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 Book Releases March 2022 — Week 1

I think authors did a lot of writing in the past couple of pandemic years! The New Release Spotlights have been extra-huge nearly every week of 2022 so far, and that trend continues for this first Spotlight of March. We have multiple major authors on the list, including Sabaa Tahir, Traci Chee, V.E. Schwab, Dhonielle Clayton, Dan Santat, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Kelly Yang, and Stuart Gibbs.

With 21 of the 26 titles on this Spotlight, YA and middle grade books together look strongest this week.

You can also find excerpts of All My Rage (Tahir) and The Rumor Game (Clayton), both YA, in the summer 2022 edition of Buzz Books, which is free on Amazon Kindle and NetGalley right now. I’ve read both excerpts, and both sucked me in right from the start.

This week’s top picks:

  • All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir (YA)
  • New From Here by Kelly Yang (MG)
  • The Book That Did Not Want to Be Read by David Sundin (picture book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2340-#2366 on The Ginormous book list.


*All My Rage: A Novel by Sabaa Tahir

Lahore, Pakistan. Then.
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Clouds’ Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.

Juniper, California. Now.
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding.

Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him–and Juniper–forever.

When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth–and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Pakistan, arranged marriage, family businesses, California, immigrants, fight with best friend, teens with jobs, motel business, abuse, flashbacks, family history, alcoholic parent, chronically ill parent, debt, racism
  • Protagonist description: chapters alternate between two Pakistani-Americans, one male and one female, both age 18 and high school seniors

*Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for Girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal–which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home; it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile, or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.

Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant–but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.

Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): supernatural, mystery, horror
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: private boarding schools, journals, cousins, ghouls, family secrets, orphans, muteness, sign language
  • Protagonist description: female, age 14, white, mute

*A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee

In the realm of Awara, where gods, monsters, and humans exist side by side, Miuko is an ordinary girl resigned to a safe, if uneventful, existence as an innkeeper’s daughter.

But when Miuko is cursed and begins to transform into a demon with a deadly touch, she embarks on a quest to reverse the curse and return to her normal life. Aided by a thieving magpie spirit and continuously thwarted by a demon prince, Miuko must outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods if she wants to make it home again.

With her transformation comes power and freedom she never even dreamed of, and she’ll have to decide if saving her soul is worth trying to cram herself back into an ordinary life that no longer fits her…and perhaps never did.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): mythology, dark fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: demons, curses, spirits, princes, magpie spirits, tricksters, gods, desire to live a “normal” life, quests, Japanese mythology, sexism, oppression, patriarchal society, magic
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, Japanese

Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson

In the face of overwhelming grief and bullying, tech-savvy Lydia pours all of herself into creating the perfect AI, the perfect boyfriend-but will Henry turn out to be perfect, or a creation of her cruelest self?

Lydia has been creating her AI, Henry, for years–since before her little brother died in the accident that haunts her nightmares; since before her Dad walked out, leaving her and her mom painfully alone, since before her best friend turned into her worst enemy. Now, Henry is strong, clever, loving, and scarily capable: Lydia’s built herself the perfect boyfriend in a hard drive filled with lines of code. But what is Henry really? And how far is he willing to go to be everything that Lydia desires?

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: bullying, grief, artificial intelligence, AI, technology, death of a sibling (younger brother), coding
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark. The scent of damp earth curls into her nose when she sings and moss creeps across the stage. It’s as if the woods of her childhood, shrouded in folklore and tall tales, are trying to reclaim her. But Emeline has no patience for silly superstitions.

When her grandfather disappears, leaving only a mysterious orb in his wake, the stories Emeline has always scoffed at suddenly seem less foolish. She enters the forest she has spent years trying to escape, only to have Hawthorne Fell, a handsome and brooding tithe collector, try to dissuade her from searching.

