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New Release Spotlight: September 13, 2022

Another great Spotlight this week! We’ve got new titles from Deb Caletti, Courtney Summers, Margi Preus, Lynn Rae Perkins, Julie Buxbaum, and Sophie Blackall, plus several debut authors! I actually think the Sophie Blackall title, Farmhouse, could be a Caldecott contender. Most titles listed received at least one starred review, but two got four stars and one got a whopping SIX starred reviews (also, Farmhouse).

This week’s top picks:

  • As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh (YA)
  • Adventuregame Comics: Leviathan by Jason Shiga (middle grades)
  • Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall (picture book)
  • Best cover: A Door Made for Me by Tyler Merritt (picture book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2745-#2763 on The Ginormous book list.

Click here to “make a copy” of this presentation in your Google Drive. You can then edit it as needed.

*The Epic Story of Every Living Thing by Deb Caletti

Harper Proulx has lived her whole life with unanswered questions about her anonymous sperm donor father. She’s convinced that without knowing him, she can’t know herself. When a chance Instagram post connects Harper to a half sibling, that connection yields many more and ultimately leads Harper to uncover her father’s identity.

So, fresh from a painful breakup and still reeling with anxiety that reached a lifetime high during the pandemic, Harper joins her newfound half siblings on a voyage to Hawaii to face their father. The events of that summer, and the man they discover–a charismatic deep-sea diver obsessed with solving the mystery of a fragile sunken shipwreck–will force Harper to face some even bigger questions: Who is she? Is she her DNA, her experiences, her successes, her failures? Is she the things she loves–or the things she hates? Who she is in dark times? Who she might become after them?

FOUR starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Maui, Hawaii, summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: half-siblings, sperm donors, family, identity, anxiety, Covid-19 pandemic, Hawaii, deep sea diving, coming-of-age, Instagram
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white; some diversity in secondary characters, but most of the cast is white; characters are diverse in sexual orientation

*I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers

All sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis wants is everything, but the poverty and hardship that defines her life has kept her from the beautiful and special things she knows she deserves.

When she stumbles upon the dead body of thirteen-year-old Ashley James, Georgia teams up with Ashley’s older sister Nora, to find the killer before he strikes again, and their investigation throws Georgia into a glittering world of unimaginable privilege and wealth–and all she’s ever dreamed.

But behind every dream lurks a nightmare, and Georgia must reconcile her heart’s desires with what it really takes to survive. As Ashley’s killer closes in and their feelings for one another grow, Georgia and Nora will discover when money, power, and beauty rule, it’s not always a matter of who is guilty but who is guiltiest–and the only thing that might save them is each other.

A spiritual successor to the breakout hit Sadie, I’m the Girl is a brutal and illuminating account of how one young woman feels in her body as she struggles to navigate a deadly and predatory power structure while asking readers one question: if this is the way the world is, do you accept it?

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: murder, poverty, privilege, guilt, detectives, sexual assault, rape, crimes against women, teens with jobs, grooming
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, white, queer

*The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen by Isaac Blum

Debut author! Hoodie Rosen’s life isn’t that bad. Sure, his entire Orthodox Jewish community has just picked up and moved to the quiet, mostly non-Jewish town of Tregaron, but Hoodie’s world hasn’t changed that much. He’s got basketball to play, studies to avoid, and a supermarket full of delicious kosher snacks to eat. The people of Tregaron aren’t happy that so many Orthodox Jews are moving in at once, but that’s not Hoodie’s problem.

That is, until he meets and falls for Anna-Marie Diaz-O’Leary–who happens to be the daughter of the obstinate mayor trying to keep Hoodie’s community out of the town. And things only get more complicated when Tregaron is struck by a series of antisemitic crimes that quickly escalate to deadly violence.

As his community turns on him for siding with the enemy, Hoodie finds himself caught between his first love and the only world he’s ever known.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: fictional Philadelphia suburb
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: antisemitism, Orthodox Jews, prejudice, hate crimes, violence, first love
  • Protagonist description: male, age 15, Orthodox Jewish, white

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

Debut author! Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.

Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.

But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.

Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are–not a war, but a revolution–and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Setting: Homs, Syria, 2012
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: war, Syrian War, freedom, fear, survival, military violence, revolution, family torn apart, death of parent (mother), parent in prison (father), trauma, PTSD, personification, protests, Arab Spring
  • Protagonist description: female, age 18, Syrian

*Windswept by Margi Preus (Author) and Mr. Armando Veve (Illustrator)

In Tag’s world, children are disappearing. “Youngers” who venture Outside are windswept–vanishing in the swirling snow–Tag’s sisters among them. Many have tried to find the lost children; all have failed. And since the Other Times, the Powers That Be seem intent on keeping it that way.

Little remains from those times: snippets of songs, heaps of plastic trash, and a few banned texts–including a book of fairytales.

An unlikely crew of Youngers join forces–Boots, who can climb anything, Ant, who will eat anything, Ren, who will say anything, and Tag, who doesn’t appear to have any talent whatsoever. With their dubious skills, the fairytales, a possibly magic ribbon, and an unwillingness to accept “that’s impossible,” they set off to rescue their windswept siblings in this spellbinding fantasy from Newbery Honor winner Margi Preus.

Kirkus and Horn Book starred. Inspired by the Norwegian fairy tale “The Three Princesses in the Mountain Blue.”

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Setting: snowy, dystopian fantasy world
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: missing children, fairytales, survival, snow, rescue, magic, siblings, trolls, quests, hero’s journey, book banning, greed, oppression, individual well-being vs. community well-being, exploitation
  • Protagonist description: female, age 13, white

The Stars Did Wander Darkling by Colin Meloy

Maybe Archie Coomes has been watching too many horror movies.

All of a sudden, the most ordinary things have taken on a sinister edge: a penny on a doormat. An odd man in a brown suit under a streetlamp. The persistent sound of an ax chopping in the middle of the night.

He keeps telling himself that this is Seaham, a sleepy seaside town where nothing ever happens. Or at least nothing did, until his dad’s construction company opened up the cliff beneath the old–some say cursed–Langdon place.

Soon, though, he and his friends can’t deny it: more and more of the adults in town are acting strangely. An ancient, long-buried evil has been unleashed upon the community, and it’s up to the kids to stop it before it’s too late…

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): horror
  • Setting: small coastal town in Oregon, summer of 1987
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: ancient evil, if you like Stranger Things, strange happenings
  • Protagonist description: 4 friends, all around age 13, all cued as white

Peace Is a Chain Reaction: How World War II Japanese Balloon Bombs Brought People of Two Nations Together by Tanya Lee Stone

Adults wage war, while children are unwitting victims, pulled into a maelstrom of fear and hate without any choice.

This is a story about two groups of teenagers on opposite sides of the world, forever connected by an act of war. It is a story about the adults some of those teens became, forever connected by acts of forgiveness, understanding, and peace.

And it is a story about one remarkable man, whose heart belonged both to America and Japan, who put that peace and understanding in motion. Panning the camera wide, Tanya Lee Stone lays the global groundwork for the story’s context before zooming in on the lives of the people involved, providing an intimate look at how their changing perspectives impact their actions.

Through meticulous research, interviews, and archival photo curation, Stone skillfully weaves all of these stories together, illuminating how, despite the devastating pain and destruction caused by war, peace can be a chain reaction. Extensive back matter includes an author’s note, source notes, bibliography, and index.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Setting: US and Japan, WWII and now
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: war, WWII, US history, Japanese history, Pearl Harbor, trauma, forgiveness, balloon bombs

Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango (Author) and Alyssa Bermudez (Illustrator)

Debut author! Seventh grade is going to be Iveliz’s year. She’s going to make a new friend, help her abuela Mimi get settled after moving from Puerto Rico, and she is not going to get into any more trouble at school…

Except is that what happens? Of course not. Because no matter how hard Iveliz tries, sometimes people say things that just make her so mad. And worse, Mimi keeps saying Iveliz’s medicine is unnecessary–even though it helps Iveliz feel less sad. But how do you explain your feelings to others when you’re not even sure what’s going on yourself?

Powerful and compassionate, Andrea Beatriz Arango’s debut navigates mental health, finding your voice, and discovering that those who really love you will stay by your side.

