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New Release Spotlight: August 16, 2022

I’ve got something new for you this week! I can’t guarantee I’ll do this every week, but I wanted to try it and see what you think!

The New Release Spotlight is exactly as normal this week, but I’ve added a Google Slides presentation of all the books on the list. Each slide includes the front cover, a shortened, student-friendly summary, the genre(s), and themes (also not the complete list of themes on the Spotlight).

You can scroll the presentation on a loop in the library to show your students what’s coming out this week. There is a link under the presentation to add the presentation to your Google Drive, and you can edit it as you like. It’s a great way to see what books interest students (and teachers!) most, especially if you are looking to buy some new books in the near future.

Scroll past the presentation for the full New Release Spotlight for this week. It will give you the full publisher’s summary for each book, plus recommended grades, starred reviews, protagonist and setting information, and the full list of themes.

This week’s top picks:

There are only two new YA titles this week, and both look really good. I can’t pick just one YA title between those two, so I’ve picked two middle grade titles instead of a YA title this week for my “top picks.” Middle grades look fabulous this week – they are the clear standouts on the list.

  • Goblin Market by Diane Zahler (MG)
  • Ride On by Faith Erin Hicks (MG)
  • Dona Esmeralda, Who Ate Everything by Melissa de la Cruz (PB)
  • Most beautiful cover: Tumble by Celia Perez (MG)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2672-#2686 on The Ginormous book list.

Want to download a copy? You can edit this as needed for your library.
Click here to “make a copy” for your Google Drive.

*The Honeys by Ryan La Sala

Mars has always been the lesser twin, the shadow to his sister Caroline’s radiance. But when Caroline dies under horrific circumstances, Mars is propelled to learn all he can about his once-inseparable sister who’d grown tragically distant.

Mars’s genderfluidity means he’s often excluded from the traditions — and expectations — of his politically-connected family. This includes attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister poured so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place.

What Mars finds is a bucolic fairytale not meant for him. Folksy charm and sun-drenched festivities camouflage old-fashioned gender roles and a toxic preparatory rigor. Mars seeks out his sister’s old friends: a group of girls dubbed the Honeys, named for the beehives they maintain behind their cabin. They are beautiful and terrifying — and Mars is certain they’re connected to Caroline’s death.

But the longer he stays at Aspen, the more the sweet mountain breezes give way to hints of decay. Mars’s memories begin to falter, bleached beneath the relentless summer sun. Something is hunting him in broad daylight, toying with his mind. If Mars can’t find it soon, it will eat him alive.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): supernatural, horror
  • Setting: Aspen, Colorado, summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: siblings, twins, death of a sibling, grief, genderfluid, gender nonconformity, summer academies, being LGBT+ in a political family, acceptance
  • Protagonist description: genderfluid 17-year old, white

*The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Once upon a time, the kingdoms of Wales were rife with magic and conflict, and eighteen-year-old Mererid “Mer” is well-acquainted with both. She is the last living water diviner and has spent years running from the prince who bound her into his service.

Under the prince’s orders, she located the wells of his enemies, and he poisoned them without her knowledge, causing hundreds of deaths. After discovering what he had done, Mer went to great lengths to disappear from his reach. Then Mer’s old handler returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.

The best way to do that is to destroy the magical well that keeps the prince’s lands safe. With a motley crew of allies, including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves, and a corgi that may or may not be a spy, Mer may finally be able to steal precious freedom and peace for herself. After all, a person with a knife is one thing…but a person with a cause can topple kingdoms.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Setting: Wales, United Kingdom
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: slavery, poison, water problems, princes, magic, fae, Welsh folklore, thieves
  • Protagonist description: female, age 18, white, bisexual

*Tumble by Celia C. Pérez

Twelve-year-old Adela “Addie” Ramírez has a big decision to make when her stepfather proposes adoption. Addie loves Alex, the only father figure she’s ever known, but with a new half brother due in a few months and a big school theater performance on her mind, everything suddenly feels like it’s moving too fast. She has a million questions, and the first is about the young man in the photo she found hidden away in her mother’s things.

