This December Holidays Library Lesson covers winter holidays from all over the world! Features Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Pancha Ganapati, Boxing Day, and La Befana. Includes whole-group library lesson, scrolling slideshow, Recommended Reads, Scavenger Hunt activity, and lesson plan template.

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Library Challenge #1 tasks you with an annual review (or maybe your first review) of your library's Selection and Reconsideration Policies.

LIBRARY CHALLENGE #1 Are library book challenges scary? I think so! But they are much less scary when you have a strong plan. When you know exactly what to do

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This article is 10 essential tips for new school librarians. These are the 10 things you should do FIRST in your new school library.

You’ve landed a brand new school librarian job–congratulations! All summer, you’ve looked forward to standing in the middle of your very own library, taking a deep breath, and reveling in

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This is a collection of fun ideas for middle school library orientation. Even if you don't use the ideas, the videos are a lot of fun to watch!

Ahh, the first day of school! Call me crazy, but I’ve always loved it! I will see my first middle school library orientation classes this Wednesday. We have a book

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New Release Spotlight: May 17 and May 24

Well, I guess my Spotlight hiatus–if you can call it that–is ending! I’ve decided to go back to weekly New Release Spotlights starting May 31. It’s partly because I have gotten so many emails about how much you love the weekly Spotlight. Those were so important for me to hear! It’s a lot of work, and I truly had no idea the reach that these Spotlights have. A huge thank you to those who reached out!

It’s also because in doing bi-weekly Spotlights, I have to choose between the Spotlights being way too long, or the Spotlights not featuring all the titles I would normally feature each week. Bi-weekly Spotlights take me just as much time to put together as weekly ones anyway.

For today’s list, we’ve got a whopping 32 new book releases! And it’s still not every title I wanted to highlight. May is a huge month for new releases anyway, but since the pandemic started, pretty much every month has been loads of great titles.

My top picks:

  • See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon (YA)
  • Caprice by Coe Booth (MG)
  • Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas (MG)
  • My Life at the Bottom The Story of a Lonesome Axolotl by Linda Bondestam (picture book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2477-#2508 on The Ginormous book list.

*Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale

Seventeen-year-old, high-achieving Kavya Joshi has always been told she’s a little too ambitious, a little too mouthy, and overall just a little too much. In one word: besharam.

So, when her nemesis, Ian Jun, witnesses Kavya’s very public breakup with her loser boyfriend on the last day of junior year, she decides to lay low and spend the summer doing what she loves best–working part time playing princess roles for childrens’ birthday parties. But her plan is shot when she’s cast as Ariel instead of her beloved Belle, and learns that Ian will be her Prince Eric for the summer. [Cue the combative banter.]

Exhausted by Kavya and Ian’s years-long feud, their friends hatch a plan to end their rivalry by convincing them to participate in a series of challenges throughout the summer. Kavya is only too eager to finally be declared the winner. But as the competition heats up, so too does the romantic tension, until it escalates from a simmer to a full-on burn.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: outgoing females, breaking up, teens with jobs, competition, summer between junior and senior year, Disney princesses, family, Indiana, rivalry
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, Indian American; lost interest is male, Korean American

*The Days of Bluegrass Love by Edward van de Vendel (Author) and Emma Rault (Translator)

Tycho Zeling is drifting through his life. Everything in it–school, friends, girls, plans for the future–just kind of. happens. Like a movie he presses play on, but doesn’t direct.

So Tycho decides to break away from everything. He flies to America to spend his summer as a counselor at a summer camp, for international kids. It is there that Oliver walks in, another counselor, from Norway.

And it is there that Tycho feels his life stop, and begin again, finally, as his.

The Days of Bluegrass Love was originally published in the Netherlands in 1999. It was a groundbreaking book and has since become a beloved classic throughout Europe, but has never been translated into English. Here, for the first time, it is masterfully presented to American readers–a tender, intense, unforgettable story of first love.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: control over one’s own life, summer camp, teens with jobs, camp counselors, international characters, LGBTQIA+, homophobia
  • Protagonist description: male, age 18, Dutch; love interest is male, Norwegian

*Echoes of Grace by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

In Eagle Pass, Texas, Grace struggles to understand the echoes she inherited from her mother–visions which often distort her reality. One morning, as her sister, Mercy, rushes off to work, a disturbing echo takes hold of Grace, and within moments, tragedy strikes.

