New Release Spotlight: July 19, 2022

This is a GREAT week for new books! I actually like the picture books best this week, something that hasn’t happened in awhile. There are also FIVE graphic novels on the list for YA and middle grades. There are also three vampire books, two witch books, and one werewolf book! It’s unusual to see that many paranormal characters on one list, and it makes me wonder if paranormal is making a 2009-esque comeback…

This week’s top picks:

  • Welcome to St. Hell by Lewis Hancox (YA)
  • Twin Cities by Jose Pimienta (MG)
  • Berry Song by Michaela Goade

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2613-#2629 on The Ginormous book list.

*Baby Teeth by Meg Grehan

It starts when Claudia offers her a yellow rose.

Immy has been in love before–many times, across many lifetimes. But never as deeply, as intensely as this. Claudia smells like paint and peppermint tea. She wears her hair in a plait, and has a green thumb, and Immy is utterly besotted.

Claudia has never been in love like this either. But then, this is her first time with a vampire. But a love like this can’t last. The forbidden thirst for blood runs deep in Immy. And within her mind clamour the voices, of all the others she has been, their desires, and their wrongs.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): supernatural, paranormal, free verse
  • Setting: Ireland?
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: vampires, first love, dating, vampire families, existential goodness or “badness” of a person
  • Protagonist description: female, queer vampire, cued white

Gamer Girls: 25 Women Who Built the Video Game by Mary Kenney (Author) and Salini Perera (Illustrator)

Women have always made video games, from the 1960s and the first-of-its-kind, projector-based Sumerian Game to the blockbuster Uncharted games that defined the early 2000s. Women have been behind the writing, design, scores, and engines that power one of the most influential industries out there.

Through bold artwork, easy-to-read profiles, and real-life stories of the women working on games like Centipede, Final Fantasy, Halo, and more, this dynamic illustrated book shows what a huge role women have played–and will continue to play–in the creation of video games.

With additional sidebars about other influential women in the industry, as well as a glossary and additional resources page, Gamer Girls offers a look into the work and lives of influential pixel queens such as:
–Roberta Williams (one of the creators of the adventure genre)
–Mabel Addis Mergardt (the first person to write a video game)
–Muriel Tramis (the French “knight” of video games)
–Keiko Erikawa (creator of the otome genre)
–Yoko Shimomura (composer for Street Fighter, Final Fantasy, and Kingdom Hearts)
–Rebecca Heineman (first national video game tournament champion)
–Danielle Bunten Berry (creator of M.U.L.E. and early advocate for multiplayer games)

Whether you’re a gamer girl who plays video games, a gamer girl who makes video games, or a parent raising a gamer girl, this entertaining, inspiring book will have you itching to pick up a controller or create your own video games!

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): collected biography
  • Setting: 1970s to today
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: video games, Women’s History Month, STEM, technology, inventors, game development, misogyny, feminism
  • Protagonist description: females; diverse skin tones

Welcome to St. Hell by Lewis Hancox

Lewis has a few things to say to his younger teen self. He knows she hates her body. He knows she’s confused about who to snog. He knows she’s really a he and will ultimately realize this…but she’s going to go through a whole lot of mess (some of it funny, some of it not funny at all) to get to that point. Lewis is trying to tell her this…but she’s refusing to listen.

In Welcome To St. Hell, author-illustrator Lewis Hancox takes readers on the hilarious, heartbreaking, and healing path he took to make it past trauma, confusion, hurt, and dubious fashion choices in order to become the man he was meant to be. It’s a remarkable, groundbreaking graphic memoir from an unmistakably bold new voice in comics.

BCCB starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, memoir
  • Setting: England, early 2000s
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: talking to younger self, trauma, gender identity, coming-of-age
  • Protagonist description: transgender boy, starts story at age 11, white

Youngblood by Sasha Laurens

Kat Finn and her mother can barely make ends meet living among humans. Like all vampires, they must drink Hema, an expensive synthetic blood substitute, to survive, as nearly all of humanity has been infected by a virus that’s fatal to vampires. Kat isn’t looking forward to an immortal life of barely scraping by, but when she learns she’s been accepted to the Harcote School, a prestigious prep school that’s secretly vampires-only, she knows her fortune is about to change.

