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New Release Spotlight: January 25, 2022

Now this is looking more like a January list! Last week’s list was weak for January, but we have some huge authors this week! Find new titles by Marieke Nijkamp, Marilyn Nelson, June Hur, Jo Knowles, Ibi Zoboi, Jen Bryant, Ella Schwartz, Lynn Plourde, and Ruth Behar. Wow!

My top picks:

  • The Red Palace by June Hur (YA)
  • The Ghoul of Windydown Vale by Jake Burt (MG)
  • Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2238-#2253 on The Ginormous book list.

*Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America by Candacy Taylor

Published from 1936 to 1966, the Green Book was hailed as the “black travel guide to America.” At that time, it was very dangerous and difficult for African-Americans to travel because black travelers couldn’t eat, sleep, or buy gas at most white-owned businesses.

The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses that were safe for black travelers. It was a resourceful and innovative solution to a horrific problem. It took courage to be listed in the Green Book, and Overground Railroad celebrates the stories of those who put their names in the book and stood up against segregation. It shows the history of the Green Book, how we arrived at our present historical moment, and how far we still have to go when it comes to race relations in America.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: civil rights, discrimination, racism, Green Book, traveling, US history, African Americans

*Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor’s Life by Marilyn Nelson

Augusta Savage was arguably the most influential American artist of the 1930s. A gifted sculptor, Savage was commissioned to create a portrait bust of W.E.B. Du Bois for the New York Public Library. She flourished during the Harlem Renaissance, and became a teacher to an entire generation of African American artists, including Jacob Lawrence, and would go on to be nationally recognized as one of the featured artists at the 1939 World’s Fair.

She was the first-ever recorded Black gallerist. After being denied an artists’ fellowship abroad on the basis of race, Augusta Savage worked to advance equal rights in the arts. And yet popular history has forgotten her name. Deftly written and brimming with photographs of Savage’s stunning sculpture, this is an important portrait of an exceptional artists who, despite the limitations she faced, was compelled to forge a life through art and creativity.

FOUR starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: African Americans, Harlem Renaissance, artists, sculptors, New York Public Library, racism, equality, prejudice
  • Protagonist description: African American female artist

*The Red Palace by June Hur

Joseon (Korea), 1758. There are few options available to illegitimate daughters in the capital city, but through hard work and study, eighteen-year-old Hyeon has earned a position as a palace nurse. All she wants is to keep her head down, do a good job, and perhaps finally win her estranged father’s approval.

But Hyeon is suddenly thrust into the dark and dangerous world of court politics when someone murders four women in a single night, and the prime suspect is Hyeon’s closest friend and mentor. Determined to prove her beloved teacher’s innocence, Hyeon launches her own secret investigation.

In her hunt for the truth, she encounters Eojin, a young police inspector also searching for the killer. When evidence begins to point to the Crown Prince himself as the murderer, Hyeon and Eojin must work together to search the darkest corners of the palace to uncover the deadly secrets behind the bloodshed.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: crime, detectives, Korea, 18th Century, nurses, murder, princes
  • Protagonist description: female, age 18, Korean

At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp

The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers who have been exiled there; the world barely acknowledges that they exist.

Then the guards at Hope start acting strange. And one day…they don’t show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There’s a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, and no one can leave their houses or travel without a permit. Which means that they’re stuck at Hope. And this time, no one is watching out for them at all.

As supplies quickly dwindle and a deadly plague tears through their ranks, the group has to decide whom among them they can trust and figure out how they can survive in a world that has never wanted them in the first place.

  • Genre(s): thriller, dystopia, survival
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: teen detention centers, viruses, teen prisons, abusive guards, pandemics, plagues, Arkansas, lockdowns, ableism, racism, transphobia, Covid-19, sign language, twins, Ozark Mountains
  • Protagonist description: three narrators, all white, one is nonbinary, one is neurodivergent; supporting characters are diverse

Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi

Acclaimed novelist Ibi Zoboi illuminates the young life of the visionary storyteller Octavia E. Butler in poems and prose.

Born into the Space Race, the Red Scare, and the dawning Civil Rights Movement, Butler experienced an American childhood that shaped her into the groundbreaking science-fiction storyteller whose novels continue to challenge and delight readers fifteen years after her death.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 5+
  • Themes: civil rights, American authors, African American women, mix of poetry and prose, Pasadena, California
  • Protagonist description: African American woman

The Ghoul of Windydown Vale by Jake Burt

Copper Inskeep holds Windydown Vale’s deepest and darkest secret: he is the ghoul that haunts the Vale, donning a gruesome costume to scare travelers and townsfolk away from the dangers of the surrounding swamps.