Attending community college for the first time, talking to the boy next door, and working toward her goals all help Grace recover, but her estrangement from Mercy takes a deep toll. And as Grace’s echoes bring ghosts and premonitions, they also bring memories of when Grace fled to Mexico to the house of her maternal grandmother–a woman who Grace had been told died long ago. Will piecing together the truth heal Grace and her sister, or will the echoes destroy everything that she holds dear?

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): paranormal, magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: Texas, poverty, powers, tragedy, sisters, ghosts, premonitions, grandmothers, family secrets, Mexican folklore, gothic literature
  • Protagonist description: sisters, ages 18 and 19, Mexican American

Only on the Weekends by Dean Atta

Fifteen-year-old Mack is a hopeless romantic–likely a hazard of growing up on film sets thanks to his father’s job. Mack has had a crush on Karim for as long as he can remember and he can’t believe it when gorgeous, popular Karim seems into him too.

But when Mack’s father takes on a new directing project in Scotland, Mack has to move away, and soon discovers how painful long-distance relationships can be. It’s awful to be so far away from Karim, and it’s made worse by the fact that Karim can be so hard to read.

Then Mack meets actor Finlay on set, and the world turns upside down again. Fin seems fearless–and his confidence could just be infectious.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): romance, free verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: moving internationally, Scotland, long-distance relationships, novel in verse, body image, gender identity, film industry, actors, love triangles
  • Protagonist description: male, age 15, Black, English but of Nigerian Yoruba descent, gay; one love interest is male, Black and British (Egyptian descent); second love interest is male, transmasculine (assigned as female at birth but identify as masculine), white, and Scottish

How To Live Without You by Sarah Everett

When her sister Rose disappeared, seventeen-year-old Emmy lost a part of herself. Everyone else seems convinced she ran away and will reappear when she’s ready, but Emmy isn’t so sure. That doesn’t make sense for the Rose she knew: effervescent, caring, and strong-willed. So Emmy returns to their Ohio hometown for a summer, determined to uncover clues that can lead her back to Rose once and for all.

But what Emmy finds is a string of secrets and lies that she never thought possible, casting the person she thought she knew best in a whole new light. Reeling with confusion, Emmy decides to step into Rose’s life. She reconnects with their childhood best friend and follows in Rose’s last known footsteps with heart-wrenching consequences.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: sisters, runaways, missing persons, Ohio, secrets, untreated mental illness, divorce, family problems, barriers to seeking mental health treatment, ADHD, cognitive behavioral therapy, depression, suicide
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, Black

*See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Barrett Bloom is hoping college will be a fresh start after a messy high school experience. But when school begins on September 21st, everything goes wrong. She’s humiliated by the know-it-all in her physics class, she botches her interview for the college paper, and at a party that night, she accidentally sets a frat on fire. She panics and flees, and when she realizes her roommate locked her out of their dorm, she falls asleep in the common room.

The next morning, Barrett’s perplexed to find herself back in her dorm room bed, no longer smelling of ashes and crushed dreams. It’s September 21st. Again. And after a confrontation with Miles, the guy from Physics 101, she learns she’s not alone–he’s been trapped for months.

When her attempts to fix her timeline fail, she agrees to work with Miles to find a way out. Soon they’re exploring the mysterious underbelly of the university and going on wild, romantic adventures. As they start falling for each other, they face the universe’s biggest unanswered question yet: what happens to their relationship if they finally make it to tomorrow?

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred. I’ve enjoyed a few YA books with this Groundhog Day type of theme, not to mention the popularity of Russian Doll on Netflix. I will most definitely be reading this one!

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: starting college, Groundhog Day, repeating the same day, bad days, time loops, University of Washington, sex-positive stories, secrets, stress
  • Protagonist description: female, Jewish, white, college freshman; male love interest is Japanese American and Jewish

*The Well by Jake Wyatt (Author) and Choo (Illustrator)

Li-Zhen’s life on the archipelago is simple. Known to friends and family as Lizzy, she takes care of her grandfather and their goats, she flirts with the woman who helps row the ferry, and she stays away from the fog that comes in the night–and the monsters hiding within it.