Refusing to be deterred, Emeline finds herself drawn to the court of the fabled Wood King himself. She makes a deal–her voice for her grandfather’s freedom. Little does she know, she’s stumbled into the middle of a curse much bigger than herself, one that threatens the existence of this eerie world she’s trapped in, along with the devastating boy who feels so familiar.

With the help of Hawthorne–an enemy turned reluctant ally who she grows closer to each day–Emeline sets out to not only save her grandfather’s life, but to right past wrongs, and in the process, discover her true voice.

BCCB starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, dark fairy tale
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: forests, folklore, superstition, magic, making deals with demons, curses, grandfathers, singers, dementia
  • Protagonist description: female, white, age 19

Ready When You Are by Gary Lonesborough

Debut author! Originally published in Australia as The Boy from the Mish.

This is a YA love story between two Aboriginal boys–one who doesn’t want to accept he’s gay, and the boy who comes to live in his house who makes him realize who he is.

It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town.

Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city–but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them. As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret–a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): romance, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: gay men, Christmas break, racism, family, secret relationships, coming out LGBTQIA+, Australia, juvenile detention, indigenous peoples
  • Protagonist description: male, Australian, Aboriginal, age 17

The Deep Blue Between by Ayesha Harruna Attah

Twin sisters Hassana and Husseina have always shared their lives.

But after a raid on their village in 1892, the twins are torn apart. Taken in different directions, far from their home in rural West Africa, each sister finds freedom and a new start. Hassana settles in in the city of Accra, where she throws herself into working for political and social change. Husseina travels to Salvador, Brazil, where she becomes immersed in faith, worshipping spirits that bridge the motherland and the new world. Separated by an ocean, they forge new families, ward off dangers, and begin to truly know themselves.

As the twins pursue their separate paths, they remain connected through their shared dreams. But will they ever manage to find each other again?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: twins, sisters, West Africa, Brazil, separation from family, Lagos, Nigeria, Accra , Ghana, slavery, colonialism, 1890s, 19th Century
  • Protagonist description: twin sisters, West African

The Rumor Game by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra

At Foxham Prep, a posh private school for the children of DC’s elite, a single rumor has the power to ruin a life.

Nobody knows that better than Bryn. She used to have it all–the perfect boyfriend, a bright future in politics, and even popularity thanks to her best friend, cheer captain Cora. Then one mistake sparked a scandal that burned it all to the ground.

Now it’s the start of a new school year and the spotlight has shifted: It’s geeky Georgie, newly hot after a summer makeover, whose name is on everyone’s lips. When a rumor ignites, Georgie rockets up the school’s social hierarchy, pitting her and Cora against each other. It grants her Foxham stardom…but it also makes her a target.

As the rumors grow and morph, blazing like wildfire through the school’s social media, all three girls’ lives begin to unravel. But one person close to the drama has the power to stop the gossip in its tracks. The question is–do they even want to?

  • Genre(s): thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: private boarding schools, Washington, DC, rumors, gossip, popularity, high school hierarchy, social media, social drama, privilege, scandal
  • Protagonist description: female, white, from a wealthy family, American; secondary characters are diverse

Turning by Joy L. Smith

Genie used to fouetté across the stage. Now the only thing she’s turning are the wheels to her wheelchair. Genie was the star pupil at her exclusive New York dance school, with a bright future and endless possibilities before her. Now that the future she’s spent years building toward has been snatched away, she can’t stand to be reminded of it–even if it means isolating herself from her best friends and her mother. The only wish this Genie has is to be left alone.

But then she meets Kyle, who also has a “used to be.” Kyle used to tumble and flip on a gymnastics mat, but a traumatic brain injury has sent him to the same physical therapist that Genie sees. With Kyle’s support, along with her best friend’s insistence that Genie’s time at the barre isn’t over yet, Genie starts to see a new path–one where she doesn’t have to be alone and she finally has the strength to heal from the past.

