HISTORY OF BOOK CENSORSHIP: This presentation is perfect for Banned Books Week or as an introduction to book burning in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The slides give a brief history of nine censorship and book banning incidents in world history.

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New Release Spotlight: January 4, 2022

Happy New Year! January is always a huge month for new book releases. It’s usually the second week of January before things really get going, but this week surprised me with its greatness! After a three-week break from New Release Spotlights for the holidays, it’s so nice to sink my teeth into a good one. Next week also promises to be juicy!

This week’s top picks:

  • The Kindred by Alechia Dow (YA)
  • Signs of Survival by Renee Hartman and Joshua M. Greene (MG)
  • Friends are Friends, Forever by Dane Liu (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2176-#2201 on The Ginormous book list.

African Town by Charles Waters and Irene Latham

In 1860, long after the United States outlawed the importation of enslaved laborers, 110 men, women and children from Benin and Nigeria were captured and brought to Mobile, Alabama aboard a ship called Clotilda.

Their journey includes the savage Middle Passage and being hidden in the swamplands along the Alabama River before being secretly parceled out to various plantations, where they made desperate attempts to maintain both their culture and also fit into the place of captivity to which they’d been delivered.

At the end of the Civil War, the survivors created a community for themselves they called African Town, which still exists to this day.

Told in 14 distinct voices, including that of the ship that brought them to the American shores and the founder of African Town, this powerfully affecting historical novel-in-verse recreates a pivotal moment in US and world history, the impacts of which we still feel today.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, free verse, poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: West African slave trade, 1860s, Middle Passage, Alabama, slavery, US history, US Civil War, alternating perspectives, 19th Century
  • Protagonist description: multiple African characters sold into slavery, most are Yoruba; a major voice is a Black female sold into slavery

The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

Debut author! The Ivory Key, book 1. This is a planned duology.

Vira, Ronak, Kaleb, and Riya may be siblings, but they’ve never been close or even liked each other that much. Torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken, only one thing can bring them back together: the search for the Ivory Key, a thing of legend that will lead the way to a new source of magic. Magic is Ashoka’s biggest export and the only thing standing between them and war with the neighboring kingdoms–as long as their enemies don’t find out that the magic mines are nearly depleted.

The siblings all have something to gain from finding the Ivory Key, and even more to lose if they don’t. For Vira, the Ivory Key is the only way to live up to the legacy of her mother, the beloved former maharani. Ronak plans to get out of his impending political marriage by selling the Ivory Key to the highest bidder. Kaleb has been falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani, and this is the only way to clear his name. And Riya needs to prove her loyalty to the Ravens, the group of rebels that wants to take control away from the maharani and give it to the people. With each sibling harboring secrets and conflicting agendas, figuring out a way to work together may be the most difficult task of all. And in a quest this dangerous, working together is the only way to survive.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: siblings, magic, keys, kingdoms, family problems, Indian culture, twins, false imprisonment
  • Protagonist description: 4 siblings, two male and two female; all are older teens (two are 17-year old twins)

Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker

Year: 2083. Location: London. Mission: Wake Romeo.

It’s the end of the world. Literally. Time travel is possible, but only forward. And only a handful of families choose to remain in the “now,” living off of the scraps left behind.

Among them are eighteen-year-old Juliet and the love of her life, Romeo. But things are far from rosy for Jules. Romeo lies in a coma and Jules is estranged from her friends and family, dealing with the very real fallout of their wild romance.

Then a mysterious time traveler, Ellis, impossibly arrives from the future with a mission that makes Juliet question everything she knows about life and love. Can Jules wake Romeo–and rewrite her future?

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, retelling
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: end of the world, apocalypse, time travel, Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, future world, comas, London, England
  • Protagonist description: Romeo and Juliet characters; Juliet is age 18; Romeo is in a coma

The Chosen One: A First-Generation Ivy League Odyssey by Echo Brown

There are many watchers and they are always white. That’s the first thing Echo notices as she settles into Dartmouth College. Despite graduating high school in Cleveland as valedictorian, Echo immediately struggles to keep up in demanding classes.