But Lizzy’s life comes apart when she steals a handful of coins from a sacred well to cover a debt. The well requires repayment, but it doesn’t deal in coins. It needs wishes, and its minions will drown Lizzy in its depths if she doesn’t grant them. Lizzy finds herself on a quest to uncover hidden memories, bestow great wealth, and face the magical secrets that nearly destroyed her family–and are now returning to threaten everything she has ever known.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: monsters, island life, theft, debts, wishes, danger, threats, family secrets, magic, wishing wells, fairy tales, quests, LGBTQIA+
  • Protagonist description: female, gay

Queer Ducks (And Other Animals) The Natural World of Animal Sexuality by Eliot Schrefer (Author) and Jules Zuckerberg (Illustrator)

A quiet revolution has been underway in recent years, with study after study revealing substantial same-sex sexual behavior in animals. Join celebrated author Eliot Schrefer on an exploration of queer behavior in the animal world–from albatrosses to bonobos to clownfish to doodlebugs.

In sharp and witty prose–aided by humorous comics from artist Jules Zuckerberg–Schrefer uses science, history, anthropology, and sociology to illustrate the diversity of sexual behavior in the animal world. Interviews with researchers in the field offer additional insights for readers and aspiring scientists.

Queer behavior in animals is as diverse and complex–and as natural–as it is in our own species. It doesn’t set us apart from animals–it bonds us even closer to our animal selves.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: animal behavior, sexuality, nature, wildlife, science, zoology, anthropology, sociology, LGBTQIA+

Two Truths and a Lie by April Henry

Nell has always wanted to be an actor, but doubts her ability. As a member of her school’s theater program, she prefers working backstage.

On the way to a contest, an unexpected blizzard strands her acting troupe in a creepy motel. Soon they meet a group of strangers from another high school–including the mysterious and handsome Knox, who insists they play the game Two Truths and a Lie. When it’s Nell’s turn, she draws a slip of paper inked in unfamiliar handwriting:

I like to watch people die.
I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve killed.

Suddenly a night of harmless fun turns into a matter of life and death. As guests go missing, it becomes clear that a murderer is hiding in their midst ready to strike again. In a room full of liars and performers, the truth is never quite what it seems. Nell is going to have to act like her life depends on it–because it does.

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: theater, actors, creepy motels, murder, deadly games, ruth, lies, blizzards, power outages, Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None, red herrings
  • Protagonist description: female, white

Practice Girl by Estelle Laure

Jo Beckett is looking for love. She’s fallen for a few boys, but for some reason, they’ve never fallen for her. One night, at a party she didn’t even want to go to, she finds out the truth. Those boys, who are on the wrestling team she manages, consider her just a “practice girl”–the popular term for girl who’s good enough to hook up with but not to date.

With this crushing revelation, Jo feels so many things–heartsick, ashamed, betrayed, and angry. But she refuses to let that label define her. In piecing her life back together, Jo is forced to unpack more uncomfortable truths about all her relationships–from her best friend to the boy she likes–that help her understand her real worth.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: dating, relationships, hooking up, labels, best friends, misogyny, death of parent (father), grief, wrestling team, stepfamilies
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white

Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho

Elena Soo has always felt overshadowed. Whether by her more successful older sisters, her more popular twin brother, or her more outgoing best friend, everyone except Elena seems to know exactly who they are and what they want. But she is certain about one thing–she has no interest in going to prom. While the rest of the school is giddy over corsages and dresses, Elena would rather spend her time working to save the local community center, the one place that’s always made her feel like she belonged.

So when international K-pop superstar Robbie Choi shows up at her house to ask her to prom, Elena is more confused than ever. Because the one person who always accepted Elena as she is? Her childhood best friend, Robbie Choi. And the one thing she maybe, possibly, secretly wants more than anything? For the two of them to keep the promise they made each other as kids: to go to prom together.