But healing also means confronting. Confronting the booze her mother, a recovering alcoholic, has been hiding under the kitchen sink; the ex-boyfriend who was there the night of the fall and won’t leave her alone; and Genie’s biggest, most terrifying secret: the fact that the accident may not have been so accidental after all.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: accidents, wheelchair-bound, depression, dancing, ballet, gymnasts, traumatic brain injury, physical therapy, healing, alcoholic parent (mother), family problems, abortion, discrimination
  • Protagonist description: female, Black, paraplegic; characters are diverse

The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta

Lost Dreamer Duology, Book 1.

Debut author! Indir is a Dreamer, descended from a long line of seers; able to see beyond reality, she carries the rare gift of Dreaming truth. But when the beloved king dies, his son has no respect for this time-honored tradition. King Alcan wants an opportunity to bring the Dreamers to a permanent end–an opportunity Indir will give him if he discovers the two secrets she is struggling to keep. As violent change shakes Indir’s world to its core, she is forced to make an impossible choice: fight for her home or fight to survive.

Saya is a seer, but not a Dreamer–she has never been formally trained. Her mother exploits her daughter’s gift, passing it off as her own as they travel from village to village, never staying in one place too long. Almost as if they’re running from something. Almost as if they’re being hunted. When Saya loses the necklace she’s worn since birth, she discovers that seeing isn’t her only gift–and begins to suspect that everything she knows about her life has been a carefully-constructed lie. As she comes to distrust the only family she’s ever known, Saya will do what she’s never done before, go where she’s never been, and risk it all in the search of answers.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, paranormal
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: seers, royalty, secrets, survival, special abilities, grifters, lies, distrust, clairvoyance, mothers and daughters, worldbuilding, ancient Mesoamerica
  • Protagonist description: female, Mesoamerican



The Grave Thief by Dee Hahn

Twelve-year-old Spade is a grave thief. With his father and brother, he digs up the recently deceased to steal jewels, the main form of trade in Wyndhail.

Digging graves works for Spade–alone in the graveyard at night, no one notices his limp or calls him names. He’s headed for a lifetime of theft when his father comes up with the audacious plan to rob a grave in the Wyndhail castle cemetery. Spade and his brother get caught in a royal trap, and Spade must find the master of the Woegon: a deadly creature that is stalking the castle by night.

Along the way, he meets Ember, the queen’s niece, and together they race to solve the mystery of the legendary Deepstones and their connection to the Woegon, the queen, a missing king and the mysterious pebble Spade finds in the Wyndhail cemetery.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: grave robbery, theft, graveyards, physical handicap, walking with a limp, royalty, cemeteries
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 12, white, likely European

The Aquanaut: A Graphic Novel by Dan Santat

Ever since her father was lost at sea, Sophia has been moping around Aqualand, the marine theme park her dad and uncle created. But Sophia’s world is turned upside down when an “aquanaut” breaks into the park’s research lab.

To her amazement, Sophia discovers that the aquanaut is not what it seems–inside lives a band of four goofy sea creatures! And when they all realize that Aqualand has evolved into something much darker than Sophia’s dad had envisioned, Sophia is determined to help the aquanaut crew free the park’s captive marine life before it’s too late.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): humor, graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: orphans, theme parks, break-ins, marine life, San Diego, California
  • Protagonist description: female, tween, white

Confessions of a Class Clown by Arianne Costner

Meet Jack Reynolds. Making people laugh is his life’s work. Jack’s wacky MyTube channel is really starting to take off. The only problem is, for the truly epic posts, he needs a collaborator. And, well, he doesn’t exactly have any friends. So Jack has to swallow his pride and join the new afterschool club, Speed Friendshipping. But who would make the best partner in comedy?

• Brielle, Miss Perfect candidate for student body president?
• Mario, whose mom won’t even let him have a smart phone?
• Or Tasha, the quiet, mysterious girl with a shaved head and a crocheted hat for every day of the week?

One of these kids could help catapult Jack to internet fame…or even become a true friend. But what will it cost him to go viral?

SLJ starred. Includes some black and white illustrations.

