New Release Spotlight: November 30, 2021

It’s the last Spotlight of November 2021! It’s actually a pretty good list this week, especially if you are in the market for new graphic novels! Three titles on this list have three starred reviews. New titles from Karen McManus and Jason Reynolds, too!

My top picks:

  • You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus (YA)
  • Living with Viola by Rosena Fung (MG)
  • Stuntboy, In the Meantime by Jason Reynolds (MG)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2136-#2149 on The Ginormous book list.

You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day. Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out from working two jobs since his family’s business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up…again.

So when the three unexpectedly run into each other, they decide to avoid their problems by ditching. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they’ve barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say…

…until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school–and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it’s about to get worse. It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common…like a connection to the dead kid. And they’re all hiding something.

Could it be that their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: skipping school, former friends, murder, secrets, drug dealing, overachievers, alternating perspectives
  • Protagonist description: three friends–one girl and two boys; one boy is Puerto Rican and Polish; other two are white; all are HS seniors; one of the boys has two dads

Passport by Sophia Glock

Young Sophia has lived in so many different countries, she can barely keep count. Stationed now with her family in Central America because of her parents’ work, Sophia feels displaced as an American living abroad, when she has hardly spent any of her life in America.

Everything changes when she reads a letter she was never meant to see and uncovers her parents’ secret. They are not who they say they are. They are working for the CIA. As Sophia tries to make sense of this news, and the web of lies surrounding her, she begins to question everything. The impact that this has on Sophia’s emerging sense of self and understanding of the world makes for a page-turning exploration of lies and double lives.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, memoir
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: moving around a lot, Central America, expat Americans, spies, family secrets, lies, double lives, coming of age
  • Protagonist description: teenage girl, white, American living in Central America; her parents are also are white

Fly By Night by Tara O’Connor

There are monsters in the woods.

While out searching desperately for her missing sister, Dee discovers something isn’t quite right in the woods. She is soon in a battle to save the pinelands, and she is finding more questions than answers.

As time goes on, the only one thing Dee knows for sure is that there are monsters among us. But they aren’t who we should be afraid of…

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, mystery, supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: twins, sisters, divorced parents, separation, environmentalism, shady corporations, missing persons, monsters
  • Protagonist description: female, high schooler, cued as Latinx; secondary characters are diverse skin tones and represent different of body types

*Living with Viola by Rosena Fung

Debut author! Livy is already having trouble fitting in as the new girl at school–and then there’s Viola. Viola is Livy’s anxiety brought to life, a shadowy twin that only Livy can see or hear. Livy tries to push back against Viola’s relentless judgment, but nothing seems to work until she strikes up new friendships at school. Livy hopes that Viola’s days are numbered. But when tensions arise both at home and at school, Viola rears her head stronger than ever. Only when Livy learns how to ask for help and face her anxiety does she finally figure out living with Viola.

Rosena Fung draws on her own early experiences with anxiety and the pressures of growing up as the child of Chinese immigrant parents to craft a charming, deeply personal story that combines the poignancy of Raina Telgemeier’s Guts with the wacky humor of Lumberjanes. Exuberant, colorful art brings Livy’s rich imaginative world–filled with everything from sentient dumplings to flying unicorns–to life on the page.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: anxiety, Chinese Canadians, immigrants, middle school, new kid at school, self-doubt, imaginary evil twin
  • Protagonist description: middle school girl, Chinese Canadian

*Stuntboy, In the Meantime by Jason Reynolds (Author) and Raúl the Third (Illustrator)

Portico Reeves’s superpower is making sure all the other superheroes–like his parents and two best friends–stay super. And safe. Super safe. And he does this all in secret. No one in his civilian life knows he’s actually…Stuntboy!

But his regular Portico identity is pretty cool, too. He lives in the biggest house on the block, maybe in the whole city, which basically makes it a castle. His mom calls where they live an apartment building. But a building with fifty doors just in the hallways is definitely a castle. And behind those fifty doors live a bunch of different people who Stuntboy saves all the time. In fact, he’s the only reason the cat, New Name Every Day, has nine lives.

All this is swell except for Portico’s other secret, his not-so-super secret. His parents are fighting all the time. They’re trying to hide it by repeatedly telling Portico to go check on a neighbor “in the meantime.” But Portico knows “meantime” means his parents are heading into the Mean Time which means they’re about to get into it, and well, Portico’s superhero responsibility is to save them, too—as soon as he figures out how.

Only, all these secrets give Portico the worry wiggles, the frets, which his mom calls anxiety. Plus, like all superheroes, Portico has an arch-nemesis who is determined to prove that there is nothing super about Portico at all.

THREE starred reviews! This is a must-buy for all elementary and middle school libraries.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, adventure, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-7
  • Themes: superheroes, family, secret identities, imagination, parents fighting, anxiety, bullying
  • Protagonist description: young Black boy; most characters are Black

Yummy: A History of Desserts by Victoria Grace Elliott

Have you ever wondered who first thought to freeze cream? Or when people began making sweet pastry shells to encase fruity fillings? Food sprite Peri is excited to show you the delicious history of sweets while taking you around the world and back!