But that was seven years ago, and with this new K-pop persona, pink hair, and stylish clothes, Robbie is nothing like the sweet, goofy boy she remembers. The boy she shared all her secrets with. The boy she used to love.

Besides, prom with a guy who comes with hordes of screaming fans, online haters, and relentless paparazzi is the last thing Elena wants – even if she can’t stop thinking about Robbie’s smile…right?

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: Prom, K-Pop, celebrities, childhood best friends, siblings, feeling overshadowed, alternating perspectives, identity, Chicago, Illinois
  • Protagonist description: female, Korean American, age 17; male, Korean American, age 17

The Peach Rebellion by Wendelin Van Draanen

Set in 1947. Ginny Rose and Peggy were best friends at seven, picking peaches on hot summer days. Peggy’s family owned the farm, and Ginny Rose’s were pickers, escaping the Oklahoma dust storms. That didn’t matter to them then, but now, ten years, hard miles, and a world war later, Ginny Rose’s family is back in town and their differences feel somehow starker. Especially since Peggy’s new best friend, Lisette, is a wealthy banker’s daughter.

Still, there’s no denying what all three girls have in common: Families with great fissures that are about to break wide open. And a determination to not just accept things as they are anymore.

This summer they will each make a stand. It’s a season of secrets revealed. Of daring plans to heal old wounds. Of hearts won and hearts broken. A summer when everything changes because you’re seventeen, and it’s time to be bold. And because it’s easier to be brave with a true friend by your side.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Great Depression, Oklahoma, California, Dust Bowl, 1930s, 1940s, WWII, family problems, siblings, summer, friendship, migrant farming, class differences
  • Protagonist description: three teen females, all white, all Americans

Milo and Marcos at the End of the World by Kevin Christopher Snipes

Debut author! Milo Connolly has managed to survive most of high school without any major disasters, so by his calculations, he’s well past due for some sort of Epic Teenage Catastrophe. Even so, all he wants his senior year is to fly under the radar.

Everything is going exactly as planned until the dreamy and charismatic Marcos Price saunters back into his life after a three-year absence and turns his world upside down. Suddenly Milo is forced to confront the long-buried feelings that he’s kept hidden not only from himself but also from his deeply religious parents and community.

To make matters worse, strange things have been happening around his sleepy Florida town ever since Marcos’s return–sinkholes, blackouts, hailstorms. Mother Nature is out of control, and the closer Milo and Marcos get, the more disasters seem to befall them.

In fact, as more and more bizarre occurrences pile up, Milo and Marcos find themselves faced with the unthinkable: Is there a larger, unseen force at play, trying to keep them apart? And if so, is their love worth risking the end of the world?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: relationships, dating, Florida, climate change, natural disasters, Christianity, atheism, religious faith, divine intervention, being gay in a conservative family, homophobia, conflict of faith
  • Protagonist description: male, age 17, HS senior, gay, Christian; love interest is male, atheist, Cuban American

*Caprice by Coe Booth

This should be an exciting time for Caprice. She has been offered a place at the school of her dreams, where she’s just had a fantastic summer.

But this great opportunity coincides with a lot of internal doubt and the disturbing news that her long-estranged grandmother has fallen ill and may be near death.

As Caprice tries to figure out her future, she is pulled back toward her past, and the abuse she endured from her uncle when she was little–an abuse she’s never told anyone about.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred. I read Tyrell years ago, and loved it. I will definitely be reading this one, too.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: sexual abuse, incest, scholarship students, grandmothers, secrets, consent, trauma, misogyny, microaggressions, Newark, New Jersey, family problems
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, African American, rising 8th grader

*Answers in the Pages by David Levithan

When Donovan left his copy of The Adventurers on the kitchen counter, he didn’t think his mom would read it–much less have a problem with it. It’s just an adventure novel about two characters trying to stop an evil genius…right?

But soon the entire town is freaking out about whether the book’s main characters are gay, Donovan’s mom is trying to get the book removed from the school curriculum, and Donovan is caught in the middle.

Donovan doesn’t really know if the two boys fall in love at the end or not–but he does know this: even if they do, it shouldn’t matter. The book should not be banned from school.