Dartmouth made many promises it couldn’t keep. The campus is not a rainbow-colored utopia where education lifts every voice. Nor is it a paradise of ideas, an incubator of inclusivity, or even an exciting dating scene. But it might be a portal to different dimensions of time and space–only accessible if Echo accepts her calling as a Chosen One and takes charge of her future by healing her past. This remarkable challenge demands vulnerability, humility, and the conviction to ask for help without sacrificing self-worth.

In mesmerizing personal narrative and magical realism, Echo Brown confronts mental illness, grief, racism, love, friendship, ambition, self-worth, and belonging as they steer the fates of first-generation college students on Dartmouth’s campus. The Chosen One is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that bravely unpacks the double-edged college transition—as both catalyst for old wounds and a fresh start.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: college students, universities, prejudice, racism, mental illness
  • Protagonist description: female, African American, age 19, first-year college student, American (Ohio), New Hampshire

When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord

Nothing will get in the way of Millie Price’s dream of becoming a Broadway star. Not her lovable but super introverted dad, who raised Millie alone since she was a baby. Not her drama club rival, Oliver, who is the very definition of Simmering Romantic Tension. And not her “Millie Moods,” the feelings of intense emotion that threaten to overwhelm. Millie needs an ally. And when an accidentally left-open browser brings Millie to her dad’s embarrassingly moody LiveJournal from 2003, Millie knows just what to do–find her mom.

But how can you find a new part of your life and expect it to fit into your old one without leaving any marks? And why is it that when you go looking for the past, it somehow keeps bringing you back to what you’ve had all along?

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: performance arts, Broadway, single fathers, drama club, absent mothers, family problems
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, white

In Every Generation by Kendare Blake

Frankie Rosenberg is passionate about the environment, a sophomore at New Sunnydale High School, and the daughter of the most powerful witch in Sunnydale history. Her mom, Willow, is slowly teaching her magic on the condition that she use it to better the world. But Frankie’s happily quiet life is upended when new girl Hailey shows up with news that the annual Slayer convention has been the target of an attack, and all the Slayers–including Buffy, Faith, and Hailey’s older sister Vi–might be dead. That means it’s time for this generation’s Slayer to be born.

But being the first ever Slayer-Witch means learning how to wield a stake while trying to control her budding powers. With the help of Hailey, a werewolf named Jake, and a hot but nerdy sage demon, Frankie must become the Slayer, prevent the Hellmouth from opening again, and find out what happened to her Aunt Buffy, before she’s next.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: witches, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, high school
  • Protagonist description: most characters are white

Echoes and Empires by Morgan Rhodes

Josslyn Drake knows only three things about magic: it’s rare, illegal, and always deadly.

So when she’s caught up in a robbery gone wrong at the Queen’s Gala and infected by a dangerous piece of magic–one that allows her to step into the memories of an infamously evil warlock–she finds herself living her worst nightmare. Joss needs the magic removed before it corrupts her soul and kills her. But in Ironport, the cost of doing magic is death, and seeking help might mean scheduling her own execution. There’s nobody she can trust.

Nobody, that is, except wanted criminal Jericho Nox, who offers her a deal: his help extracting the magic in exchange for the magic itself. And though she’s not thrilled to be working with a thief, especially one as infuriating (and infuriatingly handsome) as Jericho, Joss is desperate enough to accept.

But Jericho is nothing like Joss expects. The closer she grows to Jericho and the more she sees of the world outside her pampered life in the city, the more Joss begins to question the beliefs she’s always taken for granted—beliefs about right and wrong, about power and magic, and even about herself. In an empire built on lies, the truth may be her greatest weapon.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: magic, royalty, warlocks, good vs. evil, thieves
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life–apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.

Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.

Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal–and a love–that may decide the future of a galaxy.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, romance, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: space opera, royalty, assassinations, murder, false accusations, life on other planet, going into hiding, colonization, imperialism, fat-shaming, body positivity
  • Protagonist description: male and female, both 17, both have dark brown skin

Spin Me Right Round by David Valdes

All Luis Gonzalez wants is to go to prom with his boyfriend, something his “progressive” school still doesn’t allow. Not after what happened with Chaz Wilson. But that was ages ago, when Luis’s parents were in high school; it would never happen today, right? He’s determined to find a way to give his LGBTQ friends the respect they deserve (while also not risking his chance to be prom king, just saying…).