  • Genre(s): humor, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: comedians, online video, social media, making new friends, alternating viewpoints
  • Protagonist description: boy, 7th grade, white

The School for Whatnot by Margaret Peterson Haddix

No matter what anyone tells you, I’m real.

That’s what the note says that Max finds under his keyboard.

He knows that his best friend, Josie, wrote it. He’d know her handwriting anywhere. But why she wrote it–and what it means–remains a mystery.

Ever since they met in kindergarten, Max and Josie have been inseparable. Until the summer after fifth grade, when Josie disappears, leaving only a note, and whispering something about “whatnot rules.”

But why would Max ever think that Josie wasn’t real? And what are whatnots?

As Max sets to uncover what happened to Josie–and what she is or isn’t–little does he know that she’s fighting to find him again, too. But there are forces trying to keep Max and Josie from ever seeing each other again. Because Josie wasn’t supposed to be real.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): thriller, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: privilege, social class, wealth and poverty, androids, evil corporations, friendship, same birthday
  • Protagonist description: boy and girl, both age 11, both white

*Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by Julian Randall

Pilar Ramirez Duology, book 1. Twelve-year-old Pilar Violeta “Purp” Ramirez’s world is changing, and she doesn’t care for it one bit. Her Chicago neighborhood is gentrifying and her chores have doubled since her sister, Lorena, left for college. The only constant is Abuela and Mami’s code of silence around her cousin Natasha–who vanished in the Dominican Republic fifty years ago during the Trujillo dictatorship.

When Pilar hears that Lorena’s professor studies such disappearances, she hops on the next train to dig deeper into her family’s mystery. After snooping around the professor’s empty office, she discovers a folder with her cousin’s name on it…and gets sucked into the blank page within.

She lands on Zafa, an island swarming with coconut-shaped demons, butterfly shapeshifters, and a sinister magical prison where her cousin is being held captive. Pilar will have to go toe-to-toe with the fearsome Dominican boogeyman, El Cuco, if she has any hope of freeing Natasha and getting back home.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, mystery, thriller, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: family history, missing persons, Chicago, Dominican Republic, boogeyman, El Cuco, Caribbean folklore
  • Protagonist description: girl, age 12, Dominican American, rising 8th grader

*Honestly Elliott by Gillian McDunn

Elliott has been struggling since his closest friend moved away, and he’s not too sure where he fits into his own family, especially since his newly remarried dad and stepmom are expecting a baby. His grades aren’t too great, he’s always forgetting things, and he doesn’t really like sports. All together, the result is someone the complete opposite of his dad–a fact they’re both very aware of. Elliott’s only solace is cooking, where he can control the outcome, testing exciting recipes and watching his favorite cooking shows.

When he’s paired with the super smart and popular Maribel for a school-wide project, Elliott worries they won’t see eye to eye. But Maribel is also looking for a new way to show others her true self and this project could be the chance they’ve both been waiting for. Sometimes the least likely friends help you see a new side to things…and sometimes you have to make a few mistakes before you figure out what’s right.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: best friend moving away, stepfamilies, new baby in family, cooking, fathers and sons, ADHD, child in conflict with parent (father)
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 11, 6th grade, white, has ADHD

New from Here by Kelly Yang

When the coronavirus hits Hong Kong, ten-year-old Knox Wei-Evans’s mom makes the last-minute decision to move him and his siblings back to California, where they think they will be safe. Suddenly, Knox has two days to prepare for an international move–and for leaving his dad, who has to stay for work.

At his new school in California, Knox struggles with being the new kid. His classmates think that because he’s from Asia, he must have brought over the virus. At home, Mom just got fired and is panicking over the loss of health insurance, and Dad doesn’t even know when he’ll see them again, since the flights have been cancelled. And everyone struggles with Knox’s blurting-things-out problem.