Interweaving three connected storylines, David Levithan delivers a bold, fun, and timely story about taking action (whether it’s against book censors or deadly alligators…), being brave, and standing up for what’s right.

Publishers Weekly and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: book censorship, book challenges in schools, middle school, Virginia, alternating viewpoints
  • Protagonist description: male, 5th grade, white

Lines of Courage by Jennifer A. Nielsen

World War I stretches its cruel fingers across Europe, where five young people, each from different backgrounds and nations, face the terror of battle, the deprivations of hunger, and all the awful challenges of war.

Felix, from Austria-Hungary, longs for the bravery to resist Jewish deportations before his own family can be taken.

Kara, from Britain, dreams of someday earning her Red Cross pin and working as a nurse–or even a doctor.

Juliette, of France, hopes her family can remain knitted together, despite her father’s imprisonment, as the war’s longest battle stretches on and on.

Elsa, from Germany, hopes her homing pigeon might one day bring her a friend from out of the chaos.

And Dimitri, of Russia, wants only to survive the front, where he’s been sent with no weapon.

None of them will find exactly what they want. But the winds of fate may cross their paths to give each of them just what they need. And in this remarkable exploration of World War I by critically acclaimed author Jennifer A. Nielsen, they will discover that friendship and courage can light the way through the most frightening of nights.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: WWI, alternating perspectives, European history, world history, survival, assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Jews, Roma, war
  • Protagonist description: 5 protagonists each get their own voice; they range in age from 11-14 and grow up during the four years of the war and story; all are white; they are Russian, French, German, Austrian, and British.

Let the Monster Out by Chad Lucas

Bones Malone feels like he can’t do anything right in his new small town: He almost punched the son of the woman who babysits him and his brothers, he’s one of the only Black kids in Langille, and now his baseball team (the one place where he really feels like he shines) just lost their first game.

To make matters worse, things in town are getting weird. His mom isn’t acting like herself at all–she’s totally spaced out, almost like a zombie. And then he and his brothers have the same dream–one where they’re running from some of their deepest fears, like a bear and an eerie cracked mirror that Bones would rather soon forget.

Kyle Specks feels like he can never say the right thing at the right time. He thinks he might be neurodivergent, but he hasn’t gotten an official diagnosis yet. His parents worry that the world might be too hard for him and try to protect him, but Kyle knows they can’t do that forever. Even though he’s scared, he can’t just stand by and do nothing while things in this town get stranger and stranger, especially not after he and Bones find a mysterious scientist’s journal that might hold answers about what’s going on.

But when faced with seemingly impossible situations, a shady corporation, and their own worst nightmares, will Kyle and Bones be brave enough to admit they’re scared? Or will the fear totally consume and control them?

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: baseball, friendship, evil corporations, technology, neurodivergence, autism, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, Canadian, biracial (Black and white); male, age 13, white, Canadian, autistic; secondary characters are also diverse

*Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas

Bree can’t wait for her first day at her new middle school, Enith Brigitha, home to the Mighty Manatees–until she’s stuck with the only elective that fits her schedule, the dreaded Swim 101. The thought of swimming makes Bree more than a little queasy, yet she’s forced to dive headfirst into one of her greatest fears. Lucky for her, Etta, an elderly occupant of her apartment building and former swim team captain, is willing to help.

With Etta’s training and a lot of hard work, Bree suddenly finds her swim-crazed community counting on her to turn the school’s failing team around. But that’s easier said than done, especially when their rival, the prestigious Holyoke Prep, has everything they need to leave the Mighty Manatees in their wake.

Can Bree defy the odds and guide her team to a state championship, or have the Manatees swum their last lap–for good?

FOUR starred reviews! Buy multiples of this one–it will be a hit with Raina Telgemeier and Jerry Craft fans.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, sports
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: middle school, swimming, fear, anxiety, swim teams, competition, school rivalry, Florida, moving to a new school, single fathers, racism, Black culture
  • Protagonist description: female, middle schooler, Black, American

The Natural Genius of Ants by Betty Culley

Harvard is used to his father coming home from the hospital and telling him about all the babies he helped. But since he made the mistake at work, Dad has been quieter than usual. And now he is taking Harvard and his little brother, Roger, to Kettle Hole, Maine, for the summer. Harvard hopes this trip isn’t another mistake.

