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New Books February 2022 — Week 4

I’ve got 17 new books for February 2022, Week 4! It’s a smaller list than we’ve been seeing for the past few weeks.

This week’s top picks:

  • Daughters of a Dead Empire by Carolyn Tara O’Neil (YA)
  • Map of Flames by Lisa McMann (MG)
  • Mardi Gras Almost Didn’t Come This Year by Kathy Z. Price (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2324-#2340 on The Ginormous book list.


Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

Don’t forget the rule. No one can know what you are. What we are. You must never tell anyone about monsters.

Joan has just learned the truth: her family are monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers.

And the cute boy at work isn’t just a boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to destroy her family.

To save herself and her family, Joan will have to do what she fears most: embrace her own monstrousness. Because in this story…she is not the hero.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): thriller, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: monsters, monster slayers, star-crossed lovers, family secrets, survival, time travel, 1990s, heroes, villains
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, biracial (white and Asian)

Daughters of a Dead Empire by Carolyn Tara O’Neil

Debut author! Russia, 1918: With the execution of Tsar Nicholas, the empire crumbles and Russia is on the edge of civil war–the poor are devouring the rich. Anna, a bourgeois girl, narrowly escaped the massacre of her entire family in Yekaterinburg.

Desperate to get away from the Bolsheviks, she offers a peasant girl a diamond to take her as far south as possible–not realizing that the girl is a communist herself. With her brother in desperate need of a doctor, Evgenia accepts Anna’s offer and suddenly finds herself on the wrong side of the war.

Anna is being hunted by the Bolsheviks, and now–regardless of her loyalties–Evgenia is too.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: Russia, 20th Century, 1910s, WWI, Tsar Nicholas, massacres, Bolshevik Revolution, Russian Revolution, communism, alternate history, Anastasia Romanov, social class, royalty, female friendship, alternating viewpoints
  • Protagonist description: two females, ages 16 and 17, both Russian, one is royalty and other is a peasant

Extasia by Claire Legrand

Her name is unimportant. All you must know is that today she will become one of the four saints of Haven. The elders will mark her and place the red hood on her head. With her sisters, she will stand against the evil power that lives beneath the black mountain–an evil which has already killed nine of her village’s men.

She will tell no one of the white-eyed beasts that follow her. Or the faceless gray women tall as houses. Or the girls she saw kissing in the elm grove.

Today she will be a saint of Haven. She will rid her family of her mother’s shame at last and save her people from destruction. She is not afraid. Are you?

At 496 pages, this is a whopper for many high school readers. Professional reviews are mixed, so librarians might want to have a look at them before ordering (see Titlewave for the reviews). Still, it’s Clare LeGrand, so I didn’t want to leave it off the Spotlight this week.

  • Genre(s): horror, fantasy, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: religion, Christianity, witchcraft, sisters, gender roles, feminism, post-apocalypse
  • Protagonist description: teen female, white

Full Flight by Ashley Schumacher

Everyone else in the tiny town of Enfield, Texas, calls fall football season, but for the forty-three members of the Fighting Bearcat Marching Band, it’s contest season. And for new saxophonist Anna James, it’s her first chance to prove herself as the great musician she’s trying hard to be.

When she’s assigned a duet with mellophone player Weston Ryan, the boy her small-minded town thinks of as nothing but trouble, she’s equal parts thrilled and intimidated. But as he helps her with the duet, and she sees the smile he seems to save just for her, she can’t help but feel like she’s helping him with something too.

When her strict parents find out she’s been secretly seeing him and keep them apart, Anna and Weston learn what it truly means to fight for something they love. With the marching contest nearing and the two falling hard for one another, the unthinkable happens, and Anna is left grappling for a way forward without Weston.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: football, Texas, marching band, dating, grief, alternating perspectives, musicians, divorce, small towns
  • Protagonist description: viewpoints alternate between white teen female and white teen male

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair.

In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village–and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon–may be the legendary true bride.

