominent dancers. She was sixteen when she saw a black ballerina on a magazine cover for the first time. The experience emboldened Misty and told her that she wasn’t alone–and her dream wasn’t impossible.

In the years since, Misty has only learned more about the trailblazing women who made her own success possible by pushing back against repression and racism with their talent and tenacity. Misty brings these women’s stories to a new generation of readers and gives them the recognition they deserve.

With an introduction from Misty about the legacy these women have had on dance and on her career itself, this book delves into the lives and careers of women of color who fundamentally changed the landscape of American ballet from the early 20th century to today.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): memoir, biography, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-11
  • Themes: Misty Copeland, ballet, African Americans, female dancers, living in a motel, poverty, overcoming adversity, prominent Black women
  • Protagonist description: female, Black, ballerina, impoverished family

Tangled Up in Luck by Merrill Wyatt

If you told Sloane Osburn and Amelia Miller-Poe that they’d be hiding in their town cemetery from an evil mastermind, they would have been hard-pressed to believe you. If you also told them that person was intent on beating them to a cache of long-lost jewels using nothing more than a slingshot and wicked aim, they’d have been sure you got your facts wrong. Finally, if you told them they’d be doing all of this as friends…well, they would have been sure you needed medical attention.

Whether through serendipity (really, really good luck) or zemblanity (really, really bad luck), someone tricked their teacher into using their seventh-grade class to investigate the mystery of their town’s long-missing treasure. From there, things have escalated. Quickly. Now, the girls are stuck hiding behind a gravestone, dodging acorns (who knew acorns could be so threatening?), and just a few clues short of those jewels.

It’s up to these enemies-turned-partners to uncover centuries-old clues to find the treasure at the end of this book before the mysterious person on their trail can get to it first…

Kirkus starred. The Kirkus review compares this to Sachar’s Holes, a great selling point for middle graders.

  • Genre(s): mystery, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: luck, treasure hunt, local mystery, enemies to friends, bullying, Ohio, grief, death of a parent (mother)
  • Protagonist description: two females, both seventh graders; ages 12 and 13; both are white

*Manu: A Graphic Novel by Kelly Fernández

Debut author! Manu and her best friend, Josefina, live at a magical school for girls, and Manu is always getting into trouble.

The headmistress believes that Manu has the potential to help people with her magic, but Manu would rather have fun than fall in line. One day, a prank goes seriously wrong, and Josefina gets angry and wishes for Manu’s magic to disappear…and it does. Manu uses a dangerous spell to restore it, but it makes her magic too powerful and nearly impossible to control. Great power comes at a cost, and it may be a price that Manu isn’t able to pay!

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: magic, boarding schools, pranks, wishes, be careful what you wish for, spells, Dominican Republic (inspired world), some Spanish
  • Protagonist description: two girls, both Hispanic

The Swag Is in the Socks by Kelly J. Baptist

Xavier Moon is not one to steal the show. He’s perfectly content to play video games and sit at his bedroom window watching the neighborhood talk outside.

But for Xavier’s twelfth birthday, he receives a pair of funky socks and a challenge from his great-uncle, Frankie Bell, saying it’s time to swag out and speak up. First on the list: get into the legendary Scepter League. Xavier’s grandfather, great-uncle, and father were all invited to join the elite boys’ after-school club that admits only the most suave and confident young men. Xavier has never had the courage to apply before, but his wild socks are getting him some big attention, so maybe it’s time to come out of the shadows and follow in his family’s footsteps. Or maybe Xavier will march down a new path altogether.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): humor, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: socks, popularity, taking charge of one’s life, clubs, incarcerated parents, speech impediments, stuttering, confidence, finding oneself, identity, birthdays, gifts, family
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, 7th grader, Black, both parents are incarcerated

Eddie Whatever by Lois Ruby

Thirteen-year-old Eddie needs to do a community service project in preparation for his bar mitzvah. Against his better judgment, he ends up with a volunteering gig at Silver Brook Pavilion retirement home, where the residents call him “Eddie Whatever” rather than worry about remembering his last name. These old folks soon upend all Eddie’s assumptions about the boringness of the elderly. There’s a dramatic courtship unfolding, long-hidden secret identities, a rumor of a vengeful ghost, and a thief on the loose.

When suspicion falls on Eddie, he teams up with his fellow volunteer (and crush), Tessa, to solve the mysteries of Silver Brook.

  • Genre(s): mystery, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: bar mitzvah, Jews, elderly people, retirement homes, thieves, false accusations, intergenerational friendships, community service, Oklahoma, robotics clubs
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 13, white, Jewish

The League of Picky Eaters by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

In Muffuletta, being good at eating is the key to success. French fries and grilled cheese? Beginner food! Haggis and truffles? Delicacies!

After failing a school eating test, picky eater Minerva is placed in the lowest eating track of all: Remedial Eating to Change Habits. RETCH class is full of kids with weird personalities and even weirder food preferences. And to make matters worse, Minerva’s best friends, in the Gifted and Gourmet class, no longer speak to her.

But soon Minerva finds she is not alone in her pickiness, and forms friendships with her new classmates. And together, they find a way to stand up for themselves–picky and proud!

