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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: July 12, 2022

A great New Release Spotlight this week! Since I skipped last week’s Spotlight, I’ve added a few from last week also. Middle grades look best to me this week, with new titles from Evan Griffith, Pablo Cartaya, Kekla Magoon, and Melanie Conklin.

This week’s top picks:

  • Wind Daughter by Joanna Ruth Meyer (YA)
  • Nura and the Immortal Palace by M. T. Khan (MG)
  • Lou by Breanna Carzoo (picture book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2595-#2612 on The Ginormous book list.

*Wind Daughter by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Companion to Echo North. In the dark, cold reaches of the north lives a storyteller and his daughter. He told his daughter, Satu, many stories–romances like the girl who loved a star and changed herself into a nightingale so she could always see him shining–but the most important story he told her was his own.

This storyteller was once the formidable North Wind, but he lost his power by trading it away in exchange for mortality–he loved her mother too much to live without her. The loss of his magic impacted more than just their family, however, and now the world is unraveling in the wake of this imbalance.

To save the North, Satu embarks on a perilous journey to reclaim her father’s magic, but she isn’t the only one searching for it. In the snow-laden mountains, she finds herself in a deadly race with the Winter Lord who wants the North Wind’s destructive powers for himself.

Satu has the chance to be the heroine of her own fairy tale, only this one has an ending she never could have imagined.

Kirkus and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, romance, adventure
  • Setting: remote mountain
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: storytelling, wind, weather, magic, fathers and daughters, winter, quests, anxiety, inherited powers
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, brown hair and skin

*Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne

Debut author! The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love.

Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): horror, fantasy
  • Setting: small farming town in Kentucky
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: walking dead, magic, Southern gothic, taxidermy, monsters
  • Protagonist description: female, age 19, cued white, college dropout

Meet Me in the Middle by Alex Light

Eden had her best friend Katie–she didn’t need anyone else. But then there was Truman.

Katie’s older brother, the artist. The recluse. The boy with the innocent smile and the dangerous eyes.

Eden had never really known Truman–not until the night of Katie’s accident. That was the night they’d finally let each other into their orbits–only to have the sky come crashing down on them.

With Katie in the hospital and Truman fleeing from his grief without a word, Eden is left alone to grapple with her own pain. But when Truman returns to the city, can Eden let him back into her life knowing that their first kiss is what tore their world apart?

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: Toronto, Canada; present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: grief, best friends, comas, alternating perspectives, guilt
  • Protagonist description: alternates between white young adult male and white female, age 18

Lia and Beckett’s Abracadabra by Amy Noelle Parks

Seventeen-year-old Lia Sawyer is thrilled to get a mysterious invitation from her grandmother to compete in a stage magic contest––even though her parents object.

But she’s going to be judged by a bunch of old-school magicians who think that because she’s a girl, her only magical talents lie in wearing sparkly dresses, providing distractions, and getting sawed, crushed, or stretched. And Lia can’t ask her grandmother for help because she’s disappeared, leaving behind only her best magic tricks, a few obscure clues, and an order to stay away from Blackwell boys, the latest generation of a rival magic family.

Lia totally plans to follow her grandmother’s rule––until the cute boy she meets on the beach turns out to be Beckett Blackwell, son of the biggest old guard magical family there is.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: Mirror Lake, Wisconsin; summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: grandmothers, magicians, competitions, misogyny, rival families, enemies-to-lovers
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white

We Made It All U by Margot Harrison

Celeste is the talk of the town when she moves to Montana from Montreal, but the only friend she makes is Vivvy, the heir to the town’s founder and a social pariah. Inspired by a passion-fueled school incident, they begin writing a love-story fanfic between the popular guy and the school stoner, one that gradually reveals Celeste’s past.

While her bond with Vivvy makes Celeste feel safe and alive again, Vivvy keeps prodding Celeste to turn fantasy into reality. When they finally try, one drunken night on a dark mountainside, Celeste is the one who ends up kissing golden boy Joss. And Joss ends up dead.

Celeste doesn’t remember the end of that night and can’t be sure she didn’t deliver the killing blow. Could she still be that scared of getting close to a boy? Secrets are hard to keep in a small town, and even Vivvy seems to suspect her. Exploring the winding passages of the cave where Joss died, Celeste learns he had his own dark secrets, as does Vivvy. The town isn’t as innocent as it appears.