In the small town where he grew up, Dad seems more himself. Especially once the family decides to start an ant farm–just like Dad had as a kid! But when the mail-order ants are D.O.A., Harvard doesn’t want Dad to experience any more sadness. Luckily, his new friend Neveah has the brilliant idea to use the ants crawling around the kitchen instead. But these insects don’t come with directions. So the kids have a lot to learn–about the ants, each other, and how to forgive ourselves when things go wrong.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: medical mistakes, summer, summer projects, ant farms, forgiveness, brothers, Maine, feeling overwhelming guilt, friendship
  • Protagonist description: male, age 10, biracial (Dominican and white)

*The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza by Mac Barnett (Author) and Shawn Harris (Illustrator)

Something terrible is happening in the skies! Rats are eating the MOON!

There’s only ONE hero for the job, a bold and fearsome beast bioengineered in a secret lab to be the moon’s savior and Earth’s last hope! And that hero is…a cat. A cat who will be blasted into space!

Accompanied by the imperious Moon Queen and LOZ 4000, a toenail clipping robot, the First Cat in Space journeys across a fantastic lunar landscape in a quest to save the world. Will these unlikely heroes save the moon in time? Can a toenail-clipping robot find its purpose in the vast universe? And will the First Cat in Space ever eat some pizza?

Publishers Weekly and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, adventure, humor, graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-7
  • Themes: cats, outer space, robots, rats, quests, moon, space journeys, heroes, saving the world
  • Protagonist description: cat

*Duet by Elise Broach (Author) and Ziyue Chen (Illustrator)

Companion to Masterpiece. Welcome to the world of Mirabelle, a young goldfinch who loves to sing and dreams of becoming a musical star. She lives with her family in the backyard of a piano teacher, and she is quickly intrigued by Mr. Starek’s newest pupil. Michael Jin is an eleven-year-old keyboard sensation, but lesson after lesson, he refuses to play. With the prestigious Chopin Festival looming at summer’s end, how will he be ready in time? Mirabelle is responsible for Michael’s breakthrough—to her own astonishment, she sings the Chopin piece he is beginning to play at the piano. It is their first duet.

Thus begins a secret adventure that will take Mirabelle and Michael further than they ever imagined–in music, in friendship, and in solving the mystery of a lost piano that could be worth millions. A house full of treasures holds the clues. There, Mirabelle, Michael, and their friend Emily will make an important discovery that links the great composer Frederic Chopin, the trailblazing author George Sand, and the French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred. Includes black and white illustrations.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: birds, goldfinches, piano, music, Chopin, classical music, friendship, missing objects
  • Protagonist description: goldfinch; boy, age 11

The Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson

Twelve-year-old Olia knows a thing or two about secrets. Her parents are the caretakers of Castle Mila, a soaring palace with golden domes, lush gardens, and countless rooms. Literally countless rooms. There are rooms that appear and disappear, and rooms that have been hiding themselves for centuries. The only person who can access them is Olia. She has a special bond with the castle, and it seems to trust her with its secrets.

But then a violent storm rolls in…a storm that skips over the village and surrounds the castle, threatening to tear it apart. While taking cover in a rarely-used room, Olia stumbles down a secret passage that leads to a part of Castle Mila she’s never seen before. A strange network of rooms that hide the secret to the castle’s past…and the truth about who’s trying to destroy it.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: castles, special abilities, storms, secret passages, hidden past, magic, Slavic mythology
  • Protagonist description: female, age 13, white

Cookies & Milk by Shawn Amos

Debut author!Eleven-year-old Ellis Johnson has the summertime blues. He dreamed of spending the summer of 1976 hanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing his harmonica. Instead, he’ll be sleeping on a lumpy pullout in Dad’s sad little post-divorce bungalow and helping bring Dad’s latest far-fetched, sure-to-fail idea to life: opening the world’s first chocolate chip cookie store. They have six weeks to perfect their recipe, get a ramshackle A-frame on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard into tip-top shape, and bring in customers.