  • Genre(s): humor, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-6
  • Themes: food, eating, picky eaters, cooking, being different, friendship, middle school, school stories, friendship, satire
  • Protagonist description: multiple middle school students

A-Okay by Jarad Greene

When Jay starts eighth grade with a few pimples he doesn’t think much of it at first…except to wonder if the embarrassing acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived. But when his acne goes from bad to worse, Jay’s prescribed a powerful medication that comes with some serious side effects. Regardless, he’s convinced it’ll all be worth it if clear skin is on the horizon!

Meanwhile, school isn’t going exactly as planned. All of Jay’s friends are in different classes; he has no one to sit with at lunch; his best friend, Brace, is avoiding him; and–to top it off–Jay doesn’t understand why he doesn’t share the same feelings two of his fellow classmates, a boy named Mark and a girl named Amy, have for him.

Eighth grade can be tough, but Jay has to believe everything’s going to be a-okay…right?

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6-9
  • Themes: acne, school stories, friendship, growing up, asexuality, art, Accutane, Tampa, Florida, self-confidence
  • Protagonist description: boy, 8th grade, asexual, white

Ace Takes Flight by Cory McCarthy

B.E.S.T. World, Book 1. Set in 2048. Eleven-year-old Ace Wells’s dream has finally come true: he is a new cadet in the B.E.S.T. (Biological Enhancement Systems Technology) Program. Until now, he’s been living in the shadow of his superstar brother, Finn–but not for long.

This is new Ace! He knows he can make his mark on the world with SuperSoar wings, but on day one, nothing goes as planned. The antagonistic elevator AI Otis wants to eat his belongings, the physical feats set by his tough-nut coach are impossible, and his celebrity roommates are far from welcoming.

It becomes crystal clear that Ace is not prepared to fly–in any sense of the word.

As tensions build, Ace has a sinking suspicion that there’s something more going on at B.E.S.T. than meets the eye. Will he ever make it to graduation and get the aug of his dreams? Join Ace and find out as he tests his strength and grit in this page-turning middle grade adventure!

  • Genre(s): science fiction, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: future, wings, flying, body modifications, bionics, superheroes, technology, AI
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 11, white, has two moms; secondary characters are diverse

*Our Table by Peter Reynolds

Violet longs for the time when her family was connected: before life, distractions, and technology pulled them all away from each other. They used to gather at the table, with food and love, to make memories, share their lives, and revel in time spent together. But now her family has been drifting apart, and with nobody to gather around it, the table grows smaller and smaller.

Can Violet remind her family of the warmth of time spent together, and gather around the table once more?

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: distractions, technology, family, togetherness, dinner, drifting apart
  • Protagonist description: young girl and her family, all are Black

Santa in the City by Tiffany D. Jackson (Author) and Reggie Brown (Illustrator)

It’s two weeks before Christmas, and Deja is worried that Santa might not be able to visit her–after all, as a city kid, she doesn’t have a chimney for him to come down and none of the parking spots on her block could fit a sleigh, let alone eight reindeer!

But with a little help from her family, community, and Santa himself, Deja discovers that the Christmas spirit is alive and well in her city.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, holiday stories
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: Christmas, Santa Claus, family, city life, belief and doubt
  • Protagonist description: young girl, Black, Jamaican family

Sweet People Are Everywhere by Alice Walker (Author) and Quim Torres (Illustrator)

They are all over the globe. Sweet people can be found from Canada to Congo to Cuba, from Afghanistan to Australia, from Ireland to Iraq…there are sweet people in the thirty-seven places listed in these pages and almost everywhere else on the planet. Take a trip through the lines of this large-hearted poem by Alice Walker and meet some of them!

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: international, different countries, people, travel
  • Protagonist description: wide variety of ethnicities, skin tones, and nationalities

Carla and the Christmas Cornbread by Carla Hall (Author) and Cherise Harris (Illustrator)

Christmas is Carla’s favorite holiday of the year. She goes to her grandparents’ house and eats grandma’s special recipe–a perfectly delicious cornbread. She listens to her grandpa Doc’s marvelous stories about traveling the world. And, best of all, she spends lots of time with her family.

But when Carla accidentally takes a bite out of Santa’s sugar cookie, she thinks she’s ruined Christmas. How will Santa know to stop at their house if they don’t leave him a midnight snack? With her grandmother’s help, Carla comes up with a plan, but will it be enough to save Christmas?

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, holiday stories
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: Christmas, grandparents, family, traditions, cooking, cornbread, cookies, food, Santa Claus
  • Protagonist description: girl and her grandmother; entire family is Black

*The Welcome Chair by Rosemary Wells (Author) and Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)

In 1807, Sam Siegbert is born in southern Germany. Sam’s favorite pastime is carpentry, much to his father’s displeasure. His mother says he has a gift from God in his hands. After moving to America, he builds a wooden chair with the word WILLKOMMEN on the back. The chair’s back panel was later marked with welcomes by four generations of the family in four different languages.

After the family lost track of the old chair, the author created a new life for it among new owners from other corners of the world. All the families who loved the chair came to America, escaping religious conformity, natural disasters, tyrannies, war, and superstition. In its lifetime, the rocking chair, with its earliest word WILLKOMMEN, stood for openness, hospitality, and acceptance to all who owned it or rocked safely in its embrace.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: family, generations, chairs, family history, immigration, refugees, rocking chairs, welcome, furniture
  • Protagonist description: diverse characters from various countries and situations







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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