Taylor Sanger has grown up in the wealthy vampire world, but she’s tired of its backward, conservative values–especially when it comes to sexuality, since she’s an out-and-proud lesbian. She only has to suffer through a two more years of Harcote before she’s free. But when she discovers her new roommate is Kat Finn, she’s horrified. Because she and Kat used to be best friends, a long time ago, and it didn’t end well.

When Taylor stumbles upon the dead body of a vampire, and Kat makes a shocking discovery in the school’s archives, the two realize that there are deep secrets at Harcote–secrets that link them to the most powerful figures in Vampirdom and to the synthetic blood they all rely on.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): supernatural, paranormal, romance
  • Setting: boarding school for vampires
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: vampires, boarding schools, viruses, former friends, cover-ups, secrets, conservative vs. progressive values, privilege, homophobia, classism
  • Protagonist description: female, queer, vampire, white

Crumbs by Danie Stirling

Debut author! In a very special town, there’s an even more unusual bakery with a selection of baked treats hand-crafted to help your dreams come true. For Ray, a quiet young woman with special powers of her own, the order is always the same: a hot tea with a delicious side of romance.

When Ray meets Laurie, the kind barista who aspires to be a professional musician, she gets a real taste of love for the first time. But even with a spark of magic, romance isn’t so simple. Both Ray and Laurie are chasing their own dreams and even when Ray starts to see the future, she can’t predict her fate with Laurie.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, romance, fantasy
  • Setting: magical town
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: magic, bakeries, webcomics, seer, sorcery, musicians
  • Protagonist description: female, brown-skinned

Blackwater by Jeannette Arroyo and Ren Graham

Debut author! Tony Price is a popular high school track star and occasional delinquent aching for his dad’s attention and approval. Eli Hirsch is a quiet boy with a chronic autoimmune disorder that has ravaged his health and social life.

What happens when these two become unlikely friends (and a whole lot more…) in the spooky town of Blackwater, Maine? Werewolf curses, unsavory interactions with the quarterback of the football team, a ghostly fisherman haunting the harbor, and tons of high school drama.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, romance, supernatural, paranormal
  • Setting: Blackwater, Maine
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: fathers and sons, autoimmune disorders, werewolves, ghost, webcomics
  • Protagonist description: trans boy, Jewish, autoimmune disorder; male, Puerto Rican

*The Language of Seabirds by Will Taylor

Jeremy is not excited about the prospect of spending the summer with his dad and his uncle in a seaside cabin in Oregon. It’s the first summer after his parents’ divorce, and he hasn’t exactly been seeking alone time with his dad.

He doesn’t have a choice, though, so he goes…and on his first day takes a walk on the beach and finds himself intrigued by a boy his age running by. Eventually, he and Runner Boy (Evan) meet–and what starts out as friendship blooms into something neither boy is expecting…and also something both boys have been secretly hoping for.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Oregon, Pacific coast, summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: newly-divorced parents, parental alcoholism, coming of age, LGBTQIA+, burgeoning romance
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, white, Irish American

*Twin Cities by Jose Pimienta

Luis Fernando and Luisa Teresa are twins, and they finally have the chance to stand on their own. Fernando is staying local in Mexicali, Mexico, and Teresa is planning to cross the border every day so she can go to a private school in Calexico, California.

Suddenly on his own, Fernando realizes that without his twin around, he’s all alone in middle school. He finds himself making friends with the first kid who’s willing to give him a chance…only this new friend says and does a lot of things that Fernando isn’t too sure about.

Teresa is ready to thrive and stand on her own two feet, but she soon finds herself failing under the pressure of crossing the US/Mexico border every day. She no longer has to worry about being compared to her brother — but now she doesn’t have his support when she could really use it.

At home, both twins have a chance to reconnect. But instead, they find themselves pushing each other away. After all, being on their own is what they always wanted…right?