Addie’s sleuthing takes her to a New Mexico ranch, and her world expands to include the legendary Bravos: Rosie and Pancho, her paternal grandparents and former professional wrestlers; Eva and Maggie, her older identical twin cousins who love to spar in and out of the ring; Uncle Mateo, whose lucha couture and advice are unmatched; and Manny, her biological father, who’s in the midst of a career comeback. As luchadores, the Bravos’s legacy is strong. But being part of a family is so much harder—it’s about showing up, taking off your mask, and working through challenges together.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: New Mexico, present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: stepfamilies, adoption, parent pregnancy, theater, detectives, grandparents, lucha libre, wrestling, absent biological father, family
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, 7th grader, Mexican American

*Ride On by Faith Erin Hicks

Victoria has always loved horses. But riding in competitions is high stakes, high stress, and shockingly expensive. And even though Victoria’s best friend Taylor loves competing, Victoria has lost her taste for it.

After a heartbreaking fight with Taylor, Victoria needs a new start–at a new stables. A place where she doesn’t have to worry about anything other than riding. No competition, no drama, no friends.

Just horses.

Edgewood Stables seems ideal. There are plenty of horses to ride, and Victoria is perfectly happy giving the other riders the cold shoulder.

But can she truly be happy with no friends?

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Setting: horse stables
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: horse stables, riding horses, fights with best friend, social isolation, friendship, making new friends, growing apart from friends
  • Protagonist description: female, white, middle school

Goblin Market by Diane Zahler

Lizzie and Minka are sisters, but they’re nothing alike: Minka is outgoing and cheerful, while Lizzie is shy and sensitive. Nothing much ever happens in their sleepy village–there are fields to tend, clothes to mend, and weekly trips to the market, predictable as the turning of the seasons. Lizzie likes it that way. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. She hopes nothing will ever change.

But one day, Minka meets a boy.
A boy who gives her a plum to eat.

He is charming. He is handsome. He tells her that she’s special. He tells her no one understands her like he does–not her parents, not her friends, not even Lizzie. He tells her she should come away with him, into the darkness, into the forest…

Minka has been bewitched and ensnared by a zdusze–a goblin. His plum was poison, his words are poison, and strange things begin to happen. Trees bleed, winds howl, a terrible sickness descends on Minka, and deep in the woods, in a place beyond sunshine, beyond reality, a wedding table has been laid…

To save her sister, Lizzie will have to find courage she never knew she had–courage to confront the impossible–and enter into a world of dreams, danger, and death.

This is a retelling of Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market.” I couldn’t find any starred professional reviews, but wow, does this sound beautiful.

  • Genre(s): dark fantasy, horror
  • Setting: family lives on a farm near a village; cues as Poland or Eastern Europe
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: sisters, goblins, enchantments, poison, synesthesia, marriage to a monster, other worlds, Polish folklore, Christina Rossetti, fruit, poetry retelling, neurodiversity
  • Protagonist description: two sisters, both white, one has synesthesia and cues as neurodiverse

Dragonfly Eyes by Cao Wenxuan

Ah-Mei and her French grandmother, Nainai, share a rare bond. Maybe it’s because Ah-Mei is the only girl grandchild. Or maybe it’s because the pair look so much alike and neither resembles the rest of their Chinese family.

Politics and war make 1960s Shanghai a hard place to grow up, especially when racism and bigotry are rife, and everyone seems suspicious of Nainai’s European heritage and interracial marriage. In this time of political upheaval, Ah-Mei and her family suffer much–and when the family silk business falters, they are left with almost nothing. Ah-Mei and her grandmother are resourceful, but will the tender connection they share bring them enough strength to carry through?

This multigenerational saga by one of China’s most esteemed children’s authors takes the reader from 1920s France to a ravaged postwar Shanghai and through the convulsions of the Cultural Revolution.

I found no starred reviews of this title, but I’m excited to read it! I lived in Shanghai for six years, and I knew nothing of the Cultural Revolution before I lived there. I always love books featuring the stories of multiple generations, so this is definitely on the TBR for me!

