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New Release Spotlight: June 21, 2022

Happy Tuesday! It’s another typical mid-June list; it’s not super-amazing, but there are some interesting titles.

We’ll start with Jumper by Melanie Crowder. If you are a high school librarian, you likely have at least one or two students who are volunteer firefighters. Way back in the 1990s, my husband was one of them. Jumper is about a male and female best friend duo who are 19-year old wilderness firefighters. Teen firefighters are a very small and neglected demographic in YA literature. I can only think of one other YA book featuring teen firefighters:, Nothing Left to Burn by Patty Blount (2015), which is already out-of-print. With few YA options featuring teen firefighters, Jumper is a fresh addition to a crowded YA market.

The other book that really stands out to me is Every Dog in the Neighborhood by Philip C. Stead. This is one of those picture books that has interesting details and an additional storyline in the illustrations. Everyone loves those books! I love the positive messages about taking initiative to improve our communities. Dog lovers will appreciate lots of dog breeds in the story, and some are service dogs and adopted street dogs.

This week’s top picks:

  • Jumper by Melanie Crowder
  • Lies I Tell Myself by Beth Vrabel
  • Every Dog in the Neighborhood by Philip C. Stead

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2562-#2581 on The Ginormous book list.

The Name She Gave Me by Betty Culley

Rynn was born with a hole in her heart–literally. Although it was fixed long ago, she still feels an emptiness there when she wonders about her birth family.

As her relationship with her adoptive mother fractures, Rynn finally decides she needs to know more about the rest of her family. Her search starts with a name, the only thing she has from her birth mother, and she quickly learns that she has a younger sister living in foster care in a nearby town. But if Rynn reconnects with her biological sister, it may drive her adoptive family apart for good.

Publishers Weekly starred. The author is also adopted.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, novel in verse
  • Setting: rural Maine, present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: adoption, hole in heart, heart conditions, cleft palate, adoptive families, birth mothers, sisters, search for birth family, abuse, anger, addiction, poverty
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, white, adoptee

We Weren’t Looking to Be Found by Stephanie Kuehn

Dani comes from the richest, most famous Black family in Texas and seems to have everything a girl could want. So why does she keep using and engaging in other self-destructive behavior?

Camila’s Colombian-American family doesn’t have much, but she knows exactly what she wants out of life and works her ass off to get it. So why does she keep failing, and why does she self-harm every time she does?

When Dani and Camila find themselves rooming together at Peach Tree Hills, a treatment facility in beautiful rural Georgia, they initially think they’ll never get along–and they’ll never get better. But then they find a mysterious music box filled with letters from a former resident of PTH, and together they set out to solve the mystery of who this girl was…and who she’s become. The investigation will bring them together, and what they find at the end might just bring them hope.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Setting: Texas and rural Georgia, present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: social class, rich versus poor, fame, self-harm, self-destructive behavior, treatment centers, roommates, mental health, therapy, addiction, substance abuse
  • Protagonist description: two teen females; one Black, one Colombian and Mexican American

*Jumper by Melanie Crowder

How far would you go to save yourself?

Blair Scott is in her second season as a wildland firefighter when the Forest Service puts out a call for an additional class of smokejumpers.

She and her best friend Jason both apply, though neither expects to get in since they’re only nineteen. But it’s been a devastating fire season, and they are both accepted. But going to training camp is only the first step–everyone expects the teenage rookies will wash out in the first week.

Blair has always been touchy about people telling her she isn’t good enough, so she begins taking unnecessary risks to prove herself. It doesn’t take long before everything spins out of control, leaving Blair struggling to cope.

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, thriller
  • Setting: Montana, present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: risk-taking behavior, firefighters, forest fires, wildfires, best friends, survival, diabetes, secrets
  • Protagonist description: female, age 19, white, firefighter, lesbian

A Year to the Day by Robin Benway

Leo can’t remember what happened the night of the accident. All she knows is that she left the party with her older sister, Nina, and Nina’s boyfriend, East. And now Nina is dead, killed by a drunk driver and leaving Leo with a hole inside her that’s impossible to fill.

East, who loved Nina almost as much as Leo did, is the person who seems to most understand how she feels, and the two form a friendship based on their shared grief. But as she struggles to remember what happened, Leo discovers that East remembers every detail of the accident–and he won’t tell her anything about it. In fact, he refuses to talk about that night at all.

As the days tumble one into the next, Leo’s story comes together while her world falls apart. How can she move on if she never knows what really happened that night? And is happiness even possible in a world without Nina?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Southern California, present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: grief, sisters, drunk driving accidents, car accidents, healing, family, told in reverse chronology
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, white

Never Coming Home by Kate M. Williams

Everyone knows Unknown Island–it’s the world’s most exclusive destination. Think white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and luxury accommodations. Plus, it’s invite only, no one over twenty-one allowed, and it’s absolutely free. Who wouldn’t want to go?