The team-up that made ice cream cones!

The mistake that made brownies!

Learn about and taste the true stories behind everyone’s favorite treats, paired with fun and easy recipes to try at home. After all, sweets—and their stories—are always better when they’re shared!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: desserts, baking, cooking
  • Protagonist description: narrator is a small, green-haired, brown-skinned “food sprite”

Spell Sweeper by Lee Edward Fodi

Cara Moone is a wizard, but she’s basically flunked out of wizard school. Now she’s in training to be a MOP, also known as Magical Occurrence Purger, also known as it’s Cara’s job to sweep up the hazardous dust a real wizard’s spells leave behind.

A real wizard, that is, like Harlee Wu, the so-called Chosen One destined to save the magical world. But when one of Harlee’s spells goes awry and leaves behind a rift in the fabric of magic itself, it’ll take more than magic to clean up the mess.

Luckily, messes are kind of Cara’s thing.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: wizards, magic, schools
  • Protagonist description: girl, 7th grade, age 13, white, Irish

A Sky-Blue Bench by Bahram Rahman (Author) and Peggy Collins (Illustrator)

It’s Afghani schoolgirl Aria’s first day back at school since her accident. She’s excited, but she’s also worried about sitting on the hard floor all day with her new prosthetic “helper-leg.”

Just as Aria feared, sitting on the floor is so uncomfortable that she can’t think about learning at all. She knows that before the war changed many things in Afghanistan, schools like hers had benches for students to sit at. If she had a bench, her leg would not hurt so much. The answer is obvious: she will gather materials, talk to Kaka Najar, the carpenter in the old city, and learn to build a bench for herself.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: Afghanistan, prosthetic limbs, war, carpentry, accommodations for disabled people, resourcefulness, overcoming adversity
  • Protagonist description: Afghan girl with a prosthetic leg

*Fox: A Circle of Life Story by Isabel Thomas (Author) and Daniel Egnéus (Illustrator)

In the frost-covered forest of early spring, fox is on a mission to find food for her three cubs. As they grow, she teaches them how to survive in the wild. Until one day, fox dies. Her body goes back to earth and grass and air, nourishing the world around her and bringing the forest to life. Death is not just an end, it’s also a beginning.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: circle of life, death, decomposition, life cycle, foxes, animals, nature
  • Protagonist description: There is a human family (light skin, dark hair), but the main focus is on animals and nature.

Welcome to the Cypher by Khodi Dill (Author) and Awuradwoa Afful (Illustrator)

“Welcome to the cypher!
Now huddle up nice and snug.
You feel that circle around you?
Well, that’s a hip hop hug!”

Starting with beatboxes and fingersnaps, an exuberant narrator introduces kids in his community to the powerful possibilities of rap, from turning “a simple phrase/into imagery that soars” to proclaiming, “this is a voice that represents me!” As Khodi Dill’s rhymes heat up, the diverse crew of kids—illustrated in Awuradwoa Afful’s bold, energetic style—gain self-confidence and a sense of freedom in this wonderful picture book debut that is perfect for reading aloud.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: music, beat, rhythm, rhyme, beatboxing, rap, poetry, hip-hop
  • Protagonist description: narrator is older, white-haired, Black man; features a variety of people with range of skin tones

The Cat and the Rat and the Hat by Em Lynas (Author) and Matt Hunt (Illustrator)

A raucous, rhyming tale that will have children (and adults) in fits of laughter! Cat is sitting on his mat when Rat arrives wearing a very nice hat. Cat wants Rat’s hat and will stop at nothing to get it.

But when Bat appears wearing a fancy cravat, well, what could be better than that? Chaos ensues as both Cat and Rat decide they must have Bat’s fancy cravat for themselves! This hilarious picture book is bursting with comic capers, slapstick antics, tongue-twisting text, and vibrant neon artwork.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: rhyming books, cats, rats, bats, hats, tongue-twisters, read-alouds
  • Protagonist description: cat, rat, and bat

I’m Trying to Love Garbage by Bethany Barton

Do you ever wonder where we put all of our garbage, who gets rid of it, or how our planet isn’t a big pile of mess?

I’m Trying to Love Garbage has all the answers! From scavengers to detritivore to decomposers, nature’s garbage collectors are everywhere. But humans play an important role too, and our favorite narrator is back to tell us all about it.

Other books in this series: Give Bees a Chance and I’m Trying to Love Spiders, both by Bethany Barton.

  • Genre(s): picture book, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: garbage, sustainability, Earth Day, conservation, decomposers, recycling, where does trash go

The Three Water Drop Brothers by Eun-hee Lee (Author), Yoon Mi-sook (Illustrator), and Asuka Minamoto (Translator)

A long, long time ago, when the earth was extremely hot, a huge amount of vapor was released, creating clouds.

As the clouds got bigger and heavier, it started to rain. Three of those raindrops were brothers who came down to cool the hot earth and traveled, as water does, to every corner of the earth, including apartment building pipes and muddy rivers.

Written by a scientist, this is a great book for all curious children and budding young explorers.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: water cycle, clouds, brothers, rain, weather
  • Protagonist description: the “brothers” are three drops of water




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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