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New Release Spotlight: June 14, 2022

Whew, we have had a whirlwind few weeks! In the past five weeks, we’ve had two separate weeks of travel to the US (we live in Mexico) and two different weeks of guests visiting.  We have one more big event coming up in July, but for now, we have a few weeks to finally relax! It’s so nice to have NOTHING ahead of us anytime soon! I think I’m going to take one whole day to just read and do absolutely nothing else…

This week’s list is typical for mid-June. I’m most excited for The Sea Knows My Name–it’s a YA pirate adventure! I haven’t read one of those since Daughter of the Pirate King. On the TBR!

This week’s top picks:

  • The Sea Knows My Name by Laura Brooke Robson (YA)
  • Smaller Sister by Maggie Edkins Willis (MG)
  • Rosa’s Song by Helena Ku Rhee (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2545-#2561 on The Ginormous book list.

*The Silence that Binds Us by Joanna Ho

Maybelline Chen isn’t the Chinese Taiwanese American daughter her mother expects her to be. May prefers hoodies over dresses and wants to become a writer. When asked, her mom can’t come up with one specific reason for why she’s proud of her only daughter. May’s beloved brother, Danny, on the other hand, has just been admitted to Princeton. But Danny secretly struggles with depression, and when he dies by suicide, May’s world is shattered.

In the aftermath, racist accusations are hurled against May’s parents for putting too much “pressure” on him. May’s father tells her to keep her head down. Instead, May challenges these ugly stereotypes through her writing. Yet the consequences of speaking out run much deeper than anyone could foresee. Who gets to tell our stories, and who gets silenced? It’s up to May to take back the narrative.

Joanna Ho masterfully explores timely themes of mental health, racism, and classism.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Silicon Valley, California; modern-day
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: siblings, suicide, grief, parental pressure, depression, mental health, racism, stereotypes, standing up, fighting back
  • Protagonist description: teen female, Asian American (China and Taiwan)

*Valiant Ladies by Melissa Grey

By day Eustaquia “Kiki” de Sonza and Ana Lezama de Urinza are proper young seventeenth century ladies. But when night falls, they trade in their silks and lace for swords and muskets, venturing out into the vibrant, bustling, crime-ridden streets of Potosí in the Spanish Empire’s Viceroyalty of Peru. They pass their time fighting, gambling, and falling desperately in love with one another.

Then, on the night Kiki’s engagement to the Viceroy’s son is announced, her older brother–heir to her family’s fortune–is murdered. The girls immediately embark on a whirlwind investigation that takes them from the lowliest brothels of Potosí to the highest echelons of the Spanish aristocracy.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, mystery
  • Setting: Peru and Bolivia, 17th Century
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: traditional gender roles, LGBTQIA+, siblings, murder, Spanish aristocracy, Viceroyalty of Peru, vigilante justice, secret crimefighters, alternating perspectives, inspired by historical people, Peruvian history
  • Protagonist description: perspectives alternate between two teen females; one is Latinx; other is Peruvian-Dutch

The Sea Knows My Name by Laura Brooke Robson

If there’s one thing Thea Fowler has learned from her mother, it’s that the only way for a woman to survive in a man’s world is to make herself strong, invulnerable even. Strength, after all, is how Clementine Fowler survived after her world was washed away by ash and lava and became one of the most notorious pirates the world has ever known.

Unfortunately, Thea has inherited none of her mother’s ruthlessness and grit.

After a lifetime of being told she is a disappointment, Thea longs to escape life under her mother’s thumb. And when she falls for a handsome sailor named Bauer, she thinks she’s found her chance at a new life. But it’s not long before first love leads to first betrayal, and Thea learns that there’s more than one way to be strong.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, dystopia, adventure
  • Setting: fictional island country
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: pirates, volcanoes, mothers and daughters, misogyny, feminism, mythology
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white; another major character is bisexual male with dark skin

Love & Other Great Expectations by Becky Dean

Britt Hanson has always preferred scoring goals on the soccer field to analyzing dusty old books. But when an injury ends her dream to play in college, she jumps at the chance to compete in a scavenger hunt in England that takes her to the locations of classic novels–the prize money would change her life!