The mysterious resort launched with a viral marketing campaign, and now the whole world is watching as the mysterious resort opens its doors to the First Ten, the ten elite influencers specifically chosen to be the first to experience everything Unknown Island has to offer. You know them. There’s the gamer, the beauty blogger, the rich girl, the superstar, the junior politician, the environmentalist, the DJ, the CEO, the chef, and the athlete.

What they don’t know is that they weren’t invited to Unknown Island for their following–they were invited for their secrets. Everyone is hiding a deadly one, and it looks like someone’s decided it’s payback time. Unknown Island isn’t a vacation, it’s a trap. And it’s beginning to look like the First Ten–no matter how influential–are never coming home.

  • Genre(s): thriller, mystery, retelling, horror
  • Setting: beautiful tropical island, present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: paradise, teen influencers, social media, secrets, fame, Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None
  • Protagonist description: 10 protagonists of some diversity

The Loophole by Naz Kutub

Debut author! Sy placed all his bets for happiness on his boyfriend, Farouk…who then left him to try and “fix the world.” Now, the timid seventeen-year-old Indian Muslim boy is stuck in a dead-end coffee shop job and all he can do is wish for one more chance…

Sy never expects his wish to be granted. But when a mysterious girl offers him three wishes in exchange for his help and proves she can grant at least one wish with an instant million-dollar deposit into Sy’s struggling bank account, a whole new world of possibility opens up.

Is she magic? Or just rich? And can Sy find the courage to leave Los Angeles and cross the Atlantic Ocean to lands he’d never even dreamed he could visit, all to track down his missing ex? With help from his potentially otherworldly new friend, will Sy go all the way for one last, desperate chance at rebuilding his life and refinding love?

  • Genre(s): magical realism, humor
  • Setting: begins in LA, but soon goes all over the world; present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: breaking up, teens with jobs, wishes, magic, exes, Asian Americans, racism, prejudice, teen kicked out of house, troubled relationships with parents, djinn, Indian mythology, Islamophobia, homophobia, flashbacks
  • Protagonist description: male, age 17, Indian American, Muslim, gay, recent high school graduate

Epically Ernest by Molly Horan

Jane Worthing’s claim to fame is that she was one first viral internet sensations, dubbed #bagbaby–discovered as a one-year-old in an oversized Gucci bag by her adopted father in a Poughkeepsie train station.

Now in her senior year of high school, Janey is questioning whether she wants to look for her bio family due to a loving, but deeply misguided push from her best friend Algie, while also navigating an all-consuming crush on his cousin, the beautiful, way-out-of-her-league Gwen Fairfax.

And while Janey’s never thought of herself as the earnest type, she needs to be honest with her parents, Algie, Gwen, but mostly herself if she wants to make her life truly epic. With a wink toward Oscar Wilde’s beloved play, Epically Earnest explores the complexity of identity, the many forms family can take, and the importance of being…yourself.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: New York City, present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: abandoned children, fame, adoption, finding birth family, Oscar Wilde, LGBTQIA+
  • Protagonist description: female, age 18, HS senior, white, queer

The Shelterlings by Sarah Beth Durst

Holly, a grey squirrel, and her animal friends have accepted that they will never be wizards’ familiars. Though they are each magical, their powers are so offbeat–Holly herself can conjure pastries (and only pastries)–that no professional magic-worker would choose any of them as a companion for noble quests. So instead of going on adventures, they languish at the Shelter for Rejected Familiars, where they are known as “shelterlings.”

When an old friend appears with a plan for curing the shelterlings’ defective magic, everyone is on board to help him locate and retrieve the ingredients for a powerful spell. But when they learn that his offer is not what it seems, Holly and the shelterlings must fight to defend their magic, discovering in the process that their unorthodox skills may just be what is needed to save the day.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, animal stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: magic, powers, wizards, animals, personification, squirrels
  • Protagonist description: female gray squirrel

Coming Up Short by Laurie Morrison

Bea’s parents think she can accomplish absolutely anything–and she’s determined to prove them right. But at the end of seventh grade, on the same day she makes a gutsy play to send her softball team to the league championships and Xander, the boy she likes, makes it clear that he likes her too, a scandal shakes up her world. Bea’s dad made a big mistake, taking money that belonged to a client. He’s now suspended from practicing law, and another lawyer spread the news online. To make matters worse, that other lawyer is Xander’s dad.