But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin–as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits–Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…

  • Genre(s): classic retelling, mythology, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: Korean mythology, brides, self-sacrifice, gods, sea, extreme weather, siblings
  • Protagonist description: female, Korean, age 16

League of Liars by Astrid Scholte

Ever since his mother was killed, seventeen-year-old Cayder Broduck has had one goal–to see illegal users of magic brought to justice.

People who carelessly use extradimensional magic for their own self-interest, without a care to the damage it does to society or those around them, deserve to be punished as far as Cayder is concerned. Because magic always has a price.

So when Cayder lands a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apprentice under a premier public defender, he takes it. If he can learn all the tricks of public defense, the better he’ll be able to dismantle defense arguments when he’s a prosecutor. Then he’ll finally be able to make sure justice is served.

But when he meets the three criminals he’s supposed to defend, it no longer seems so black and white. They’re teenagers, like him, and their stories are…complicated, like his. Vardean, the prison where Cayder’s new clients are incarcerated, also happens to be at the very heart of the horrible tear in the veil between their world and another dimension–where all magic comes from.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, mystery, thriller, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: magic, murder, apprenticeship, lawyers, justice, prison, siblings
  • Protagonist description: male, white; secondary characters are diverse

A Perfectionist’s Guide to Not Being Perfect by Bonnie Zucker

It’s hard for teens to be happy when they’ve created a very narrow window of what defines success. The goal of this helpful book is to encourage teens to maintain their desire to achieve without striving to always be perfect and to appreciate and love who they are just as they are, not for what they do or accomplish.

Finding a balance between work and play is key. Challenging perfectionism is about the pursuit of happiness.

When teens can recognize that perfectionism is a disadvantage, they can become motivated to do something about it. For many, it may just be shifting the perfectionism a bit to land in a more positive place. It might be about deciding when and where to be slightly perfectionistic, when and where they can let go of high standards and all-or-nothing thinking, and when it’s okay to simply do a “good enough” job on something.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: perfectionism, mental health, overachievers, self-help, psychology, anxiety, OCD, success, stress management, overpreparation

Wakers By Orson Scott Card

The Side Step Trilogy, book 1. Laz is a side-stepper: a teen with the incredible power to jump his consciousness to alternate versions of himself in parallel worlds. All his life, there was no mistake that a little side-stepping couldn’t fix.

Until Laz wakes up one day in a cloning facility on a seemingly abandoned Earth.

Laz finds himself surrounded by hundreds of other clones, all dead, and quickly realizes that he too must be a clone of his original self. Laz has no idea what happened to the world he remembers as vibrant and bustling only yesterday, and he struggles to survive in the barren wasteland he’s now trapped in. But the question that haunts him isn’t why was he created, but instead, who woke him up…and why?

There’s only a single bright spot in Laz’s new life: one other clone appears to still be alive, although she remains asleep. Deep down, Laz believes that this girl holds the key to the mysteries plaguing him, but if he wakes her up, she’ll be trapped in this hellscape with him.

Professional reviews for this title honestly aren’t the best. Goodreads reviews range from 3-5 stars right now, but there aren’t many reviews just yet. I included it here because it’s Orson Scott Card. Reading the reviews, I think it will appeal most to hardcore sci-fi fans.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, dystopia
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: parallel worlds, cloning, wasteland
  • Protagonist description: male, age 17

*Unseen Magic by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Aldermere is a town with its own set of rules: there’s a tea shop that vanishes if you try to force your way in, crows that must be fed or they’ll go through your trash, and a bridge that has a toll that no one knows the cost of. Some say that there may even be bigfoots wandering through the woods.

For Fin, Aldermere is her new home. But she’s worried that she’ll do something to mess it up–that she was the reason she and her mother have constantly moved from place to place for so long.

When an upcoming presentation at her school’s science fair gives her increasing anxiety, Fin turns to magic to ease her fears. The cost is a memory, but there are things from her past Fin doesn’t mind forgetting. This will be the last time she relies on magic anyway, she’s sure.