Once in the UK she meets bookish and very British Luke Jackson. He can’t actually help her with any of the clues (against the rules), but something about Luke compels her to invite him to join her. She wouldn’t mind getting to know him–and listening to his accent.

To win, Britt must outsmart three competitors who aren’t afraid to play dirty while solving clues and traveling around the English countryside. Along the way, Britt learns that sometimes you have to follow the map and other times, you need to throw caution to the wind and see where the cobblestoned road leads you.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: United Kingdom; modern day
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: unexpected life changes, classic literature, scavenger hunts, bookish, competitions, clues, traveling, The Canterbury Tales, summer
  • Protagonist description: female, age 18, white, American; most characters cue as white

Generation Wonder: The New Age of Heroes by Barry Lyga, et. al

This YA anthology features 13 short stories that creatively turn superhero tropes on their head, while still paying homage to the genre that has found fans for more than eight decades. And there will be no mistake–superheroes don’t have to just be generic handsome white dudes. Everyone in the world, no matter their race, sexual preference, pronouns, or level of ability, has dreamed of flying.

Contributors: Barry Lyga, Paul Levitz, Sarah MacLean, Lamar Giles, Elizabeth Eulberg, Danielle Paige, Varian Johnson, Joseph Bruchac, Morgan Baden, Matthew Phillion, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sterling Gates, and Axie Oh.

  • Genre(s): short stories, anthology
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: superheroes, diversity
  • Protagonist description: wide variety of identities and ethnicities

Breaking time by Sasha Alsberg

When a mysterious Scotsman suddenly appears in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and it’s just the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara will soon learn that she is the last Pillar of Time–an anchor point in the timeline of the world and a hiding place for a rogue goddess’s magic. Callum believes he’s fated to protect her at all costs after being unable to protect the previous Pillar, his best friend, Thomas. A dark force is hunting the Pillars to claim the power of the goddess—and Klara and Callum are the only two people standing in the way. Thrown together by fate, the two have to learn to trust each other and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive.

  • Genre(s): adventure, fantasy, mythology, romance
  • Setting: Scotland, present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: time travel, gods and goddesses, alternating perspectives, Celtic mythology, running for one’s life
  • Protagonist description: female, American, white; male; Scottish, white, time traveler from 16th Century

Brand New Boy by David Almond

When a new boy joins the class, everyone thinks he’s a bit strange. But he’s brilliant at football and loves crisps, and that’s all that matters to Dan and Maxie.

However, the truth about George is stranger than anyone could have imagined…and more sinister, too. Can his new pals help him to become truly free?

Kirkus starred. Includes black-and-white illustrations.

  • Genre(s): science fiction
  • Setting: school; present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: robots, artificial intelligence, new kid in school, being different, life, being human, friendship
  • Protagonist description: male, age 11, white

The Pear Affair by Judith Eagle (Author) and Jo Rioux (Illustrator)

Penelope Magnificent spends as little time as possible with her awful parents–a grocery-mogul father and a fashion-obsessed mother who loves expensive purses more than she does her daughter.

But when they mention an important trip to Paris, Nell begs to come along. Paris holds something very dear to her: her old au pair Perrine—Pear–who lives there.

Pear used to write to Nell every week, promising to come to her rescue, but recently the letters stopped.

With the help of a savvy bellboy named Xavier, Nell sets out from her parents’ ultra-fancy Parisian hotel to find her beloved Pear. But Pear’s old neighbors and coworkers are strangely tight-lipped. And as Nell’s search for the truth takes her and Xavier to some of the darkest, most mysterious parts of the city, a sinister plot comes to light involving the destruction of a cherished–and delicious–part of Parisian life.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, mystery, historical fiction
  • Setting: Paris, France; summer of 1969
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: missing persons, family problems, villainous adults, neglectful parents, nannies
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, white; secondary characters include a Tunisian family

*Smaller Sister by Maggie Edkins Willis

Debut author! Lucy’s always looked up to her big sister, Olivia, even though the two are polar opposites. But then, Lucy notices Olivia start to change. She doesn’t want to play with Lucy anymore, she’s unhappy with the way she looks, and she’s refusing to eat her dinner. Finally, Lucy discovers that her sister is not just growing up: Olivia is struggling with an eating disorder.