When a hit on the head knocks him back in time to 1985 and he meets the doomed young Chaz himself, Luis concocts a new plan–he’s going to give this guy his first real kiss. Though it turns out a conservative school in the ’80s isn’t the safest place to be a gay kid. Especially with homophobes running the campus, including Gordo (aka Luis’s estranged father). Luis is in over his head, trying not to make things worse–and hoping he makes it back to present day at all.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: LGBTQIA+, dating, Prom, time travel, 1980s, homophobia
  • Protagonist description: gay male, Cuban American, age 17; his boyfriend is Chinese American

One True Loves by Elise Bryant

Lenore Bennett has always been a force. A star artist and style icon at her high school, she’s a master in the subtle art of not giving a…well, you know what. But now that graduation is here, she’s a little less sure.

She’s heading to NYU in the fall with a scarlet U (for “undeclared”) written across her chest. Her parents always remind her that Black kids don’t have the luxury of figuring it out as they go–they have to be 110 percent prepared. But it’s a lot of pressure to be her ancestors’ wildest dreams when Lenore’s not even sure what her dreams are yet.

When her family embarks on a post-graduation Mediterranean cruise, her friend Tessa is sure Lenore’s in for a whirlwind romance. But Lenore knows that doesn’t happen to girls like her.

Then she meets Alex Lee. After their parents bond over the Cupid Shuffle, she ends up stuck with him for the remainder of the cruise. He’s a hopeless romantic and a golden boy with a ten-year plan. In short, he’s irritating as hell.

But as they get to know each other during the picturesque stops across Europe, Alex may be able to help Lenore find something else she’s been looking for, even if she doesn’t want to admit it to herself: love.

  • Genre(s): romance, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: transitional summer between high school and college, family pressure, cruises, LGBTQIA+, enemies to lovers, Europe
  • Protagonist description: female, African American, age 17, recent high school graduate; love interest is Black Korean male, also age 17

Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust by Renee Hartman and Joshua M. Greene

Meet Renee and Herta, two sisters who faced the unimaginable–together. This is their true story.

As Jews living in 1940s Czechoslovakia, Renee, Herta, and their parents were in immediate danger when the Holocaust came to their door. As the only hearing person in her family, Renee had to alert her parents and sister whenever the sound of Nazi boots approached their home so they could hide.

But soon their parents were tragically taken away, and the two sisters went on the run, desperate to find a safe place to hide. Eventually they, too, would be captured and taken to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Communicating in sign language and relying on each other for strength in the midst of illness, death, and starvation, Renee and Herta would have to fight to survive the darkest of times.

This gripping memoir, told in a vivid “oral history” format, is a testament to the power of sisterhood and love, and now more than ever a reminder of how important it is to honor the past, and keep telling our own stories.

  • Genre(s): memoir, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: sisters, world history, European history, Holocaust, WWII, Jews, Czechoslovakia, deafness, concentration camps, Bergen-Belsen, sign language, alternating voices
  • Protagonist description: chapters alternate between POV of two sisters, both Czech, both Jewish, one is deaf, ages 8 and 10

The Unforgettable Logan Foster by Shawn Peters

Logan Foster has pretty much given up on the idea of ever being adopted. It could have something to with his awkward manner, his photographic memory, or his affection for reciting curious facts, but whatever the cause, Logan and his “PP’s” (prospective parents) have never clicked.

Then everything changes when Gil and Margie arrive. Although they aren’t exactly perfect themselves–Gil has the punniest sense of humor and Margie’s cooking would have anyone running for the hills–they genuinely seem to care.

But it doesn’t take Logan long to notice some very odd things about them. They are out at all hours, they never seem to eat, and there’s a part of the house that is protected by some pretty elaborate security.