When a terrified girl claims she and her father were attacked by a creature–one that could not have been Copper–it threatens not just Copper’s secret, but the fate of all Windydown.

Local legends, masked monsters, blacksmiths, innkeepers, a creepy swamp, con artists…As a die-hard Scooby-Doo fan, I LOVE this description!

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: secrets, disguises, fear, monsters, ghouls, innkeepers, con artists, gothic, small towns, local legends
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 14, presumed white

Fossil Hunter: How Mary Anning Changed the Science of Prehistoric Life by Cheryl Blackford

Mary Anning grew up on the south coast of England in a region rich in fossils. As teenagers, she and her brother Joseph discovered England’s first complete ichthyosaur. Poor and uneducated, Anning would become one of the most celebrated paleontologists ever, though in her time she supported herself selling by fossils and received little formal recognition. Her findings helped shape scientific thinking about extinction and prehistoric life long before Darwin published his famous work on evolution.

With engaging text, photographs, and stunning paleoart, Fossil Hunter introduces this self-taught scientist, now recognized as one of the greatest fossilists the world has ever known.

  • Genre(s): biography, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: England, fossils, dinosaurs, paleontology, scientists, prehistoric life, self-taught, traditional gender roles, 18th Century
  • Protagonist description: female, white, British

“Nice” Jewish Girls by Julie Merberg (Author) and Georgia Rucker (Illustrator)

Probing the lives of historic icons like Anne Frank and Emma Goldman to contemporary heroines such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Janet Yellen the book also provides an overview of modern Jewish history. Subjects ranging from Anna Freud, the founder of psychoanalytic child psychology to fashion mogul Diane von Furstenberg to comedian Sarah Silverman offer a fascinating window into the ways Jewish women have approached their fields and embraced their identities.

The captivating stories of luminaries from the worlds of politics, literature, activism, the arts, business, science, and more show how these women—in many cases—overcame the obstacles of being both Jewish and female to make their unique mark, and how being Jewish impacted their journeys.

Profiles include: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anne Frank, Elena Kagan, Tiffany Haddish, Hedy Lemarr, Anna Freud, Emma Lazarus, Golda Meir, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Alice Garza, Judy Blume, and more.

  • Genre(s): collective biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: Jews, civil rights, social justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anne Frank, Elena Kagan, world history, Black Lives Matter
  • Protagonist description: multiple Jewish women, racially diverse

The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid by Matt Wallace

Max’s first year of middle school hasn’t been easy. Eighth-grade hotshot Johnny Pro torments Max constantly, for no other reason than Max is fat and an easy target. Max wishes he could fight back, but he doesn’t want to hurt Johnny…just make him feel the way Max feels.

In desperation, Max writes to the only person he thinks will understand: imprisoned supervillain Master Plan, a “gentleman of size.” To his surprise, Master Plan wants to help! He suggests a way for Max to get even with Johnny Pro, and change how the other kids at school see them both.

And it works! When Master Plan’s help pays off for Max in ways he couldn’t have imagined, he starts gaining confidence—enough to finally talk to Marina, the girl he likes in class who shares his passion for baking. With Master Plan in his corner, anything seems possible…but is there a price to pay for the supervillain’s help?

  • Genre(s): humor, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: middle school, overweight boys, bullying, villains, heroes, body positivity, personal ethics
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 11, fat, white

Sofía Acosta Makes a Scene by Emma Otheguy

It’s a good thing Sofía Acosta loves dreaming up costumes, because otherwise she’s a ballet disaster–unlike her parents, who danced under prima ballerina Alicia Alonso before immigrating to the suburbs of New York. Luckily, when the Acostas host their dancer friends from Cuba for a special performance with the American Ballet Theatre, Sofía learns there’s more than dance holding her family together. Between swapping stories about Cuba and sharing holiday celebrations, the Acostas have never been more of a team.

Then Sofía finds out about the dancers’ secret plans to defect to the United States, and makes a serious mistake–she confides in her best friend, only to discover that Tricia doesn’t want “outsiders” moving to their community. Now Sofía wonders what the other neighbors in her tight-knit suburban town really think of immigrant families like hers. Sofía doesn’t want to make a scene, but if she doesn’t speak up, how will she figure out if her family really belongs?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: ballet, New York, prejudice, racism, community, immigration, The Nutcracker
  • Protagonist description: girl, age 10, Cuban American

*Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Author) and Yas Imamura (Illustrator)

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Tama is sent to live in a War Relocation Center in the desert. All Japanese Americans from the West Coast–elderly people, children, babies–now live in prison camps like Minidoka. To be who she is has become a crime, it seems, and Tama doesn’t know when or if she will ever leave.