Kirkus starred. This is presented as a copy of Iveliz’s journal, which is written in free verse poems and contains doodles throughout.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, novel in verse
  • Setting: middle school and home of a Latina 12-year old
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-9
  • Themes: getting into trouble at school, grandmothers, middle school, anger, strong emotions, mental health, depression, anxiety, death of a parent (father), grief, journals, compassion, honesty, PTSD, Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Protagonist description: female, 7th Grader, Puerto Rican

*Adventuregame Comics: Leviathan by Jason Shiga

Adventuregame Comics is a new series of interactive graphic novels in the vein of Jason Shiga’s graphic novel Meanwhile. Readers follow the story from panel to panel using tubes that connect them, and sometimes the path will split, giving readers the chance to choose how the story unfolds.

Leviathan is set in a medieval coastal village, where residents live in fear of a giant sea creature. Your goal as a reader is simple: defeat the Leviathan!

As you wander through the open world, the town’s backstory is revealed. You can attempt to visit the library to try and learn why the Leviathan destroyed it years ago. You can stop by the castle to discover the town was once riddled with crime and theft–and how that’s stopped as the Leviathan will wreak havoc on the town for the smallest misdeeds.

If you’re lucky, you may find your way to the old wizard who may possess the one thing that could keep the Leviathan at bay. But not everything is as it appears in this village. Can you discover the secrets and stop the Leviathan before it’s too late?

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, fantasy
  • Setting: medieval coastal village
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-11 (wide range!)
  • Themes: gaming, choose your own path, sea monsters, interactive stories, wizards, magic, puzzles
  • Protagonist description: unnamed protagonist, wears brown ponytail, page-white skin

*Violet and Jobie in the Wild by Lynne Rae Perkins

Brother and sister mice Violet and Jobie live a cozy and comfortable life in a humans’ house, where food is plentiful and the television is good. In fact, Violet, tucked safely behind a book in the bookcase, loves to watch nature programs along with the young boy of the family. The boy’s mother, however, isn’t the biggest fan of mice.

When Violet and Jobie are caught in a trap, the young boy pleads with his mother to release them, and she agrees. Now Violet and Jobie find themselves in tall grasses, under tall trees, surrounded by all kinds of unfamiliar scents and sounds and creatures. In short, they find themselves in the wild. How will they survive?

FOUR starred reviews! Includes black and white illustrations throughout.

  • Genre(s): animal fantasy, adventure
  • Setting: wilderness
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: mice, siblings, moving away from home, wilderness, survival, nature, wonder, everyday dangers, unwanted change
  • Protagonist description: two mouse siblings, one male and one female

The Area 51 Files by Julie Buxbaum (Author) and Lavanya Naidu (Illustrator)

When Sky Patel-Baum is sent to live with her mysterious uncle, she didn’t imagine she’d end up here: Area 51. A top-secret military base with a bajillion rules and so classified not even the president knows its secrets.

Also, it turns out the place is full of aliens. Lots and lots of aliens. But they prefer to be called Break Throughs, thank you very much.

As Sky sets out to explore her extraordinary new home with her pizza-obsessed pet hedgehog Spike, she meets her otherworldly next-door neighbor Elvis and his fluffy pup, Pickles. But something mysterious is afoot in Area 51. Some of the Break Throughs have gone missing…at the exact same time Sky arrived.

Where could they be? How can Sky and her uncle convince everyone they had nothing to do with the disappearance? And why does the macaroni and cheese at Area 51 Middle have eyeballs in it? New best friends Sky, Elvis, Spike, and Pickles try to crack the case, but the clock is ticking…

Includes black and white illustrations.

  • Genre(s): mystery, adventure, science fiction
  • Setting: Area 51 (Nevada, USA)
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: aliens, Area 51, military bases, government secrets, missing persons, uncles, hedgehogs, orphans
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, biracial (Indian and white), orphan

The Whispering Fog by Landra Jennings

Debut author! For twelve-year-old Neve, it’s always been she and her older sister against the world, their lives entwined just like sisters in a fairy tale. So, if Rose loves tennis, Neve will play it too–even if secretly she’d rather be home turning cardboard boxes into offbeat art projects. Not even being moved to the piney woods outside Etters, South Carolina, can change what they are to each other–until a mysterious fog seems to swallow up Rose before Neve’s eyes.