As racism skyrockets during COVID-19, Knox tries to stand up to hate, while finding his place in his new country. Can you belong if you’re feared; can you protect if you’re new? And how do you keep a family together when you’re oceans apart? Sometimes when the world is spinning out of control, the best way to get through it is to embrace our own lovable uniqueness.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Hong Kong, COVID-19, California, moving internationally, discrimination, financial insecurity, oversharing, racism, family separation, ADHD, bullying, starting in a new school
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 10, biracial, Asian American, has ADHD

Over and Out by Jenni L. Walsh

Sophie has spent her entire life behind the Berlin Wall, guarded by land mines, towers, and attack dogs. A science lover, Sophie dreams of becoming an inventor… but that’s unlikely in East Berlin, where the Stasi, the secret police, are always watching.

Though she tries to avoid their notice, when her beloved neighbor is arrested, Sophie is called to her principal’s office. There, a young Stasi officer asks Sophie if she’ll spy on her neighbor after she is released. Sophie doesn’t want to agree, but in reality has no choice: The Stasi threaten to bring her mother, who has a disability from post-polio syndrome, to an institution if Sophie does not comply.

Sophie is backed into a corner, until she finds out, for the first time, that she has family on the other side of the Wall, in the West. This could be what she needs to attempt an escape with her mother to freedom–if she can invent her way out.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: 1970s, Berlin Wall, Cold War, European history, Germany, East Berlin, inventors, spying on neighbors, polio, escape, communism, fear
  • Protagonist description: girl, age 12, German, white

Drew Leclair Gets a Clue by Katryn Bury

Drew Leclair knows what it takes to be a great detective. She’s pored over the cases solved by her hero, criminal profiler Lita Miyamoto. She tracked down the graffiti artist at school, and even solved the mystery of her neighbor’s missing rabbit. But when her mother runs off to Hawaii with the school guidance counselor, Drew is shocked. How did she miss all of the clues?

Drew is determined to keep her family life a secret, even from her best friend. But when a cyberbully starts posting embarrassing rumors about other students at school, it’s only a matter of time before Drew’s secret is out.

Armed with her notebooks full of observations about her classmates, Drew knows what she has to do: profile all of the bullies in her grade to find the culprit. But being a detective is more complicated when the suspects can be your friends. Will Drew crack the case if it means losing the people she cares about most?

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: detectives, family problems, mother running off, secrets, cyberbullying, middle school, privacy, Nancy Drew
  • Protagonist description: girl, 7th grade, white

Once Upon a Tim by Stuart Gibbs (Author) and Stacy Curtis (Illustrator)

Once Upon a Tim, book 1. Tim is just a peasant, but he dreams big. He wants more out of life than to grow up to be a woodsman like his father. Unfortunately, the only route to success in the kingdom of Wyld is to be born a prince. Still, Tim is determined. He is brave and clever and always tries to do the right thing–even though he rarely gets the credit for it.

Then news spreads that Princess Grace of the neighboring kingdom has been abducted by the evil Stinx and Prince Ruprecht needs a legion of knights to join him on his quest to rescue her. Tim finally has the lucky break he’s been waiting for, the opportunity to change his station in life. And even though he doesn’t know how to ride a horse or wield anything more deadly than a water bucket, he’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure his dream becomes a reality.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: poverty, peasants, kingdoms, princesses, kidnapping
  • Protagonist description: boy, white

*Serengeti: Plains of Grass by Leslie Bulion (Author) and Becca Stadtlander (Illustrator)

Leslie Bulion, a virtuoso science poet, has created a portrait of the rainy season on East Africa’s southern Serengeti Plain, offering young readers a compelling look at an ecosystem in motion.

Using a series of interconnected verses inspired by an East African Swahili poem form–the utendi–Bulion’s cadences and rhythmic lines mimic the web of life in the Serengeti, following the great migration of wildebeest, zebras, and others into and then out of the vast short-grass plain.