  • Genre(s): thriller, mystery
  • Setting: small Montana town
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: writing, fanfic, new kid in school, murder, sexual abuse, self-harm, unreliable narrator, secrets
  • Protagonist description: female, Canadian, white, high school junior

Gabe in the After by Shannon Doleski

It’s fourteen-year-old Gabe Sweeney’s day to check for survivors…

Two years after a global pandemic, twenty survivors (most of them children) have relocated from their coastal Maine island full of sad memories to a mansion on a small, neighboring island where they have school and farm chores. When Gabe and his dog, Mud, find Relle Douglas alone in the woods on the mainland, they take the strange new girl across the channel to live with them.

Relle changes the island with her hopeful attitude. She tells big stories and makes plans for activities like talent shows. Despite a growing crush, Gabe doesn’t quite understand the point of it all; why have a talent show at the end of the world? But when tragedy strikes, Gabe sets out on a dangerous journey to try and find other survivors where the world might be normal. Like Before.

BCCB starred. Be sure to read the Kirkus review before purchasing. I included this title because of the BCCB starred review, but the Kirkus review questions the plausibility of the post-apocalyptic world and how the journey to Massachusetts is unrealistically easy. Another review for Publishers Weekly is positive, but not gushing.

  • Genre(s): dystopia, adventure
  • Setting: coastal Maine island
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-9
  • Themes: pandemics, dogs, survival, post-apocalypse, end of the world, Anne of Green Gables
  • Protagonist description: male, age 14, white

Chester Keene Cracks the Code by Kekla Magoon

Chester Keene takes great comfort in his routines. Afterschool Monday to Thursday is bowling, and Friday, the best of days, is laser tag! But besides Friday laser tag, Chester has one other very special thing–he gets secret spy messages from his dad, who must be on covert government assignments, which is why Chester has never met him.

Then one day at lunch, Chester’s classmate, Skye, approaches him with a clue. They’ve been tasked with a complex puzzle-solving mission. Chester takes their assignments very seriously, but Skye treats it like a big game. Skye proves to be a useful partner and good company, even if her haphazard, free-wheeling ways are disruptive to Chester’s carefully curated schedule.

As Chester and Skye get closer to their final clue, they discover the key to their spy assignment: they have to stop a heist! But cracking this code may mean finding out things are not always what they seem.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: bowling, laser tag, fathers and sons, puzzles, school, friendship, cracking codes, scavenger hunts
  • Protagonist description: male, age 11, biracial, 6th grader

Manatee Summer by Evan Griffith

Peter and his best friend, Tommy, have a goal for their last summer before middle school: finish their Discovery Journal, a catalog of the wildlife around their Florida town. When they spot a manatee in a canal, Peter knows they’ve found something special–and when the manatee is injured by a boat, something to protect!

As Peter joins the fight to save Florida manatees, he also finds himself taking care of his ailing grandfather and facing an unwelcome surprise that jeopardizes his friendship with Tommy. Soon Peter is adrift, navigating shifting tides and realizing that he has as much to discover about himself as he does about the world around him.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, ecofiction
  • Setting: Florida, summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: middle school, friendship, nature, manatees, grandfathers, conservation, Earth Day
  • Protagonist description: male, age 11, white, rising 6th grader

*Nura and the Immortal Palace by M. T. Khan

Nura longs for the simple pleasure of many things–to wear a beautiful red dupatta or to bite into a sweet gulab. But with her mom hard at work in a run-down sweatshop and three younger siblings to feed, Nura must spend her days earning money by mica mining. But it’s not just the extra rupees in her pocket Nura is after. Local rumor says there’s buried treasure in the mine, and Nura knows that finding it could change the course of her family’s life forever.

Her plan backfires when the mines collapse and four kids, including her best friend, Faisal, are claimed dead. Nura refuses to believe it and shovels her way through the dirt hoping to find him. Instead, she finds herself at the entrance to a strange world of purple skies and pink seas–a portal to the opulent realm of jinn, inhabited by the trickster creatures from her mother’s cautionary tales. Yet they aren’t nearly as treacherous as her mother made them out to be, because Nura is invited to a luxury jinn hotel, where she’s given everything she could ever imagine and more.