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Setting: Shanghai, China, 20th Century (three generations of stories) and France
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: international families, grandmothers, Chinese Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong, prejudice, suspicion, mixed heritage, family business failure, poverty, war, Chinese history, French history
  • Protagonist description: Chinese-French family, spans three generations

If You Read This by Kereen Getten

When Brie was younger, her mama used to surprise her with treasure hunts around their island town. After she died three years ago, these became Brie’s favorite memories.

Now, on her twelfth birthday, her mama has another surprise: a series of letters leading Brie on one last treasure hunt.

The first letter guides Brie to a special place.

The next urges her to unlock a secret.

And the last letter will change life as she knows it.

In this poignant coming-of-age story of new memories, surprises, and moments of healing, Kereen Getten beautifully captures the edge of adolescence, when everything is thrilling, amazing, and terrifying in a way it will never be again.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Jamaica
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: death of parent (mother), grief, treasure hunts, memories, coming of age, birthdays, letters, fathers and daughters, emotional healing, community
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, Black, Jamaican

This Appearing House by Ally Malinenko

For as long as anyone could remember there wasn’t a house at the dead end of Juniper Drive…until one day there was.

When Jac first sees the House, she’s counting down to the five-year anniversary of her cancer diagnosis, when she hopefully will be declared NED, or “no evidence of disease.” But with a house appearing, and her hands shaking, and a fall off her bike, Jac is starting to wonder if these are symptoms–or if something stranger is happening.

Two classmates dare Jac and her friend Hazel to enter the House. Walking through the front door is the way in. It’s definitely not the way out. There’s something off about the House; Jac can feel it. The same way she knows it’s no coincidence that the House appeared for her five-year marker. It wants something from her. And she won’t be able to get out until she figures out what.

  • Genre(s): horror, scary stories, thriller
  • Setting: creepy house in a suburban New Jersey neighborhood
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: cancer, mysterious houses, fear, friendship, trapped, survival
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, cued white, remission cancer patient

The Black Slide by J.W. Ocker

Griffin Birch isn’t known for being brave, but there’s something about the new black slide on the elementary school playground that’s made him curious. Against his better judgement, he just has to follow his best friend Laila down.

But the Black Slide is no ordinary piece of playground equipment. What Griffin and Laila find at the other end of this strange portal is a cruel world, populated by bloodthirsty creatures on a quest to become immortal.

And it’s up to Griffin to save himself, his best friend—and the future of earth itself.

Fans of classic horror will devour this creepy adventure packed with more twists and turns than the ominous black slide itself.

  • Genre(s): horror, thriller, scary stories
  • Setting: kids enter a dark and evil world via a mysterious playground slide
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: playground, slides, portals, beasts, survival, nightmares, missing children, broken bones, physical abuse, emotional abuse, medical experiments
  • Protagonist description: male, 5th grader

Tales to Keep You Up at Night by Dan Poblocki (Author) and Marie Bergeron (Illustrator)

Amelia is cleaning out her grandmother’s attic when she stumbles across a book: Tales to Keep You Up at Night. But when she goes to the library to return it, she’s told that the book never belonged there.

Curious, she starts to read the stories: tales of strange incidents in nearby towns, of journal entries chronicling endless, twisting pumpkin vines, birthday parties gone awry, and cursed tarot decks. And at the center of the stories lies a family of witches. And witches, she’s told, can look like anyone…

As elements from the stories begin to come to life around her, and their eerie connections become clear, Amelia begins to realize that she may be in a scary story of her own…

With hair-raising, spine-chilling prose, Dan Poblocki delivers a collection of interconnected stories that, if you’re anything like Amelia, is sure to keep you up late in the night.

  • Genre(s): horror, scary stories
  • Setting: library and attic
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: grandmothers, ghosts, witches, siblings, creepy clowns, being buried alive, vignettes
  • Protagonist description: female, white

How Was That Built?: The Stories Behind Awesome Structure by Roma Agrawal (Author) and Katie Hickey (Illustrator)

From skyscrapers that reach astonishing heights to bridges that span deep and wide rivers, the world is filled with awe-inspiring structures. But how do they work?