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Setting: Calexico-Mexicali border; 1990s
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: siblings, twins, friendship, middle school, US-Mexico border, school stories, peer pressure, marijuana, loneliness
  • Protagonist description: male and female, twins, age 12, 7th graders, Mexican

Rewilding: Bringing Wildlife Back Where It Belongs by David A. Steen (Author), Neon Squid (Author), and Chiara Fedele (Illustrator)

Discover inspiring stories of wildlife brought back from the brink of extinction in this kids’ nonfiction book about animals and the environment.

Rewilding means returning animals or plants to places where they used to live. In this book, acclaimed conservation biologist and science communicator David A. Steen introduces children to the scientists determined to turn back the hands of time to create a greener future. Read about awe-inspiring rewilding projects, including:

• The wolves that returned to Yellowstone National Park and dramatically improved the ecosystem
• The beavers reintroduced to their old territories to build dams to stop them flooding
• The Galápagos giant tortoises who beat the odds to survive extinction and return to their island home

Throughout the heartwarming true stories, beautifully illustrated by award-winning artist Chiara Fedele, children will learn how different species evolved to live side by side and will see what it takes to be a conservation scientist. They might even be inspired to become a wildlife activist themselves!

By the end of the book kids will be left with a key message: it’s not too late to fix the planet.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-5
  • Themes: biology, conservation, science, wildlife, plant life, biodiversity, ecosystems, animal extinction, nature

Lumberjackula by Mat Heagerty (Author) and Sam Owen (Illustrator)

Jack is in a pickle. His lumberjack mom wants him to go to Mighty Log Lumberjack Prep to learn how to chop wood and wear flannel. His vampire dad wants him to go to Sorrow’s Gloom Vampire School to learn how to turn into a bat and drink blood-orange juice. And Jack has a secret: what he really wants to do is dance.

When he finds out about Tip Tap Twinkle Toes Dance Academy from new friend Plenty, Jack feels he’s finally found the place where he can be his true self. But he’s too afraid of disappointing his family to tell them. What’s a half-lumberjack, half-vampire boy to do?

To summon the confidence to pursue his dreams, Jack will have to embrace every part of himself–his lumberjack toughness, his vampire eeriness, and most especially his awesome dance moves.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, humor
  • Setting: fictional vampire and lumberjack town called Hollow Tree
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-7
  • Themes: lumberjacks, vampires, school, identity, belonging, dancing, being oneself
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 11, blue-skinned, half-vampire

Thirst by Varsha Bajaj

Minni lives in the poorest part of Mumbai, where access to water is limited to a few hours a day and the communal taps have long lines.

Lately, though, even that access is threatened by severe water shortages and thieves who are stealing this precious commodity–an act that Minni accidentally witnesses one night. Meanwhile, in the high-rise building where she just started to work, she discovers that water streams out of every faucet and there’s even a rooftop swimming pool.

What Minni also discovers there is one of the water mafia bosses. Now she must decide whether to expose him and risk her job and maybe her life. How did something as simple as access to water get so complicated?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, mystery
  • Setting: Mumbai, India
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: water shortages, access to water, poverty, thieves, crime, mafia, whistleblowing, human rights, slums, injustice, privilege, parental illness (mother)
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, Indian

Nothing Is Little by Carmella Van Vleet

Eleven-year-old Felix likes being the smallest kid in school.

At least he knows where he fits in. Plus his nickname, “Short-lock Holmes,” is perfect for someone who’s killing it in forensic science club. To Felix, Growth Hormone Deficiency is no big deal.

And then Felix learns that his biological dad was short, too. This one, tiny, itty-bitty piece of information opens up a massive hole in his life. Felix must find his father. He only has a few small clues to work from, but as Sherlock Holmes said, “To a great mind, nothing is little.”

The further Felix gets in his investigation, though, the more he starts to wonder: What if his dad doesn’t want to be found? And what if Felix’s family–his mom, his stepdad, the baby on the way–needs him right where he is?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, humor
  • Setting: present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-6
  • Themes: being short, bullying, biological fathers, detectives, stepfamilies, mother’s pregnancy, growth hormone, forensic science, school club
  • Protagonist description: male, age 11, 6th grader, white

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic by Shivaun Plozza

Willa lives in the Wild, in a city squished between two warring witch covens. The non-magical Wildians spend their days dodging wayward spells–from raining frogs to dancing chickens–all because of the witch war raging around them.