But of course, nothing is as easy as Dad makes it sound, even with Grandma along for the ride. Like she says, they have to GIT–get it together–and make things work. Along the way, Ellis discovers a family mystery he is determined to solve, the power of community, and new faith in himself.

Partially based on Shawn Amos’s own experiences growing up the son of Wally “Famous” Amos in a mostly white area, and packed with humor, heart, and fun illustrations, this debut novel sings with the joy of self-discovery, unconditional love, and belonging.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: 1970s, summer, divorced parents, grandmothers, fathers and sons, baking, chocolate chip cookies, sweets, family businesses, renovating a store, community, Hollywood, California, Famous Amos cookies
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 11, African American

*I’m Not Small by Nina Crews

Time to play outside! It’s easy for a young boy to feel small in a world that is made up of big, big things. But when he takes a closer look, he discovers that he is big, too. His dog is smaller than he is, and his cat is smaller than his dog. And the teeny-tiny ant crawling through the grass? Even smaller!

I’m Not Small will spark family and classroom conversations about the concepts of size and size comparisons, about growing up, about feeling seen, and about observing the world around you. Playful text and bright, detailed illustrations also make it easy to learn about comparing and categorizing objects.

Booklist and Hornbook starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: smallness, perspective, outdoor play, size, nature, comparisons, measurement
  • Protagonist description: boy, brown skin, dark hair

Yoshi and the Ocean: A Sea Turtle’s Incredible Journey Home by Lindsay Moore

In 1997, a young loggerhead sea turtle was rescued from the ocean after an injury to her shell. The fishermen who rescued her named her Yoshi and took her to the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa. She was rehabilitated there and grew stronger–and larger!–every day. She also became one of the most popular exhibits at the aquarium.

After twenty years in captivity, Yoshi was released back into the ocean and traveled more than 25,000 miles in 1,003 days to find her way home. A tracking device on her shell transmitted data about her journey to marine biologists and turtle enthusiasts of all ages around the world.

Lindsay Moore’s watercolor paintings enrich her moving, lyrical, and informative text. This picture book touches on topics such as conservation, oceanography, natural selection, the food chain, currents, and geography, making Yoshi and the Ocean an ideal choice for parents, teachers, librarians, and anyone interested in nature and the ocean.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction picture book, pictuer book for older readers
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-4
  • Themes: loggerhead sea turtles, injured wildlife, Cape Town, South Africa, wildlife rescues, aquariums, food chain, ocean animals, conservation, endangered animals

Celia Planted a Garden: The Story of Celia Thaxter and Her Island Garden by Phyllis Root (Author), Gary D. Schmidt (Author), and Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)

Celia Thaxter grew up on a desolate island off the coast of Maine, where her father worked as lighthouse keeper. Amid the white and gray of the sea, the rocks, and even the birds, young Celia found color where she could: green mosses and purple starfish and pink morning glories by the shore. And she planted her first garden, tucking bright marigolds between rocky ledges.

When she was twelve, Celia’s family moved to nearby Appledore Island, where her father built a large hotel, and Celia planted a bigger, ever-growing garden with nearly sixty types of flowers, from asters to wisteria.

Guests flocked to the hotel from around the world, among them such writers as Longfellow, Whittier, and Hawthorne. Celia had been writing poems about the island, her garden, and the sea, and they would be printed in magazines and books, making her a foremother of writing about nature.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: lighthouses, ocean, color, gardens, flowers, hotels, famous writers, poetry, nature, 19th Century, Appledore Island, Maine
  • Protagonist description: all characters present as white

I’m Not Missing by Kashelle Gourley (Author) and Skylar Hogan (Illustrator)

Sick of the pressures of pet life–the costumes, the treat-withholding, and the dreaded cone of shame–one dog escapes to fulfill his true Lone Wolf destiny.

But then he sees his owner–um, ex-owner–with a new dog and feels unexpectedly jealous. All he wanted was a little space to poop in peace, not for his ex-owner to forget him entirely! Is it too late to go back, or is he stuck in the doghouse forever?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: dogs, pets, freedom, jealousy, runaways
  • Protagonist description: dog

Lily Leads the Way by Margi Preus (Author) and Matt Myers (Illustrator)

Lily the sailboat is small but sturdy, in a harbor full of enormous cargo ships, speedy fishing vessels, and bossy tugboats that all have somewhere to go.