Except things don’t go exactly as planned. And instead of easing her anxiety, Fin accidentally unleashes an evil doppelganger. Suddenly Aldermere is overrun with unusual occurrences–and Fin is the only one who knows why. She will have to face her fears–literally–to stop it.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: moving frequently, magic, anxiety, secret pasts, doppelgangers, fear, memory, single mothers
  • Protagonist description: female, white

Map of Flames by Lisa McMann

The Forgotten Five, book 1. Fifteen years ago, eight supernatural criminals fled Estero City to make a new life in an isolated tropical hideout. Over time, seven of them disappeared without a trace, presumed captured or killed. And now, the remaining one has died.

Left behind to fend for themselves are the criminals’ five children, each with superpowers of their own: Birdie can communicate with animals. Brix has athletic abilities and can heal quickly. Tenner can swim like a fish and can see in the dark and hear from a distance. Seven’s skin camouflages to match whatever is around him. Cabot hasn’t shown signs of any unusual power–yet.

Then one day Birdie finds a map among her father’s things that leads to a secret stash. There is also a note:

Go to Estero, find your mother, and give her the map.

The five have lived their entire lives in isolation. What would it mean to follow the map to a strange world full of things they’ve only heard about, like cell phones, cars, and electricity? A world where, thanks to their parents, being supernatural is a crime?

  • Genre(s): adventure, supernatural, science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: superheroes, villains, special powers, treasure hunts, treasure maps, friendship, grief, missing persons
  • Protagonist description: some diversity among the five children

Aviva Vs the Dybbuk by Mari Lowe

Debut author! A long ago “accident.” An isolated girl named Aviva. A community that wants to help, but doesn’t know how. And a ghostly dybbuk, that no one but Aviva can see, causing mayhem and mischief that everyone blames on her.

That is the setting for this suspenseful novel of a girl who seems to have lost everything, including her best friend Kayla, and a mother who was once vibrant and popular, but who now can’t always get out of bed in the morning.

Tensions escalate in the Jewish community with incidents of vandalism and a swastika carved into new concrete poured near the synagogue. So does the tension grow between Aviva and Kayla and the girls at their school. And so do the actions of the dybbuk grow worse.

Could real harm be coming Aviva’s way? And is it somehow related to the “accident” that took her father years ago?

Horn Book starred.

  • Genre(s): magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Jewish folklore, anti-Semitism, hate crimes, ghosts, vandalism, swastikas, synagogues, Hebrew words, Yiddish words, parent with depression (mother)
  • Protagonist description: female, age 11, Jewish, 6th grade

Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi

Seventh grader Aafiyah loves playing tennis, reading Weird but True facts, and hanging out with her best friend, Zaina. However, Aafiyah has a bad habit that troubles her–she’s drawn to pretty things and can’t help but occasionally “borrow” them.

But when her father is falsely accused of a crime he hasn’t committed and gets taken in by authorities, Aafiyah knows she needs to do something to help. When she brainstorms a way to bring her father back, she turns to her Weird but True facts and devises the perfect plan.

But what if her plan means giving in to her bad habit, the one she’s been trying to stop? Aafiyah wants to reunite her family but finds that maybe her plan isn’t so perfect after all…

  • Genre(s): free verse, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: stealing, kleptomania, false accusations, family problems, arrest of a parent (father), Muslim Americans, Middle East
  • Protagonist description: female, 7th grade, Muslim American, age 13

Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey (Author) and Loveis Wise (Illustrator)

Meet an incredible woman who broke down barriers throughout her whole life and is now known as one of the most preeminent painters of the 20th century. Told from the point of view of young Alma Thomas, readers can follow along as she grows into her discovery of the life-changing power of art.