But there’s a dark truth lurking beneath all that glitter and gold, and when Nura crosses the owner’s son and is banished to the working quarters, she realizes she isn’t the only human who’s ended up in the hotel’s clutches. Faisal and the other missing children are there, too, and if Nura can’t find a way to help them all escape, they’ll be bound to work for the hotel forever.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Setting: fictional Pakistani town
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: siblings, child labor, exploitation, mica mining, genies, mining accidents, buried treasure, jinn, trickster, hotels, magic, missing children, speech disorders, stuttering
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, Muslim

The Last Beekeeper by Pablo Cartaya

In a future shaken by climate disasters, Yolanda Cicerón knows that nature is something to be feared. While life in the Valley is brutal and harsh, Yoly dreams of leaving her farm to live in Silo–the most advanced town for miles around. But first, Yoly will need to prove she belongs in a place where only the smartest and most useful are welcomed.

Between her razor-sharp smarts and sheer determination, Yoly is well on her way until she discovers her family can no longer afford her schooling. When forced to take matters into her own hands, the closer she gets to securing her future, the more she uncovers the dangers lying inside Silo’s walls–ones that threaten the entire Valley.

As she cracks long-guarded secrets, Yoly, along with those closest to her, is put in grave peril and the only chance of surviving may lie in the rediscovery of a long-extinct species–the honeybee. Can the last surviving beehive be the key to pulling the Valley out from under Silo’s thumb, or will they destroy what remains of Yoly’s future?

  • Genre(s): dystopia, survival, adventure
  • Setting: near future, city
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: climate change, nature, poverty, extinction, honeybees, technology, corruption, insects
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, Latinx, Cuban

Lark and the Wild Hunt by Jennifer Adam

Never trust a fae.

Lark Mairen knows this. In her village, the border between the fae and human worlds is as thin as a whisper, and fae trickery is nothing new.

But Lark’s brother, Galin, has just disappeared into the fae realm while racing in the deadly Wild Hunt, and Lark’s only lead is a mysterious fae boy called Rook.

To save her brother, she’ll have to trust Rook–even if it takes her into the dangerous fae kingdom, where she’ll untangle riddles, navigate labyrinths, and face the wicked king himself.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Setting: a town on the border between real world and fae world
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: fae, trickery, brothers and sisters, quests, wicked kings, fairytales, folklore
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, white

Etta Invincible by Reese Eschmann

Twelve-year-old Etta Johnson has Loud Days where she can hear just fine and Quiet Days where sounds come from far away and she gets to retreat into her thoughts. Debut author! Etta spends most of her time alone, working on her comic book about Invincible Girl, the superhero who takes down super villain Petra Fide. Invincible Girl is brave, daring, and bold–everything Etta wishes she could be.

But when Louisa May Alcott, a friendly Goldendoodle from across the street, disappears, Etta and the dog’s boy, Eleazar, must find their inner heroes to save her. The catch? Louisa May has run onto a magical train that mysteriously arrived at the station near Etta and Eleazar’s houses. Onboard, they discover each train car is its own magical world with individual riddles and challenges that must be solved before they can reach the engine room and rescue Louisa May.

Only, the stakes are even higher than they thought. The train’s magic is malfunctioning and spreading a purple smoke called The Fear through the streets of Chicago. Etta and Eleazar are the only ones who can save the city, save Louisa May Alcott–and save each other.

Kirkus starred. Includes black and white comic panels.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Setting: Chicago, Illinois
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: comics, superheroes, dogs, trains, magic, Ménière’s disease, fears
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, Black, 7th grader

All Four Quarters of the Moon by Shirley Marr

The night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, making mooncakes with Ah-Ma, was the last time Peijing Guo remembers her life being the same. She is haunted by the magical image of a whole egg yolk suspended in the middle like the full moon. Now adapting to their new life in Australia, Peijing thinks everything is going to turn out okay as long as they all have each other, but cracks are starting to appear in the family.

Five-year-old Biju, lovable but annoying, needs Peijing to be the dependable big sister. Ah-Ma keeps forgetting who she is; Ma Ma is no longer herself and Ba Ba must adjust to a new role as a hands-on dad. Peijing has no idea how she is supposed to cope with the uncertainties of her own world while shouldering the burden of everyone else.