Bea doesn’t want to be angry with her dad, especially since he feels terrible and is trying to make things right. But she can’t face the looks of pity from all her friends, and then she starts missing throws in softball because she’s stuck in her own head. The thing she was best at seems to be slipping out of her fingers along with her formerly happy family. She’s not sure what’s going to be harder–learning to throw again, or forgiving her dad. How can she be the best version of herself when everything she loves is falling apart?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: suburban New Jersey, present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: softball, scandals, parent legal troubles, social media, forgiveness, family problems, fathers and daughters
  • Protagonist description: female, 7th grader, white

Lies I Tell Myself by Beth Vrabel

Companion to: To Tell You the Truth. Raymond has always preferred to keep life simple and leave adventuring to other people. But then he’s sent across the country, against his will, to spend the summer before fifth grade with grandparents who think he’s “troubled” and needs to have playdates set up for him. Determined to show everyone how brave, confident, and untroubled he can be, Raymond hatches a three-step plan:

1) Learn to ride a bike. His mom never got around to teaching him before she left.
2) Learn how to swim.
3) Make friends. On his own.

But can Raymond really change, or is this whole plan just a bunch of lies he’s telling himself? With the help of his great-grandfather’s old journal, a feral chicken, and a possibly imaginary new friend, Raymond might just overcome his fears and figure out who he really wants to be.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Maine,
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: grandparents, playing it safe, growing up, gaining independence, making friends, journals, overcoming fears, summer, maternal abandonment, trying new things
  • Protagonist description: male, age 11, rising 5th grader, white

Not Starring Zadie Louise by Joy McCullough

Zadie loves Tae Kwon Do, comic books, and outer space. She also loves visiting the community theater that her mom runs, especially the lighting grid over the stage and the stage manager’s booth, which is filled with levers and buttons like a spaceship control panel. So when the family’s finances suffer a blow and Zadie has to give up her usual activities to spend the summer at the theater, she doesn’t mind too much. After all, she’s always wanted to tech a show.

She knows she’d be great at it, but her mom and the new stage manager are totally opposed to the idea of having a kid do tech. Instead, Zadie’s stuck handing out snacks and folding flyers. But the future of the theater rides on this show, and Zadie is determined to help. She’s going to make Spinderella the hit of the season–unless she accidentally turns it into a disaster.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Bainbridge Island (Washington state), present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: theater, summer, technology, kids with jobs, sisters, family dynamics, family financial problems
  • Protagonist description: female, age 10, Hispanic American (father is Guatemalan)

The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux

Cat’s Cradle, book 1. Suri loves monsters–studying their lore, telling stories about them (for a fee), and–she hopes–one day taming them. Unfortunately, no one takes an orphan street-urchin who travels with a merchant camp very seriously. But Suri’s self-confidence, cleverness, and ambition serve her well when a mysterious new wagon joins her camp–holding something very big, very loud, and very monstrous.

And that’s before Suri runs afoul of a treacherous family with its own beastly secret–and a prince hunting the greatest monster of all.

This was originally published in 2012, but it’s been reillustrated.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure, graphic novel
  • Setting: fantasy world with magic and monsters
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: monsters, princes, orphans, community, stowaways, shapeshifters
  • Protagonist description: young female, tan skin and dark hair, orphan

Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation by Sylvia Liu

Hana Hsu can’t wait to be meshed.

If she can beat out half her classmates at Start-Up, a tech school for the city’s most talented twelve-year-olds, she’ll be meshed to the multiweb through a neural implant like her mom and sister. But the competition is fierce, and when her passion for tinkering with bots gets her mixed up with dangerous junkyard rebels, she knows her future in the program is at risk.

Even scarier, she starts to notice that something’s not right at Start-Up–some of her friends are getting sick, and no matter what she does, her tech never seems to work right. With an ominous warning from her grandmother about being meshed, Hana begins to wonder if getting the implant early is really a good idea.

Desperate to figure out what’s going on, Hana and her friends find themselves spying on one of the most powerful corporations in the country–and the answers about the mystery at Start-Up could be closer to home than Hana’s willing to accept. Will she be able to save her friends–and herself–from a conspiracy that threatens everything she knows?

  • Genre(s): science fiction, dystopia
  • Setting: USA, near future
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: STEM, reliance on technology, special schools, mysterious illness, evil corporations, conspiracies, climate change, classism
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, Chinese American; secondary cast is diverse

Before Music: Where Instruments Come From by Annette Bay Pimentel (Author) and Madison Safer (Illustrator)

Discover how music is made in this survey of musical instruments from around the world. Organized by material–from wood to gourds to found objects and more–Before Music marries a lyrical core text with tons of informational material for curious readers.

In the narrative text, readers will encounter makers as they source their materials and craft instruments by hand, drawing the line from the natural world to the finished product and its sound. The sidebars offer much more to discover, including extensive instrument lists, short bios of musical innovators, and more.