As a child in Georgia, Alma Thomas loved to spend time outside, soaking up the colors around her. And her parents filled their home with color and creativity despite the racial injustices they faced. After the family moved to Washington DC, Alma shared her passion for art by teaching children. When she was almost seventy years old, she focused on her own artwork, inspired by nature and space travel.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: artists, painters, 20th Century, prejudice, racism, Washington DC
  • Protagonist description: female, African American

I Am Mozart, Too: The Lost Genius of Maria Anna Mozart by Audrey Ades (Author) and Adelina Lirius (Illustrator)

I Am Mozart, Too is a picture book biography about Wolfgang’s older sister, Maria Anna Mozart, who was a child prodigy and a secret composer, perfect for Women’s History Month.

Nannerl and Wolfie love playing the harpsichord together. They are so talented, the Mozart siblings perform all over Europe for packed audiences in beautiful concert halls. Even Empress Maria Theresa requests that they stop in Vienna to play especially for her.

But then Nannerl does something naughty: She starts writing music of her own. Papa fumes. Girls are not allowed to compose! Girls belong behind the curtain.

While Wolfie’s solo career takes flight, Nannerl must settle for a life offstage. But it doesn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams in secret.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography, picture book for older readers
  • Recommended for: PreS=Grade 6
  • Themes: musicians, traditional gender roles, Mozart, Women’s History Month, siblings, pianists, performance arts, Austria, classical music, gender discrimination
  • Protagonist description: female, white, Austrian

*Mardi Gras Almost Didn’t Come This Year by Kathy Z. Price (Author) and Carl Joe Williams (Illustrator)

That zany beat in our feet is ‘cause of Pop-Pop, our pa. He sure loved himself some Mardi Gras! “It’s Mardi Gras weather!” he’d shout out whenever, blaring his horn, tilting it high. Mamma’d laugh ‘til she cried. Hands on hips, she’d sashay barefoot, fancy-dancy of the ball.

But Pop-Pop hasn’t played his horn, not since the storm.

This vibrant and moving story shows a family struggling to rebuild their home and their spirits following Hurricane Katrina. A young brother and sister aren’t sure how their displaced family can move on until one very special Mardi Gras gives them and their parents new hope and belief in a beautiful future.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: Mardi Gras, rhythm, hurricanes, PTSD, Hurricane Katrina, jazz, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Protagonist description: female, African American, preteen

A Pandemic Is Worldwide by Sarah L. Thomson (Author) and Taia Morley (Illustrator)

The current COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of kids across the world and has caused fear and confusion as people in charge have given conflicting orders. Read to discover the answers to some of your biggest questions, including:

What is a pandemic? How are they created and spread? Has anything like this ever happened before? What is a coronavirus? What can we do to stay safe and healthy?

While pandemics are rare, several have happened throughout the world’s history, such as the bubonic plague and smallpox, and our scientists have observed and learned some important lessons, such as the importance of vaccines.

This book shares important facts about past and current pandemics, taking readers from the origin of the word “quarantine” and through history’s many pandemics, to milestones such as the first vaccine that helped end smallpox. This book also comes with a handwashing diagram, a glossary, and a timeline of past pandemics and their impact on the world.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: pandemics, COVID-19, coronavirus, health, historical pandemics, vaccines, viruses, quarantine
  • Protagonist description: multiple children and adults, varying ages and skin tones

*That’s Betty!: The Story of Betty White by Gregory Bonsignore (Author) and Jennifer M. Potter (Illustrator)

Betty White is a legend and icon (but you already knew that).

In her eighty-year career, she starred on some of the most beloved shows of all time (like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, along with dozens more) and received multiple Emmy, American Comedy, and Screen Actors Guild Awards, as well as a Grammy and People’s Choice Award, not to mention a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

More than creating some of the most memorable roles in history, Betty helped to make the world a better and more equal place. Early in her career, at a time when women had little power in Hollywood, she starred in, directed, and produced her own shows, creating opportunities for other women and for people from marginalized groups. She campaigned to end bullying and has stood up for the LGBTQIA+ community. And she devoted much of her life advocating for the fair treatment of animals.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades PreS-6
  • Themes: Hollywood, icons, Betty White, actors, advocates, strong women, television
  • Protagonist description: boy of color writing a school report about Betty 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.


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