No matter what Logan could have imagined, nothing prepared him for the truth: His PP’s are actually superheroes, and they’re being hunted down by dastardly forces. Logan’s found himself caught in the middle in a massive battle and the very fate of the world may hang in the balance. Will Logan be able to find a way to save the day and his new family?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: foster kids, adoption, superheroes, villains, family, eidetic memory, autism spectrum, neurodivergence
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 12, white, autistic with eidetic memory, foster child

Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America by Selene Castrovilla (Author), E. B. Lewis (Illustrator)

On the night Virginia secedes from the Union, three enslaved men approach Fortress Monroe. Knowing that Virginia’s secession meant they would be separated from their families and sent farther south to work for the Confederacy, the men decided to plead for sanctuary. And they were in luck.

The fort’s commander, Benjamin Butler, retained them–and many more that followed–by calling them “contraband of war.” Butler depended on the contrabands to provide information about the Confederates. He found the perfect partner in George Scott, one of the contrabands, whose heroism saved the fort from enemy hands. And, it was the plight of the contrabands that convinced President Lincoln that slavery MUST be abolished and inspired him to write his Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery in the rebellious states.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, history
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: US history, slavery, Virginia history, sanctuary, courage, heroes, Abraham Lincoln, abolition, Emancipation Proclamation
  • Protagonist description: various real-life former slaves and military personnel during the US Civil War

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round: My Story of the Making of Martin Luther King Day by Kathlyn J. Kirkwood (Author) and Steffi Walthall (Illustrator)

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round is a deeply moving middle grade memoir about what it means to be an everyday activist and foot solider for racial justice, as Kathlyn recounts how, drawn to activism from childhood, she went from attending protests as a teenager to fighting for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday to become a national holiday as an adult. A blueprint for kids starting down their own paths to civic awareness, it shows life beyond protests and details the sustained time, passion, and energy it takes to turn an idea into a law.

Deftly weaving together monumental historical events with a heartfelt coming-of-age story and in-depth information on law making, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round is the perfect engaging example of how history can help inform the present.

School Library Connection starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, memoir, free verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Martin Luther King, Jr., national holidays, racism, justice, US history, March on Washington
  • Protagonist description: African American female

Tiger Honor by Yoon Lee

Companion to: Dragon Pearl.

Sebin, a young tiger spirit from the Juhwang Clan, wants nothing more than to join the Thousand World Space Forces and, like their Uncle Hwan, captain a battle cruiser someday. But when Sebin’s acceptance letter finally arrives, it’s accompanied by the shocking news that Hwan has been declared a traitor. Apparently the captain abandoned his duty to steal a magical artifact, the Dragon Pearl, and his whereabouts are still unknown. Sebin hopes to help clear their hero’s name and restore honor to the clan.

Nothing goes according to plan, however. As soon as Sebin arrives for orientation, they are met by a special investigator named Yi and Yi’s assistant, a girl named Min. Yi informs Sebin that they must immediately report to the ship Haetae and await further instructions. Sebin finds this highly unusual, but soon all protocol is forgotten when there’s an explosion on the ship, the crew is knocked out, and the communication system goes down. It’s up to Sebin, three other cadets, and Yi and Min to determine who is sabotaging the battle cruiser. When Sebin is suddenly accused of collaborating with the enemy, the cadet realizes that Min is the most dangerous foe of all…

  • Genre(s): fantasy, science fiction, mythology
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Korean mythology, space opera, space travel, honor, family loyalty, traitors, stolen artifacts, tigers, shapeshifters
  • Protagonist description: non-binary 13-year old, presumably Korean, shapeshifter (tiger/human)

Operation Sisterhood by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Bo and her mom always had their own rhythm. But ever since they moved to Harlem, Bo’s world has fallen out of sync. She and Mum are now living with Mum’s boyfriend Bill, his daughter Sunday, the twins, Lili and Lee, the twins’ parents…along with a dog, two cats, a bearded dragon, a turtle, and chickens. All in one brownstone! With so many people squished together, Bo isn’t so sure there is room for her.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: stepfamilies, crowded housing, party planning, baking, Harlem, New York, positive stories about blended families
  • Protagonist description: most characters are African American; main character is female, age 11

Hansel and Greta by Jeanette Winterson

Greta lives with her brother Hansel on the edge of a great forest–a forest in danger of destruction.

GreedyGuts, their aunt, doesn’t appreciate Hansel and Greta’s plans to replant trees and save the forest. In fact, she thinks they’re horrible little vegetarians.

