New Release Spotlight: August 23, 2022

Another small list this week! The Google Slides presentation I made last week was a big hit, so I have created one for this week, too.

Click the link under the presentation to “make a copy” in your Google Drive.

No top picks this week because the list is so small.

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2687-#2696 on The Ginormous book list.

Make a copy of this presentation in your Google Drive

*Four for the Road by K. J. Reilly

Asher Hunting wants revenge.

Specifically, he wants revenge on the drunk driver who killed his mom and got off on a technicality. No one seems to think this is healthy, though, which is how he ends up in a bereavement group (well, bereavement groups. He goes to several.)

It’s there he makes some unexpected friends: There’s Sloane, who lost her dad to cancer; Will, who lost his little brother to a different kind of cancer; and eighty-year-old Henry, who was married to his wife for fifty years until she decided to die on her own terms.

And it’s these three who Asher invites on a road trip from New Jersey to Graceland. Asher doesn’t tell them that he’s planning to steal his dad’s car, or the real reason that he wants to go to Tennessee (spoiler alert: it’s revenge)–but then again, the others don’t share their reasons for going, either.

Complete with unexpected revelations, lots of chicken Caesar salads at roadside restaurants, a stolen motorcycle, and an epic kiss at a rest stop minimart, what begins as the road trip to revenge might just turn into a path towards forgiveness.

Kirkus and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: road trip from New Jersey to Memphis, Tennessee
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: drunk driving, grief, death of a parent (mother), anger, revenge, Graceland, road trips, Elvis Presley, forgiveness, healing, intergenerational friendship
  • Protagonist description: two teen males; one teen female; one male octogenarian; all white

Azar on Fire by Olivia Abtahi

Companion to: Perfectly Parvin. Fourteen-year-old Azar Rossi’s first year of high school has mostly been silent, and intentionally so. After a bad case of colic as a baby, Azar’s vocal folds are shredded–full of nodules that give her a rasp the envy of a chain-smoking bullfrog. Her classmates might just think she’s quiet, but Azar is saving her voice for when it really counts and talking to her classmates is not medically advisable or even high on her list.

When she hears about a local Battle of the Bands contest, it’s something she can’t resist. Azar loves music, loves songwriting, but with her vocal folds the way they are, there’s no way she can sing her songs on stage.

Then she hears lacrosse hottie, Ebenezer Lloyd Hollins the Fifth, aka Eben, singing from the locker room. She’s transfixed. He’s just the person she needs. His voice + her lyrics = Battle of the Bands magic. But getting a band together means Azar has a lot of talking to do and new friends to make. For the chance to stand on stage with Eben it might all just be worth it.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: vocal chord injuries, selective mutism, singing, songwriters, Battle of the Bands, making friends, performance arts, contests
  • Protagonist description: female, age 14, 9th grader, Iranian American; entire cast is multicultural

Those Summer Nights by Laura Silverman

Hannah used to be all about focus, back before she shattered her ankle and her Olympic dreams in one bad soccer play. These days, she’s all about distraction–anything to keep the painful memories of her recent past at bay, including the string of bad decisions that landed her at boarding school for a year.

Enter Bonanza, the local entertainment multiplex and site of Hanna’s summer employment. With its mini golf course, bowling alley, and arcade–not to mention her hot, flirty coworker Patrick–Bonanza seems like the perfect way to stay distracted. Until her boss announces the annual Bonanza tournament, a staff competition that brings her past Olympic nightmares crashing back into her present.

On top of that, the Bonanza staff includes Brie, the ex-best friend she cut off last year, and Ethan, her brother’s best friend who became unreasonably attractive in her year away and who accepts her, even knowing her worst secrets. Under the neon lights of Bonanza, Hannah must decide whether she can find a way to discover a new self in the midst of her old life.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: sports injuries, substance abuse rehab, teens with jobs, summer jobs, former best friends, life changes, siblings, rom-com, some Yiddish words
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white, Jewish

Miracle Season by Beth Hautala

Thirteen-year-old Persephone Pearl Clark has never met a plant that wouldn’t bud or bloom for her. But lately, between the accident that left her older brother, Levi, with an irreversible brain injury, a messy fight with her once-best friend Mya, and a pile of lies growing faster than the stack of medical bills she collects from the post office every day, Persephone is stuck. She would give anything to change things for her family, but unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on trees.

So, when she stumbles upon Levi’s unfinished application submitting their hometown of Coulter, Wisconsin, to Small Town Revival–the famous makeover show with a large financial prize attached–Persephone forges her older brother’s signature and sends it in. She is certain she’s carrying out a dream Levi never got the chance to see to fruition. But as small-town gossip takes root and Persephone’s lies grow like weeds, the things that once bloomed for her are wilting instead.

With the help of unexpected allies including a wonderful but peculiar old woman and her possibly magical cat, Persephone learns that while planting the seeds of truth is never easy, everything blooms when it’s ready.

