New Release Spotlight: June 28, 2022

This week’s Spotlight got cut a bit short about halfway through. Since Saturday morning, I’ve been down with either COVID or the flu–I have no idea which. I haven’t been tested for either; just stayed home and rested. I’m doing a bit better today, but the Spotlight is shorter this week, especially when it comes to picture books.

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2582-#2594 on The Ginormous book list.

*Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

The suburbs, right now…

Ivy’s summer break kicks off with an accident, a punishment, and a mystery: a stranger whose appearance in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, heralds a string of increasingly unsettling events. As the days pass, Ivy grapples with eerie offerings, corroded memories, and a burning question: What if there’s more to her mother than meets the eye?

The city, back then…

Dana has always been perceptive. And the summer she turns sixteen, with the help of her best friend and an ambitious older girl, her gifts bloom into a heady fling with the supernatural. As the trio’s aspirations darken, they find themselves speeding toward a violent breaking point.

Years after it began, Ivy and Dana’s shared story will come down to a reckoning among a daughter, a mother, and the dark forces they never should’ve messed with.

FIVE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): supernatural, paranormal
  • Setting: summer, suburbs
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: mothers and daughters, powers, witchcraft, family history, magic
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white

My Name Is Jason. Mine Too.: Our Story. Our Way. by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin

Once upon a time in America, there were two Jasons. Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin. One a poet. One an artist. One Black. One white. Two voices. One journey in mind: to move to New York, the city of dreams, to make their own dreams come true.

Willing to have a life not un-hard, so long as it wasn’t unhappy. Willing to let the city swallow them whole, so long as it gives them their chance. They had each other. “What if painting was a sin, and the poetry became taboo. And no one ever clapped for me again. My question is, would you?”

They clapped. Oh, they clapped. And aren’t we glad?

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): poetry, memoir
  • Setting: Brooklyn, New York; early 2000s
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: art, taking chances, best friends, self-discovery
  • Protagonist description: two college-age men; one Black and one white; both artists

Bad Things Happen Here by Rebecca Barrow

Luca Laine Thomas lives on a cursed island. To the outside world, Parris is an exclusive, idyllic escape accessible only to the one percent. There’s nothing idyllic about its history, though, scattered with the unsolved deaths of young women–deaths Parris society happily ignores to maintain its polished veneer. But Luca can’t ignore them. Not when the curse that took them killed her best friend, Polly, three years ago. Not when she feels the curse lingering nearby, ready to take her next.

When Luca comes home to police cars outside her house, she knows the curse has visited once again. Except this time, it came for Whitney, her sister. Luca decides to take the investigation of Whitney’s death into her own hands. But as a shocking betrayal rocks Luca’s world, the identity Whitney’s killer isn’t the only truth Luca seeks. And by the time she finds what she’s looking for, Luca will come face to face with the curse she’s been running from her whole life.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): thriller, supernatural
  • Setting: fictional island
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: curses, sisters, murder, grief, violence, femicide, self-harm, suicidal ideation, privilege
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, Black

The Black Girls Left Standing by Juliana Goodman

Debut author! Sixteen-year-old Beau Willet has dreams of being an artist and one day leaving the Chicago projects she’s grown up in. But after her older sister, Katia, is killed by an off-duty police officer, Beau knows she has to clear her sister’s name by finding the only witness to the murder; Katia’s no-good boyfriend, Jordan, who has gone missing. If she doesn’t find him and tell the world what really happened, Katia’s death will be ignored, like the deaths of so many other Black women who are wrongfully killed.

With the help of her friend, Sonnet, Beau sets up a Twitter account to gather anonymous tips. But the more that Beau finds out about her sister’s death, the more danger she finds herself in. And with a new relationship developing with her childhood friend, Champion, and the struggle to keep her family together, Beau is soon in way over her head. How much is she willing to risk to clear her sister’s name and make sure she’s not forgotten?

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller
  • Setting: Chicago, Illinois; present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: sisters, police shootings, murder, racism, grief, gang violence
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, African American

The Dream Runners by Shveta Thakrar

Seven years ago, Tanvi was spirited away to the subterranean realm of Nagalok, where she joined the ranks of the dream runners: human children freed of all memory and emotion, who collect mortal dreams for the entertainment of the serpentine, immortal naga court.

But when one of Tanvi’s dream harvests goes awry, she begins to remember her life on earth. Panicked and confused, she turns to the one mortal in Nagalok who might be able to help: Venkat, the dreamsmith responsible for collecting the dream runners’ wares and shaping them into the kingdom’s most tantalizing commodity. And as they search for answers, a terrifying truth begins to take shape–one that could turn the nagas’ realm of dreams into a land of waking nightmare.

  • Genre(s): dark fantasy, mythology
  • Setting: subterranean realm (like the Underworld)
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: snakes, memory, dreaming, Hindu mythology, kidnapping victims, worldbuilding
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, Indian American

M Is for Monster by Talia Dutton

Debut author! When Doctor Frances Ai’s younger sister Maura died in a tragic accident six months ago, Frances swore she would bring her back to life.

However, the creature that rises from the slab is clearly not Maura. This girl, who chooses the name “M,” doesn’t remember anything about Maura’s life and just wants to be her own person. However, Frances expects M to pursue the same path that Maura had been on–applying to college to become a scientist–and continue the plans she and Maura shared. Hoping to trigger Maura’s memories, Frances surrounds M with the trappings of Maura’s past, but M wants nothing to do with Frances’ attempts to change her into something she’s not.