Lush, evocative gouache illustrations by Becca Stadtlander showcase the grandeur of this immense and complex ecosystem and provide close-up details of its wildlife inhabitants. Scientific notes on each spread and comprehensive back matter material offer more specifics. This, paired with Bulion’s brilliant poetic form, make the book ideal for cross-curricular learning.

SLJ and School Library Connection starred.

  • Genre(s): poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Africa, Serengeti, nature, animals, Swahili



The Book That Did Not Want to Be Read by David Sundin

WARNING! Stop what you’re doing! Don’t you know that this book does not want to be read?

If you try, all sorts of unfortunate things will happen. It will turn into a steering wheel! Letters will go missing! The book will act up and squirm around and grow wings and try to fly away! It will even insert a bunny that has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

A persistent reader might see all kinds of strange and magical things, silly and secret things…But this book just does not want to be read, and it’s better to leave it alone…or is it?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: storytime, books, reading, imagination, illustrations and layout telling the story

How to Bake a Universe by Alec Carvlin (Author) and Brian Biggs (Illustrator)

To bake a universe, you’ll need a heaping pile of nothing. That’s right, not a single thing!

Just make sure you have enough…Alec Carvlin breaks down the Big Bang into the steps of a recipe, from the formation of quarks and atoms (preheat your oven to Absolute Hot) to the compression of gases into stars and planets (just set your timer for 180 million years).

Carvlin expertly balances mind-boggling facts with snappy storytelling, and Brian Biggs’s bold and contagiously cheerful illustrations bring the infinite down to the bite-sized. How to Bake a Universe is an accessible and playful authority on the formation of the universe and a heartfelt commentary on how to live in it.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, how-to
  • Recommended for: K-2
  • Themes: Big Bang Theory, formation of the universe, baking, creation, science, astronomy
  • Protagonist description: young girl, white, blonde hair

People Are Wild by Margaux Meganck

Wild creatures come in all shapes and sizes. They can be playful or loud or smelly or curious or cute–just like kids!

People Are Wild turns the tables and asks what animals think of us. We may not always see eye to eye, but the more we understand each other, the better we’re able to live in harmony.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: animals, different perspectives, animal rights, living in harmony with nature
  • Protagonist description: various animals and their babies

One Wish: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University by M. O. Yuksel (Author) and Mariam Quraishi (Illustrator)

Fatima al-Fihri loved to learn. She wanted to know everything, like how birds flew, why the sky was blue, and how flowers grew. But more than anything, she wanted a school for all, where anyone could study and become whatever they wanted, like teachers, scientists, and doctors.

As she grew older, Fatima carried her one wish inside her, through good times and bad. Fueled by her faith and her determination, she worked hard to make her one wish come true. For over a thousand years, Fatima’s one wish–her school–served students and scholars from around the globe, and it continues to do so today!

With lyrical text by M. O. Yuksel (author of In My Mosque) and stunning illustrations by Mariam Quraishi, this true-life portrait of an extraordinary Muslim woman shows the importance of never giving up on your dreams and how we all have the power to change the world for the better.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: Muslims, education rights for girls, schools, North Africa, Women’s History Month, Tunisia, Morocco, education advocates
  • Protagonist description: female, Muslim, African

*To the Front!: Clara Barton Braves the Battle of Antietam by Claudia Friddell (Author) and Christopher Cyr (Illustrator)

During the Civil War, Clara Barton–one of the first women to receive permission to serve on a battlefield–snuck her supply wagon to the head of a ten-mile wagon train to deliver provisions to the Antietam Battlefield. On the bloodiest day in American history, Clara and her team of helpers sprang into action as they nursed the wounded and dying, cooked meals for soldiers, and provided doctors with desperately needed medical supplies and lanterns so they could operate through the night.

Booklist and School Library Connection starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-4
  • Themes: Civil War, American Red Cross, Clara Barton, nursing, soldiers, medicine, courage, Frederick Douglass, women’s suffrage, sexism, women’s rights, Women’s History Month
  • Protagonist description: female, white






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.

See previous New Release Spotlights here.


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