Meet the extraordinary people who challenged our beliefs about what’s possible, pioneering remarkable inventions that helped build the Brooklyn Bridge in the US, the Pantheon in Italy, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Shard in England and the Sapporo Dome in Japan. Discover the ingenious methods engineers have come up with to enable us to build underground, underwater, on ice, and even in space.

With text written by award-winning structural engineer Roma Agrawal and detailed full-color illustrations by Katie Hickey, this book provides unique and illuminating perspectives of the world’s most incredible constructions. How Was That Built? is a perfect gift for curious kids who want to learn more about construction, architecture, science, technology, and the way things work.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Setting: various worldwide locations – England, Japan, Dubai, Italy, USA, India, New Zealand…
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: STEM, skyscrapers, bridges, engineering, buildings, inventions, Brooklyn Bridge, Pantheon, Burj Khalifa, architecture

*Sometimes I Grumblesquinch by Rachel Vail (Author) and Hyewon Yum (Illustrator)

Katie Honors is a really nice kid. But there’s one little secret that sometimes makes her feel not-so-nice deep inside: her little brother, Chuck.

Katie loves her brother and works hard to be the perfect big sister but it can be hard. Chuck can sometimes be just so icky and messy.

Sometimes it makes Katie secretly wish she had a trampoline or a treehouse or a giraffe instead of a brother. When all these emotions bubble up to the surface, Katie can no longer grumblesquinch them down. She explodes, but she also learns an important lesson: that there’s room for ALL of her feelings, even the scary ones.

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: siblings, emotions, anger, pushing down feelings
  • Protagonist description: girl, ruddy complexion, brown hair

The Black Hole Debacle by Keri Claiborne Boyle (Author) and Deborah Melmon (Illustrator)

Jordie is awed by asteroids, perplexed by planets, and mesmerized by moons. She can’t believe her luck when she finds a black hole taking up residence in her desk at school. Of course she’s keeping it.

But when the black hole starts snarfing everything in sight–including Neptune the dog–she realizes that black holes need wide open spaces, galaxies to graze, and stars to slurp. So she sets things right. Just not before she embarking on a wild, time- and space-bending mission to save her pup.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: school classroom
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-3
  • Themes: astronomy, black holes, celestial objects, planets, moons, asteroids, space, constellations
  • Protagonist description: female, white; classmates and teacher are diverse

Doña Esmeralda, Who Ate Everything by Melissa de la Cruz (Author) and Primo Gallanosa (Illustrator)

Once upon a time, in the middle of a group of seven thousand happy islands named after King Philip of Spain, there lived a lady named Doña Esmeralda.

She had a big bouffant hairdo and was much smaller than you.

And she was always hungry…

And so begins the wickedly hilarious tale of one very old, but very stylish little lady who loves to eat, but can only find the ooey, gooey, mushy, smelly leftovers of naughty children to nosh on.

But what happens when Doña Esmeralda finds out about all the tasty treats that children do eat? Hold on to your hairdos as Esmeralda eats everything in sight in a cumulative read-aloud inspired by stories from author Melissa de la Cruz’s childhood in the Philippines!

  • Genre(s): picture book, folktale, humor
  • Setting: The Philippines
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: eating, being hungry, naughty children, cumulative stories, food, recipes
  • Protagonist description: tiny woman with black bouffant hairdo and light skin

Our Little Mushroom: A Story of Franz Schubert and His Friends by Emily Arnold McCully

Franz Schubert was only eleven when he auditioned for the Emperor’s Choir School in Vienna, a place where everyone loved music.

Franz barely spoke a word, but he sang like an angel, and his friends took to calling him “Little Mushroom” because he was small. As Franz continued to study and practice his music, his friends were amazed by his talent.

The last thing Franz’s father wanted was for his son to be a musician–surely he would starve!–but Franz’s friends refused to let him quit. They vowed to help Franz devote himself to his music, and to make sure the world heard their talented friend.

Franz Schubert would go on to write a thousand pieces of music. Discover the true story of a prolific composer and musician in this beautiful tale about the strength of friendship and the rewards of hard work in finding success.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Setting: Vienna, Austria, 1800s
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: Franz Schubert, musical prodigies, classical composers, friendship, parental disapproval, musicians, 19th Century
  • Protagonist description: male, Austrian, white





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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