While her family is focused on her sister’s recovery, Lucy is left alone to navigate school and friendships. And just like her big sister, she begins to shrink.

But with time, work, and a dose of self-love, both sisters begin to heal and let themselves grow. Soon enough, Olivia and Lucy find their way back to each other–because sisters are the one friend you can never ditch.

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Setting: present day; likely in the USA since the family is moving to Boston
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: sisters, sibling rivalry, middle school, eating disorders, healing, body image, anorexia nervosa, journaling, peer pressure, social issues, based on a true story, growing up
  • Protagonist description: female, 5th grader, white

Secret of the Shadow Beasts by Diane Magras

In Brannland, terrifying beasts called Umbrae roam freely once the sun sets, so venomous that a single bite will kill a full-grown adult–and lately, with each day that passes, their population seems to double.

The only people who can destroy them are immune children like Nora, who are recruited at the age of seven to leave their families behind and begin training at a retrofitted castle called Noye’s Hill. But despite her immunity, Nora’s father refused to let her go.

Now, years after his death by Umbra attack, Nora is twelve, and sees her mother almost killed by the monsters too. That’s when Nora decides it’s time for her to join the battle. Once she arrives at Noye’s Hill, though, she and her new friends are left with more questions than answers: Where are the Umbrae coming from? Could the government be covering up the true reason their population has whirled out of control? And was Nora’s father, the peaceful, big-hearted man who refused to let Nora fight, in on the treacherous secret?

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Setting: fictional small town called Brannland
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: monsters, monster hunters, immunity, knights, spiders, destiny
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, cued white

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tolá Okogwu

Debut author! Onyeka, book 1. Onyeka has a lot of hair­–the kind that makes strangers stop in the street and her peers whisper behind her back. At least she has Cheyenne, her best friend, who couldn’t care less what other people think. Still, Onyeka has always felt insecure about her vibrant curls…until the day Cheyenne almost drowns and Onyeka’s hair takes on a life of its own, inexplicably pulling Cheyenne from the water.

At home, Onyeka’s mother tells her the shocking truth: Onyeka’s psycho-kinetic powers make her a Solari, one of a secret group of people with super powers unique to Nigeria. Her mother quickly whisks her off to the Academy of the Sun, a school in Nigeria where Solari are trained. But Onyeka and her new friends at the academy soon have to put their powers to the test as they find themselves embroiled in a momentous battle between truth and lies…

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Setting: mostly in Nigeria; modern day
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: magical hair, secret societies, boarding schools, powers, self-acceptance, Nigerian mythology, world-building, technology
  • Protagonist description: female, Black, British and Nigerian, preteen

The Cedarville Shop and the Wheelbarrow Swap by Bridget Krone

A lot of things can feel just out of reach in 12-year-old Boipelo Seku’s small, impoverished village of Cedarville, South Africa. The idea of one day living in a house that’s big enough for his family is just a faraway dream. But when Boi stumbles on a story about a Canadian man who traded his way from a paperclip to a house, Boi hatches his own trading plan starting with a tiny clay cow he molded from river mud. Trade by trade, Boi and his best friend Potso discover that even though Cedarville lacks so many of the things that made the paperclip trade possible, it is fuller than either of them ever imagined.

In a chain of events that turns Boi’s tiny spark into a warming fire, Boi learns the power of friendship and community, and finds that something’s value isn’t in what you can trade for it, but in the good it brings to the people you love.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Cedarville, South Africa
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: trading up, Africa, friendship, economic problems, unemployment, inflation, post-apartheid reconstruction, arguing with best friend
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, South African

Rosa’s Song by Helena Ku Rhee (Author) and Pascal Campion (Illustrator)

When Jae looks out the window of his new home, he wishes he could still see his old village, his old house, and his old friends. But his new apartment feels empty and nothing outside is familiar. Jae just arrived from South Korea and doesn’t even speak the new language.