  • Genre(s): magical realism
  • Setting: small town in Wisconsin
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: plants, siblings, brain damage, fighting with best friend, medical debt, reality TV, grief, guilt, cats
  • Protagonist description: female, age 13, white

Fire on Headless Mountain by Iain Lawrence

Virgil is making his older siblings trek to a mountain lake on a trip unlike any they’ve have taken before. They carry precious cargo: the ashes of their beloved mother, who asked that her remains be scattered at her favorite spot. But when a forest fire is sparked by a bolt of lightning at the exact moment when their van breaks down, the journey quickly turns to disaster.

While the oldest, Josh, is gone to find help, Virgil and his sister, Kaitlyn, spot fleeing animals and soon see flames flickering above the tree line. Once the sky begins to darken with the haze of burning timber, Virgil finds himself separated from his sister and left alone in the wilderness. He isn’t sure he can make it, but with the memory of his late mother, a science teacher, and all her lessons to guide him, he quickly learns that not everything has a perfect explanation and survival starts with letting go.


  • Genre(s): survival, adventure
  • Setting: forest, mountains
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: grief, death of parent (mother), hiking, forest fires, survival, wilderness, siblings, courage
  • Protagonist description: three siblings; two male, 1 female, ages 11, 15, and 19; all white

Frances and the Monster by Refe Tuma

Frances Stenzel was just trying to prove her scientific worth to her parents so they would take her with them to their scientific symposiums for once—instead, she reawakened her great-grandfather’s secret and most terrible invention.

Before it can destroy the town, she sets off after it, with her pet chimp and sarcastic robot tutor by her side. But monster-hunting isn’t easy, and she’ll have to face a persistent constable, angry locals, and an unexpected friendship ahead—all while the trail for the monster goes cold and time is running out before her science career, and the city itself, are doomed forever.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, science fiction, historical fiction
  • Setting: Switzerland, 1939
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: science experiments, monsters, gender roles, privilege, machines, robots, Frankenstein, chimpanzees
  • Protagonist description: female, age 11, Swiss, white

Daybreak on Raven Island by Fleur Bradley

Tori, Marvin, and Noah would rather be anywhere else than on the seventh grade class field trip to Raven Island prison. Tori would rather be on the soccer field, but her bad grades have benched her until further notice; Marvin would rather be at the first day of a film festival with his best friend, Kevin; and Noah isn’t looking forward to having to make small talk with his classmates at this new school.

But when the three of them stumble upon a dead body in the woods, miss the last ferry back home, and then have to spend the night on Raven Island, they find that they need each other now more than ever. They must work together to uncover a killer, outrun a motley ghost-hunting crew, and expose the age-old secrets of the island all before daybreak.

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller, supernatural, horror
  • Setting: abandoned island prison
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: prisons, school field trips, new kid in school, finding a dead body, survival, murder, secrets, ghosts, ghost hunters, horror films, inhumane treatment of prisoners, need for prison reform
  • Protagonist description: 2 boys, 1 girl; all 7th graders, one white, one Black, one Korean American

Butt Sandwich & Tree by Wesley King

Eleven-year-old Green loves his devoted older brother, Cedar, a popular basketball star, but that doesn’t mean he wants to follow in his footsteps. He doesn’t really care about sports or making friends. Still, eventually Green caves to pressure to try out for the basketball team. He may be tall like Cedar, but he’s nowhere near as skilled.

And when a confrontation with the coach spurs Green to flee the court, his flight coincides with a priceless necklace going missing–making him the number one suspect. To clear Green’s name, the two brothers team up to find the necklace, and along the way, they learn to appreciate their differences…and the things that bring them together.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: brothers, being oneself, basketball, false accusations, detectives, autism
  • Protagonist description: boy, age 11, neurodivergent, white

Boo! Hiss by Cyndi Marko

Ghost and Snake live in an old, old house. All by their lonesome, with no one to bother them. They go about their days hooting and hissing, until a family–a human one!–moves in and disturbs their peace and quiet. A crying baby? A barking dog? A wailing saxophone? How will they ever stop all this noise and reclaim their home?

Their plan involves lots of scaring and slithering, and they’re sure once the family sees them, out they’ll move! But could it be that having a noisy, barking, laughing family around isn’t all that bad?

  • Genre(s): early graphic novel
  • Setting: old abandoned house that was recently purchased and has new residents
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-3
  • Themes: Halloween, ghosts, snakes, loud humans, friendship
  • Protagonist description: humans have tan skin tones

Passionate About Penguins by Owen Davey

Did you know that penguins can hold their breath for over half an hour? Or that they can swim four times faster than an Olympic swimmer? And they don’t just live in icy Antarctica! You can find them on sandy beaches in South Africa and other more tropical locations too.

Dive into this fascinating illustrated guide to our feathered friends, the penguins. From the tiny fairy penguin that is no bigger than a ruler, to the emperor penguin that is over a meter tall, find out where they live, what they eat and how we can protect them.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, nonfiction
  • Setting: Antarctica, South Africa
  • Recommended for: K-4
  • Themes: penguins, fact books, Antarctica, South Africa, animals, flightless birds
  • Protagonist description: humans depicted with a variety of skin tones






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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