GreedyGuts doesn’t give two hoots about nature. She favors luxury and living it up: eating, shopping and partying hard. And so she hatches a plan to get rid of the meddling, do-gooder kids…deep in the wood.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book for older readers, retelling, folklore
  • Recommended for: Grades 6-9
  • Themes: environmental protection, sustainability, Hansel and Gretel, Greta Thunberg, climate change, unsustainable consumption, deforestation, Earth Day
  • Protagonist description: characters are black silhouettes, Greta has braids and is named for teen climate activist Greta Thunberg

Hide and Geek by T. P. Jagger

Hide and Geek, book 1. Debut author!

The GEEKs:
Gina, Edgar, Elena, and Kevin have been best friends for as long as they can remember. So when their arch-nemesis points out that their initials make them literally GEEKs, they decide to go with it.

The problem:
The GEEKs’ hometown of Elmwood was once the headquarters of the famous toymaker Maxine Van Houten. Her popular puzzle sphere, the Bamboozler, put the town on the map. But Maxine passed away long ago. Now the toy factory is shutting down, and Elena’s mom and Kevin’s dad are losing their jobs. They might have to move–and that would mean splitting up the GEEKs!

The quest:
Maxine left one final puzzle, a treasure hunt that could save the town and keep the friends together. But only those who know and love Elmwood best will be able to solve it. GEEKs to the rescue!

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: best friends, puzzles, toys, parental job loss, treasure hunts, New Hampshire
  • Protagonist description: four friends–all 6th graders, 2 are white, one is black, one is Latinx

The Girl in the Lake by India Hill Brown

Celeste knows she should be excited to spend two weeks at her grandparents’ lake house with her brother, Owen, and their cousins Capri and Daisy, but she’s not.

Bugs, bad cell reception, and the dark waters of the lake…no thanks. On top of that, she just failed her swim test and hates being in the water–it’s terrifying. But her grandparents are strong believers in their family knowing how to swim, especially having grown up during a time of segregation at public pools.

And soon strange things start happening–the sound of footsteps overhead late at night. A flickering light in the attic window. And Celeste’s cousins start accusing her of pranking them when she’s been no where near them!

Things at the old house only get spookier until one evening when Celeste looks in the steamy mirror after a shower and sees her face, but twisted, different…Who is the girl in the mirror? And what does she want?

That cover! Really, just show this book to your horror-loving upper-elementary and middle schoolers. Sold!

  • Genre(s): horror, scary stories, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: ghosts, grandparents, cousins, swimming, fear, racial segregation, false accusations, lakes, US history, civil rights
  • Protagonist description: female, African American, middle school age

A is for Oboe: The Orchestra’s Alphabet by Lera Auerbach (Author), Marilyn Nelson (Author), and Paul Hoppe (Illustrator)

Two widely acclaimed poets–one a composer and classical pianist as well–have come together to create this extraordinary portrait of the orchestra in all of its richness and fascination, using the structure of the alphabet in a way that’s entirely new and delightful. A is for the first note you hear as you take your seat in the concert hall, played by the headstrong oboe. B is for the bassoon, “the orchestra’s jester, complaining impatiently through his nose.” And C is for the conductor, “like the captain on the bridge of a great ship, navigating the composer’s musical charts.”

Onward the text goes, soaring in reverie and making thought-provoking observations while not taking itself too seriously–illuminating all the various details that flow together to create the nourishing experience of playing or listening to music.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): poetry, alphabet book
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-4
  • Themes: music, orchestra, performance arts
  • Protagonist description: multiple diverse musicians and conductors depicted throughout

*The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson (Author) and Rafael López (Illustrator)

On a dreary, stuck-inside kind of day, a brother and sister heed their grandmother’s advice: “Use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours. Lift your arms, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. Somebody somewhere at some point was just as bored you are now.”