Trying not to think of the life she once had, she works in the camp’s tiny library, taking solace in pages bursting with color and light, love and fairness. And she isn’t the only one. George waits each morning by the door, his arms piled with books checked out the day before.

As their friendship grows, Tama wonders: Can anyone possibly read so much? Is she the reason George comes to the library every day?

Beautifully illustrated and complete with an afterword, back matter, and a photo of the real Tama and George–the author’s grandparents–Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s elegant love story for readers of all ages sheds light on a shameful chapter of American history.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book for older readers
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans, Japanese internment camps, unlawful imprisonment, civil rights, libraries, WWII, prejudice, racism
  • Protagonist description: female teen/young adult, Japanese American

Ear Worm! by Jo Knowles (Author) and Galia Bernstein (Illustrator)

One summer day, as Little Worm heads out to play, he discovers he has a song stuck in his head. “What’s that you’re singing?” Owl asks, but Little Worm can’t say. He wriggles past, determined to learn who filled his head with “Shimmy shimmy, no-sashay.” Owl flaps along with a song of his own, and before long Chipmunk, Bunny, and Fox fall in line, each contributing an ear worm to the joyful cacophony.

Amid all the singing and dancing, Little Worm forgets his musical mystery until later when–surprise!–Papa Worm tucks him in. Hip, vintage-inspired illustrations and whimsical typesetting meet movement, sound play, and comic, cumulative delights in a picture book that will charm media-savvy children and their parents alike.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: idioms, music, worms, repetition, forest animals
  • Protagonist description: small, round, pink worm tells the story; other characters are forest animals

Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight: Patsy Takemoto Mink and the Fight for Title IX by Jen Bryant (Author) and Toshiki Nakamura (Illustrator)

From a young age, Patsy Takemoto Mink learned that striving for goals came with challenges. But she also learned to never give up. As the Japanese proverb says: fall down seven times, stand up eight.

That spirit helped Patsy through school. She wanted to become a doctor, but at the time, medical schools didn’t admit women. So Patsy carved her own path. She went to law school, ran for a seat in the United States Congress, and helped create Title IX, the law that requires federally funded schools to treat boys and girls equally. Although many people tried to knock her down, Patsy–a historic trailblazer who spent her life fighting for fairness–always got up again!

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: Japanese Americans, traditional gender roles, lawyers, STEM, Title IX, US Congress
  • Protagonist description: Japanese American female

Her Name Was Mary Katharine: The Only Woman Whose Name Is on the Declaration of Independence by Ella Schwartz (Author) and Dow Phumiruk (Illustrator)

Born in 1738, Mary Katharine Goddard came of age in colonial Connecticut as the burgeoning nation prepared for the American Revolution.

As a businesswoman and a newspaper publisher, Goddard paved the way for influential Revolutionary media. Her remarkable accomplishments as a woman defied societal norms and set the stage for a free and open press. When the Continental Congress decreed that the Declaration of Independence be widely distributed, one person rose to the occasion and printed the document–boldly inserting her name at the bottom with a printing credit: Mary Katharine Goddard.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: 18th Century, colonial America, Connecticut, American Revolution, Declaration of Independence, traditional gender roles
  • Protagonist description: white female from colonial Connecticut

If You Were My Valentine by Lynn Plourde (Author) and Jennifer L. Meyer (Illustrator)

If you were my valentine,
I would jump, jump with joy!

Valentine’s Day is for cuddles, sweet treats, silly games, and spending time with the ones we hold dear. Join all kinds of animals and their valentines–from rabbits and puffins, to cougars and otters, to a bigger-than-big whale–in this cozy picture book celebration of love.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: Valentine’s Day, animals, friendship
  • Protagonist description: multiple baby animals–hummingbirds, puffin, whales, wolves, rabbits, elk

Tía Fortuna’s New Home: A Jewish Cuban Journey by Ruth Behar (Author) and Devon Holzwarth (Illustrator)

When Estrella’s Tía Fortuna has to say goodbye to her longtime Miami apartment building, The Seaway, to move to an assisted living community, Estrella spends the day with her. Tía explains the significance of her most important possessions from both her Cuban and Jewish culture, as they learn to say goodbye together and explore a new beginning for Tía.

A lyrical book about tradition, culture, and togetherness, Tía Fortuna’s New Home explores Tía and Estrella’s Sephardic Jewish and Cuban heritage. Through Tía’s journey, Estrella will learn that as long as you have your family, home is truly where the heart is.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: intergenerational friendships, Cuban immigrants, culture, traditions, moving, elderly people, Jews
  • Protagonist description: a young Cuban American girl and her elderly aunt







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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