Yet, making friends is the same wherever you go and he soon meets a girl with a colorful bird perched on her shoulder. Rosa knows just how Jae feels and the two become fast friends. Not only does Rosa show Jae his new neighborhood but she shows him how his imagination can bring back memories of his old home. Then Rosa leaves unexpectedly one night but leaves her parrot for Jae. He thinks about the song that Rosa would sing: “When I fly away, my heart stays here.” And when Jae meets two other newly arrived kids, he teaches them Rosa’s song and becomes their guide to this new world.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: USA; modern day
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: new kid in town, missing home, South Korea, parrots, friendship, kindness, English language learners, immigrants, change
  • Protagonist description: young boy, South Korean, does not speak English; young girl cues as Peruvian

See You Someday Soon by Pat Zietlow Miller (Author) and Suzy Lee (Illustrator)

Someday soon, I’ll see you.
Even though you are there.
And I am here.
So very far apart.

In this heartfelt picture book, a child imagines ways to connect with a grandmother who lives far way. Whether by rocket ship or jet pack, train or in a plane, any journey is worth it to see someone you love.

With an inviting, accessible text by Pat Zietlow Miller and inventive art from the critically-acclaimed illustrator Suzy Lee, this picture book reminds us that, no matter the physical distance between us, the people we care about are never far from our hearts. The book features clever and innovative die-cuts throughout, adding a creative, thoughtful and discussion-worthy novelty aspect to this layered and deeply emotional story.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: grandparents, love, long-distance family, missing a relative, COVID-19 separation
  • Protagonist description: grandmother and grandchild; skin tones change with background; child has black hair; grandmother’s hair changes color with background

Where’s My Cat? by Seymour Chwast

Is that a table–or a cow? You won’t believe your eyes as this humorous guessing game and visual puzzle from award-winning graphic designer Seymour Chwast transforms a simple object into something completely different. Each initial image is revealed, after a page turn, to be part of a larger or more elaborate thing.

The objects become both more complex and sillier–ball and toaster? Nah, it’s a bulldog–as we make our way to the final transformation, a pair of scissors that becomes the face of the cat we’ve been waiting for. Readers young and old will giggle as they see the importance of recognizing odd but simple shapes and learning how they work together to form more complicated images.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: shapes, parts of a whole, minimal text, details in illustrations, art

The Little House of Hope by Terry Catasús Jennings (Author) and Raúl Colón (Illustrator)

As Esperanza and her family settle into their new house, they all do their part to make it a home. When other immigrant families need a place to stay, it seems only natural for the family in la casita to help. Together they turn the house into a place where other new immigrants can help one another. Esperanza is always the first to welcome them to la casita. It’s a safe place in a new land.

Terry Catasus Jennings first came from Cuba to the U.S. in 1961, when she was twelve years old. With The Little House of Hope, she tells an inspiring, semi-autobiographical story of how immigrants can help each other find their footing in a new country.

A Spanish edition, La Casita de Esperanza, will be released simultaneously.

  • Genre(s): picture book; memoir
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: immigrants, family, homes, hope, moving to a new country, safety, community, generosity, Spanish language
  • Protagonist description: girl, Cuban, immigrant; variety of character skin tones

Rosie and the Pre-Loved Dress by Leanne Hatch

When Rosie finds the most beautiful yellow dress at her local thrift store, the first thing she notices when she brings it home is a name written on the tag: Mila. Rosie wonders if Mila liked any of the same things she did, and what amazing things Mila might have done in the dress.

The dress makes Rosie feel like her best self–like she can do anything. But soon it’s time to donate the dress so someone else can make their own memories with it. Letting it go is hard, but Rosie smiles when she wonders what the dress’s next owner will do while wearing it…

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: thrift shop and home; present day
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: used clothing, thrift stores, reusing items, memories, clothing donations, letting go, growing up
  • Protagonist description: girl, white, red hair, wears glasses






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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