And something to say–mostly, “Out of my way, Lily!” But Lily has somewhere to go, too. Out on the lake, the tall ships are coming! To pass from the harbor to the lake, Lily must blow her horn and ask the lift bridge to rise–“Meee-me?”–but the big vessels’ blasts are so much louder as they crowd her out and rock her with waves.

Finally, Lily slips under just before the bridge goes down, her sails fluttering with excitement as she spies the majestic barquentine, schooner, and other grand old ships heading toward the now-lowered bridge. Silently! How will the bridge know to rise? Can Lily save the day?

Kirkus starred. Includes 11 kinds of boats and 6 kinds of bridges.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: small helping big, different kinds of boats important jobs, bridges, Duluth, Minnesota, Lake Superior
  • Protagonist description: small sailboat

Little Houses by Kevin Henkes (Author) and Laura Dronzek (Illustrator)

When a young girl visits her grandparents at the beach, she stays in a little house and walks along the shore gathering seashells–which were once little houses of their own. As she wanders the beach, she wonders about the creatures who used to live in each shell, about the hidden treasures of the sea, and about the mysteries of the world.

Kevin Henkes’s text features striking imagery, depth of emotion, and a lovely multigenerational relationship. He deftly captures the feeling of wonder and imagination that is fostered by a trip to the shore. Laura Dronzek’s lush, saturated paintings make this book a true treasure for parents and children, and a must-have for the classroom.

Horn Book starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: beaches, seashells, houses, oceaen, grandparents, natural beauty, natural mysteries
  • Protagonist description: little girl, light brown skin, black pigtails

My Life at the Bottom The Story of a Lonesome Axolotl by Linda Bondestam (Author) and A. A. Prime (Translator)

At the bottom of a lake in Mexico City, our axolotl narrator goes to underwater school, collects treasures tossed away by the big lugs on land, and has dance parties with tiger salamander friends. Life is good!

But as the world gets hotter and hotter, the water gets murkier. Friends become harder to find, and the lonesome axolotl grows even lonelier. Until one day when, out of the blue, a colossal wave carries the axolotl into a surprising new future…

Bittersweet, droll, existential, and hopeful, My Life at the Bottom is a tale from the climate crisis unlike any other. Combining her irresistible visual wit with exquisite aquatic art and rare empathy, Linda Bondestam brings us a story of catastrophe that bursts with life.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: endangered animals, axolotls, Mexico City, amphibians, climate change, personification, tiger salamanders, Earth Day
  • Protagonist description: small axolotl

The Queen of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes (Author) and Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Illustrator)

Companion to: The King of Kindergarten. MJ is more than ready for her first day of kindergarten! With her hair freshly braided and her mom’s special tiara on her head, she knows she’s going to rock kindergarten.

But the tiara isn’t just for show—it also reminds her of all the good things she brings to the classroom, stuff like her kindness, friendliness, and impressive soccer skills, too!

Like The King of Kindergarten, this is the perfect book to reinforce back-to-school excitement and build confidence in the newest students.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-K
  • Themes: back to school, first day of school, excitement, kindness, helpfulness, confidence
  • Protagonist description: girl, Kindergarten, Black

Does a Bulldozer Have a Butt? by Derick Wilder (Author) and K-Fai Steele (Illustrator)

Does a scarecrow have a butt?
Yep, you stuff him with a straw one.
And does a crayon have a butt?
Nope, but it can surely draw one.

Over the course of a long walk across a city, one curious kid needs to know: “Does it have a butt?” Everything from sheep to ghosts to dinosaurs is subjected to this all-important question, and Dad is a never-ending source of answers. On a laugh-out-loud father-child ramble, we come to see that every butt, from a bullfrog’s to a zombie’s, has its own distinctive, and distinctively hilarious, quality.

Publishers Weekly starred. Details in the illustrations are worth a close look. There are over 200 butts in the illustrations not mentioned in the text.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: butts, animals, questions and answers, fathers and daughters
  • Protagonist description: father and daughter, tan skin and dark hair






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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