If her family are the four quarters of the mooncake, where does she even fit in?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Australia
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Mid-Autumn Festival, mooncakes, sisters, dementia, family, immigration, Chinese mythology, resilience
  • Protagonist description: female, age 11, Chinese

A Perfect Mistake by Melanie Conklin

Max wishes he could go back in time to before he was diagnosed with ADHD, before he grew to be the tallest kid in his class, and before he and his best friends went into the woods in the middle of the night. Max doesn’t remember what happened after he left his friends Will and Joey and the older kids who took them there. He’s not sure if he wants to remember. Knowing isn’t going to make Joey talk to him again, or bring Will out of his coma.

When the local authorities run out of leads, Max realizes that without his help, they may never know what really happened to Will. Charged by the idea that he may be the key to uncovering the truth, Max pairs up with classmate and aspiring journalist Sam to investigate what really happened that night. But not everyone in the community wants that night to be remembered.

  • Genre(s): mystery, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: ADHD, disagreements with friends, comas, journalism, memory, tragedy, middle school, guilt
  • Protagonist description: male, age 11, 6th Grader, white, ADHD

Puppy Bus by Drew Brockington

When a boy and his family move, he has to start all over at a new school–and gets plenty of first day jitters. The teachers will be different, he’ll have to make new friends, and he won’t even know where the bathroom is!

On the first day, he nervously gets on the bus, only to end up at Puppy School. Everything is strange and different–but at the end of the day, new friends prove that maybe starting at someplace new isn’t so bad after all.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: school
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: back to school, new kid in school, being nervous, puppies, dogs, friendship
  • Protagonist description: young child, light skinned with dark curly hair

Lou by Breanna Carzoo

Debut author! Meet Lou. Lou has an important job…as the neighborhood toilet for dogs on their walks.

Useful as he may be, he gets the feeling that deep down inside, there might be more to him than that. He just doesn’t seem to know exactly what yet. When disaster strikes, will Lou find out what he’s made of and save the day?

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: street corner
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: personification, fire hydrants, purpose in life, dogs, community helpers, fire department, community, toilets
  • Protagonist description: red fire hydrant

*If You’re a Kid Like Gavin by Gavin Grimm (Author), Kyle Lukoff (Author), and J Yang (Illustrator)

When you’re a kid like Gavin Grimm, you know yourself best. And Gavin knew that he was a boy–even if others saw him as a girl. But when his school took away his right to something as simple as using the boy’s restroom, Gavin knew he had a big decision to make.

Because there are always more choices than the ones others give you.

Gavin chose to correct others when they got his pronouns wrong. He asked to be respected. He stood up for himself. Gavin proved that his school had violated his constitutional rights and had the Supreme Court uphold his case–bringing about a historic win for trans rights. There are many kids out there, some just like Gavin Grimm, and they might even be you.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography, memoir
  • Setting: Virginia, 2020
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: LGBTQIA+, transgender, gender identity, restrooms, school, pronouns, respect, Supreme Court, civil rights, bullying, law, court cases, empathy, standing up for oneself, standing up for rights
  • Protagonist description: transgender male; high school student; white

Hope Is an Arrow: The Story of Lebanese-American Poet Khalil Gibran by Cory McCarthy (Author) and Ekua Holmes (Illustrator)

Before Kahlil Gibran became the world’s third-best-selling poet of all time, he was Gibran Khalil Gibran, an immigrant child from Lebanon with a secret hope to bring people together despite their many differences.

Kahlil’s life highlights the turn of the twentieth century, from the religious conflicts that tore apart his homeland and sent a hundred thousand Arab people to America, to settling in Boston, where the wealthy clashed headlong with the poor.

Throughout it all, Kahlil held on to his secret hope, even as his identity grew roots on both sides of the Atlantic. How could he be both Kahlil Gibran, Arab American, and Gibran Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese boy who longed for the mountains of his homeland?

Kahlil found the answer in art and poetry. He wrote The Prophet, an arrow of hope as strong as the great cedars of Lebanon and feathered by the spirit of American independence. More than a hundred years later, his words still fly around the world in many languages, bringing people together.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Setting: early 20th Century, Lebanon and Boston
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-4
  • Themes: poets, immigrants, Lebanese, Arab Americans, discrimination, prejudice, Middle East
  • Protagonist description: male, Lebanese American, poet

 

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (MIDDLE GRADES):

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS & FAVORITE CHARACTERS (ELEMENTARY):

ABOUT THE SPOTLIGHT

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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