Titlewave says “unpaged,” but this book has 88 pages.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: music history, musical instruments, found objects, making your own musical instruments

*Every Dog in the Neighborhood by Philip C. Stead (Author) and Matthew Cordell (Illustrator)

Louis wants a dog, but his Grandma insists, “There are enough dogs in the neighborhood already.” But how many dogs are in the neighborhood? Surely a sternly worded letter to City Hall will clear this up.

When it turns out that City Hall doesn’t keep an official count of this essential demographic, Louis and his Grandma do their civic duty and take matters into their own hands. Together they meet all sorts of dogs with hilarious names and personalities. When they’re done, Louis’s grandmother is sure he’s missed one particularly lovable dog, a mutt named Baklava in need of a new home.

Horn Book and SLJ starred. I love the central ideas of this book. That we can’t sit and wait for government to improve our communities. That we can and should solve problems creatively. I love that the book promotes the adoption of homeless street dogs. I love the grandmother’s can-do attitude, right up to the last page (where she seems intent on solving another city-wide problem). The grandmother’s statement that “Sometimes if you want something done you’ve just got to do it yourself.” This will be great for storytime discussions of community service and getting involved in the neighborhood. Add in clever, detailed illustrations that add another storyline, and I’m in love!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: large suburban neighborhood, very diverse
  • Recommended for: PreK-Grade 3
  • Themes: dogs, adopting a new pet, community service, improving the neighborhood, taking action in the community, volunteer work, grandmothers, census-taking, unique pet names, dog parks, detailed illustrations
  • Protagonist description: boy and his grandmother, both white; large and diverse cast of neighbors

A Seed Grows by Antoinette Portis

To understand how a seed becomes a sunflower, you have to peek beneath the soil and wait patiently as winding roots grow, a stalk inches out of the earth, and new seeds emerge among blooming petals.

With evocative and lively illustrations, A Seed Grows offers a close-up view of each step of this process and the ways in which flowers and seeds depend on other creatures, with a striking fold-out spread of a full-grown sunflower and additional material at the back of the book explaining the science of plant life cycles.

Horn Book starred. To me, an essential purchase for elementary libraries.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: life cycles, plants, seeds, botany, sunflowers, science, parts of a flower

Building by Henry Cole

Companion to: Nesting. With line art and a limited color palette, the simple text follows a family of beavers as they do what beavers do best: build! Two beavers find a stream, build a dam, and raise a family in their new lodge. When the dam is threatened by storms, the beavers work hard to rebuild it. Building is what beavers do best.

Building is perfect for parents and teachers to share with young children to introduce beginning life science concepts such as life cycle, feeding habits, caring for young, and the wetlands ecosystem. An author’s note provides even more information at the end of the book.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: wetlands during different seasons
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: beavers, animals, dams, nature, life cycles, wetlands, ecosystems, seasons, builders
  • Protagonist description: beaver family

How Old Is Mr. Tortoise? by Dev Petty (Author) and Ruth Chan (Illustrator)

It’s Mr. Tortoise’s birthday, and he can’t wait to eat cake with his friends. But there’s a hitch! Mr. Tortoise can’t remember how old he is, so his friends don’t know how many candles to put on the cake. And they won’t stop (or slice) until they figure out the mystery.

Could Mr. Tortoise be as many years old as there are sections on his shell? He’s twice as big as the smaller tortoise…so is he twice as old? After the partygoers work through a variety of possibilities, they find their way to the answer with a simple bit of addition.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: birthday party
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: memory, aging, birthdays, tortoises, reptiles, animals, addition, critical thinking, friendship, personification
  • Protagonist description: personified tortoise and his animal friends

Tomatoes in My Lunchbox by Costantia Manoli (Author) and Magdalena Mora (Illustrator)

Debut author! A child, newly arrived in another country, feels displaced, lonely, and a little scared on her first day of school. Her name doesn’t sound the way she’s used to hearing it. She knows she doesn’t fit in. And when she eats her whole tomato for lunch, she can feel her classmates observing her–and not quite understanding her.

But sometimes all it takes is one friend, one connection, to bring two worlds together, and gradually the girl, her tomato, and her full name, start to feel at home with her new friends and community.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: first day of school
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: immigrants, new kid in school, first day of school, fitting in, friendship, isolation, tomatoes, food, school lunches, names, pronunciation of names
  • Protagonist description: female, brown skin; classmates are diverse

Pigeon & Cat by Edward Hemingway

In an abandoned city lot, Cat lives alone in a cardboard box. He leaves only to find food. One day, Cat discovers an unbroken egg too beautiful to eat. Soon, out pecks Pigeon, and they become fast friends.

Cat is happy to share his box with Pigeon. But when Pigeon flies far away from where they live, Cat must brave the city in order to rescue his friend. This journey will forever transform his understanding of home.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: urban streets
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: animals, stray cats, birds, friendship, home, community, finding a missing friend
  • Protagonist description: stray tabby cat and a young pigeon






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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