And before they know it, their imaginations lift them up and out of their boredom. Then, on a day full of quarrels, it’s time for a trip outside their minds again, and they are able to leave their anger behind. This precious skill, their grandmother tells them, harkens back to the days long before they were born, when their ancestors showed the world the strength and resilience of their beautiful and brilliant minds.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: siblings, grandmothers, boredom, meditation, self-management, resilience
  • Protagonist description: two siblings, a boy and a girl, both Black

Jeff Goes Wild by Angie Rozelaar

Bursting with vibrant colors and adorable illustrations, this story follows one little cat named Jeff as he imagines himself as a ferocious tiger in the jungle where he can be free from the rules of indoors!

Escaping in his imagination to exercise his wild side, Jeff meets other animals in the jungle. With their help, Jeff learns to appreciate himself for who he is: not a tiger, but a little kitty who can be just as wild.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: cats, imagination, tigers, jungle, rules, being wild
  • Protagonist description: small, orange-striped house cat

*Where Wonder Grows by Xelena González (Author) and Adriana M. Garcia (Illustrator)

Grandma knows that there is wondrous knowledge to be found everywhere you can think to look. She takes her girls to their special garden, and asks them to look over their collection of rocks, crystals, seashells, and meteorites to see what marvels they have to show.

“They were here long before us and know so much more about our world than we ever will,” Grandma says. So they are called grandfathers. By taking a close look with an open mind, they see the strength of rocks shaped by volcanoes, the cleansing power of beautiful crystals, the oceans that housed their shells and shapes its environment, and the long journey meteorites took to find their way to them. Gathered together, Grandma and the girls let their surroundings spark their imaginations.

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: confidence, rocks, collections, grandmothers, inner strength, geology, imagination, gardens, nature
  • Protagonist description: grandmother and 3 granddaughters; all are indigenous Americans with brown skin

Friends Are Friends, Forever by Dane Liu (Author) and Lynn Scurfield (Illustrator)

On a snowy Lunar New Year’s Eve in Northeastern China, it’s Dandan’s last night with Yueyue. Tomorrow, she moves to America. The two best friends have a favorite wintertime tradition: crafting paper-cut snowflakes, freezing them outside, and hanging them as ornaments.

As they say goodbye, Yueyue presses red paper and a spool of thread into Dandan’s hands so that she can carry on their tradition. But in her new home, Dandan has no one to enjoy the gift with–until a friend comes along.

BCCB starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year, China, immigrating to the USA, paper snowflakes, paper cutting, making new friends, moving to a new country, based on a true story
  • Protagonist description: two girls, both Chinese

The Legend of Gravity: A Tall Basketball Tale by Charly Palmer

Have you ever heard of Gravity? No, not gravity, the centrifugal force pulling us to the Earth. I’m talking about Gravity–the greatest ball player to ever lace up a pair of sneakers.

Gravity is the new kid on the Hillside Projects basketball team, the Eagles. He once jumped so high that his teammates went out for ice cream before he came back down. With Gravity on their side, the Eagles feel unstoppable. They’re ready to win “The Best of the Best,” Milwaukee’s biggest and baddest pick-up basketball tournament. But when they face-off with the Flyers in the final round, the winningest team in the whole city, they realize that it may take a little more than Gravity to bring them to victory.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: basketball, African Americans, legends, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, competition, unsung heroes, sports, friendship, tall tales
  • Protagonist description: all characters are Black; narrated by an older girl about a younger male basketball player

Daddy Speaks Love by Leah Henderson (Author) and E. B. Lewis (Illustrator)

What does a daddy do? From day one, this daddy speaks love to his little one. And along with that love, his words and actions speak many other things, too: like truth, joy, comfort, and pride.

Like many dads, he answers a million questions and tries to make sure that days are full of fun adventures, giggles, and hugs. Dads are good at scaring away imaginary monsters, and honest about how to confront the real ones too. They set an example for the future, speaking out for equality and justice, while sharing lessons from the past.

But most of all, daddies encourage their young ones to fight for a better world, with the comfort of knowing their dads are right beside them. Daddy Speaks Love speaks to that everlasting bond between children and their fathers and is a perfect gift for special occasions including Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, baby showers, and more!

This book was inspired by the words of Gianna Floyd, the six-year old daughter of George Floyd.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: family, fathers, George Floyd, #BlackLivesMatter, #BLM, love
  • Protagonist description: varying skin tones and ethnicities throughout; all families in the pictures are heteronormative






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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