Being stuck in the middle of a magical war means the Wildians hate witches–none more so than Willa, whose parents were turned into clouds by a misplaced curse. Willa spends her days with her army of cats, dreaming of an end to the war and her parents’ return.

So when Willa is accused of being a witch after witnesses catch her accidentally stopping a spell midair, she’s certain there’s been a mistake. She can’t be a witch! Yet Willa is dragged to the palace, where she’s given one year to master her volatile magic and choose a coven to join. If she doesn’t, she’ll explode.

But her attempts to control her magic are interrupted when a rogue witch begins nefarious spells against the Ordinary Folk. What does the witch want and what does it have to do with Willa? She must unravel the mystery to save her city, her friends, and herself.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Setting: a magical land called “The Wild”
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: witches, magic, war, curses, cats, spells, learning to use powers
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, not described in book but she’s white on the cover

*Berry Song by Michaela Goade

On an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea, a girl and her grandmother gather gifts from the earth. Salmon from the stream, herring eggs from the ocean, and in the forest, a world of berries.

Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry.

Huckleberry, Snowberry, Strawberry, Crowberry.

Through the seasons, they sing to the land as the land sings to them. Brimming with joy and gratitude, in every step of their journey, they forge a deeper kinship with both the earth and the generations that came before, joining in the song that connects us all. Michaela Goade’s luminous rendering of water and forest, berries and jams glows with her love of the land and offers an invitation to readers to deepen their own relationship with the earth.

FIVE starred reviews! I think this could be a Caldecott contender…

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: island in Alaska
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: grandmothers, berries, gathering food, sea, islands, seasons, nature, feeling connected to earth, making jam, giving thanks
  • Protagonist description: young girl and her grandmother, both Tlingit

A Spoonful of Frogs by Casey Lyall (Author) and Vera Brosgol (Illustrator)

A witch’s favorite treat is frog soup. Luckily, it’s healthy and easy to make. To give it that extra kick and a pop of color, the key ingredient is a spoonful of frogs. But how do you keep the frogs on the spoon? They hop, they leap, they hide…and they escape. What is a poor witch to do?

Casey Lyall is a master of comedic timing with her deceptively simple and energetic text, and Caldecott Honor winner Vera Brosgol’s vibrant, hilarious illustrations make the witch–and the frogs!–practically leap off the page. The solution to the witch’s dilemma will surprise and delight young readers and their parents alike.

Booklist starred. This would be a fun read-aloud for Halloween. I love this illustrator, too!

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Setting: set of a cooking show
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: witches, soup, cooking, TV shows, frogs, Halloween read-aloud
  • Protagonist description: female, witch, light green skin and a pink nose

*Everything in Its Place: A Story of Books and Belonging by Pauline David-Sax (Author) and Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Illustrator)

Nicky is a shy girl who feels most at home in the safe space of her school library, but the library closes for a week and Nicky is forced to face her social anxiety.

When she meets a group of unique, diverse, inspiring women at her mother’s diner–members of a women’s motorcycle club–Nicky realizes that being different doesn’t have to mean being alone, and that there’s a place for everyone.

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: school library, playground, mother’s diner
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: shyness, libraries, social anxiety, community, school recess, making new friends, motorcycle riders, introverts
  • Protagonist description: young female, Black

Some Bodies by Sophie Kennen

Debut author (a kindergarten teacher!). Our bodies! Our amazing, astounding, and all-around awesome bodies! Bodies come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and can do extraordinary things. Our bodies are uniquely our own yet they connect us to the world around us in so many ways.

Through playful rhymes and colorful engaging artwork, all the things that make our bodies special–from the texture of our hair to the color of our eyes–are celebrated. This inclusive book encourages young readers to acknowledge and accept differences and offers opportunities to open up conversations about body acceptance. Every body is different and all bodies are good. Back matter includes tips and conversation starters for parents and educators to use with children.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: human body, anatomy, acceptance, inclusion, rhyming books, diversity
  • Protagonist description: includes lots of skin tones and body sizes; includes wheelchairs, prosthetics, vitiligo, women wearing hijab, cochlear implants, scars






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. 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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