In order to face the future, both Frances and M need to learn to listen and let go of Maura once and for all.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: sisters, bringing back the dead, macabre, Frankenstein, forgiveness, being oneself, obsession with perfection
  • Protagonist description: two sisters, both Chinese

This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede

Debut author! Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

  • Genre(s): fantasy, romance
  • Setting: fictional Italian island
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: magic, powers, gods and goddesses, mythology, demons, bodyguards, Italian folklore
  • Protagonist description: female, age 18, white

*High Score by Destiny Howell

We do this my way.

No one gets hurt.

And if I call it off, it’s off.

Got it?

My name’s Darius James–but everyone calls me DJ. At my old school, I was the go-to guy for all kinds of tricky problems that needed creative solutions. But at my new school, Ella Fitzgerald Middle, I’m just trying to blend in.

Well, I was, anyway, until my best friend, Conor, got himself transferred to the Fitz too. Now Conor owes 100,000 arcade tickets to the biggest bully around–and he only has two weeks to make it happen. Impossible? Not with my head in the game.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: middle school, new kid in school, bullying, gaming, adventure, friendship, masterminds, Oceans Eleven
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, Black

*Valentina Salazar is Not a Monster Hunter by Zoraida Córdova

It takes a special person to end up in detention on the last day of school.

It takes a REALLY special person to accidentally burn down the school yard while chasing a fire-breathing chipmunk.

But nothing about Valentina Salazar has ever been “normal.” The Salazars are protectors, tasked with rescuing the magical creatures who sometimes wander into our world, from grumpy unicorns to chupacabras…to the occasional fire-breathing chipmunk.

When Val’s father is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong, her mother decides it’s time to retire from their life on the road. She moves the family to a boring little town in upstate New York and enrolls Val and her siblings in real school for the first time.

But Val is a protector at heart and she can’t give up her calling. So when a mythical egg surfaces in a viral video, Val convinces her reluctant siblings to help her find the egg before it hatches and wreaks havoc. But she has some competition: the dreaded monster hunters who’ll stop at nothing to destroy the creature…and the Salazar family.

Publishers Weekly and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Setting: upstate New York,
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: magical creatures, chupacabras, unicorns, monsters, grief, death of a parent (father), siblings, summer
  • Protagonist description: female, age 11, Hispanic American (family is from Ecuador)

In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo

Debut author! Anna can’t wait to move to the beautiful country–the Chinese name for America. Although she’s only ever known life in Taiwan, she can’t help but brag about the move to her family and friends.

But the beautiful country isn’t anything like Anna pictured. Her family can only afford a cramped apartment, she’s bullied at school, and she struggles to understand a new language. On top of that, the restaurant that her parents poured their savings into is barely staying afloat. The version of America that Anna is experiencing is nothing like she imagined. How will she be able to make the beautiful country her home?

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, novel in verse
  • Setting: Los Angeles, California; 1980
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: immigration, moving to a new country, bullying, learning English, prejudice, resilience, family business, restaurant business, American Dream, financial stress, vandalism, racism
  • Protagonist description: female, age 10, Asian, Taiwanese

Kaya Girl by Mamle Wolo

When Faiza, a Muslim migrant girl from northern Ghana, and Abena, a wealthy doctor’s daughter from the south, meet by chance in Accra’s largest market, where Faiza works as a porter or kaya girl, they strike up an unlikely and powerful friendship that transcends their social inequities and opens up new worlds to them both.

Set against a backdrop of class disparity in Ghana, The Kaya Girl has shades of The Kite Runner in its unlikely friendship, and of Slumdog Millionaire as Faiza’s life takes unlikely turns that propel her thrillingly forward. As, over the course of the novel, Abena awakens to the world outside her sheltered, privileged life, the novel explores a multitude of awakenings and the opportunities that lie beyond the breaking down of barriers.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Accra, Ghana; present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: migrants, West Africa, friendship, social class, rags-to-riches, aspiring journalists
  • Protagonist description: female, age 14, Ghanaian, Muslim, migrant

One Boy Watching by Grant Snider

Climb aboard Bus Number Four as it travels along country roads and city streets, past train tracks and farm fields. Through the window, countless details rush by, just waiting to be noticed. What will you see today?

In this lyrical tribute to long rides and curious minds, author Grant Snider celebrates the extraordinary found within the ordinary, the fascinating hiding within the familiar, and the world of discovery awaiting all those who watch and wonder.

Publishers Weekly starred. I also had a long school bus ride as a kid! My sister and I were always the first-on and the last-off. In winter, we got on the bus before the sun was up. I think lots of rural kids will identify with this story.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: on a school bus; early morning
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: school bus, long rides, cross country trips, observation, wonder, counting
  • Protagonist description: young boy, light brown skin

The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness from the Border by Stephen Briseño (Author) and Magdalena Mora (Illustrator)

Before, the sun drenched the yard. Our neighbor’s laughter danced in the streets. Now, the streets are quiet. Papa is gone, and we are no longer safe here. We are leaving, too.

In this moving picture book, Noemi and Mama flee their home in Mexico, and head for the US border. There, they look for “The Notebook Keeper”– the person in charge of a ledger for those waiting to cross, and they add their names to the book. As the days turn into weeks, and hope dwindles, the little girl looks for kindness around her–and inside herself. One day, when the Notebook Keeper’s own name is called to cross, Noemi and her Mama are chosen–for the generosity in their hearts–to take her place.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: US-Mexico border; present day
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: based on true events, Mexico, immigration, refugees, border crossings, text in English and Spanish, San Ysidro Border Crossing
  • Protagonist description: young girl and her mother, both Mexican





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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