Naturally, the adults don’t believe that something supernatural is at play. So, with the help of Piper, a classmate with a tomato fixation; Sammy, a boy with memories of an otherworldly stranger; and a stray dog that seems to belong to the woods, Neve discovers that her sister has been taken by a swamp-dwelling witch with a terribly wicked plan. It will be up to Neve to save her sister. Otherwise, she’ll be separated from Rose…forever.

A gorgeous, haunting debut about sisterhood and finding your voice.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): supernatural, fantasy, retelling
  • Setting: fictional small town in South Carolina
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: sisters, missing persons, disappearances, witches, introverts, Grimm’s fairy tales, “Snow White and Rose Red”
  • Protagonist description: two sisters, both 7th Graders but not twins, both white

Monster Club by Darren Aronofsky (Author) and Ari Handel (Author)

Like almost everything in eleven-year-old Eric “Doodles” King’s life, King’s Wonderland–the amusement park his great-great grandfather founded–was seriously damaged when a hurricane hit his beloved Coney Island neighborhood. Now hungry property developers are circling the wreckage of the once-awesome King’s Wonderland, and Eric’s family is falling apart from the threat of losing it all.

If it weren’t for Monster Club–the epic roleplaying game that Eric and his friends created–Eric’s life would be pretty terrible. Drawing his favorite monster battling with his best friends’ creations is the one thing that still gets Eric excited. So when his friends start to think of Monster Club as a kid’s game and get more interested in other things, Eric just can’t deal. But then Eric happens across a long-lost vial of magic ink that brings their monster drawings to life, and suddenly, Monster Club isn’t just for fun anymore.

The monsters Eric and his friends created are wreaking havoc across Coney, and it’s on the Monster Club to save their city, the amusement park, and maybe, just maybe, Eric’s family, too.

  • Genre(s): action, adventure, thriller
  • Setting: Coney Island
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: art, doodling, monsters, amusement parks, RPGs (roleplaying games), magic, family history
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, 6th Grader, of Eastern European descent (Ukrainian)

*Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall

Over a hill, at the end of a road, by a glittering stream that twists and turns stands a farmhouse.

Step inside the dollhouse-like interior of Farmhouse and relish in the daily life of the family that lives there, rendered in impeccable, thrilling detail. Based on a real family and an actual farmhouse where Sophie salvaged facts and artifacts for the making of this spectacular work, page after page bursts with luminous detail and joy. Join the award-winning, best-selling Sophie Blackall as she takes readers on an enchanting visit to a farmhouse across time, to a place that echoes with stories.

SIX starred reviews! I’ve read this one already and think it could this be a Caldecott contender! The illustrations are magnificent and detailed. Be sure to read the author’s note, too!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: old, abandoned farmhouse in upstate New York
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: farming families, detailed illustrations, nostalgia, old houses, history, dairy industry, passing of time, Caldecott contender?
  • Protagonist description: light-skinned family with 12 children

Finding Fire by Logan S. Kline

After a hard rain douses the family fire, a brave young boy sets out to search for more fire to bring home before the cold season sets in.

Along the way, he’ll face many challenges, from perilous mountains to fearsome predators to raging rivers, and find something wholly unexpected: a friend.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): wordless picture book
  • Setting: prehistoric times
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: fire, prehistoric times, predators, dangers, friendship, detailed illustrations, journeys, mastodons
  • Protagonist description: prehistoric boy with unruly red hair, light skin

Clover by Nadine Robert (Author) and Qin Leng (Illustrator)

Around Clover’s family’s goat farm, there are plenty of things to do, from picking blueberries to collecting clams. But making decisions, even choosing something to do, is a great source of hesitation for young Clover–that is, until one day, the child’s beloved goat, Peony, wanders too far from the farm. In order to bring Peony back home safely, Clover will have to learn to act quickly and decisively.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: small goat farm in the woods
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: farms, goats, nature, pets, farm animals, making quick decisions, indecision, listening to inner voice
  • Protagonist description: white child wearing a stocking cap

A Door Made for Me by Tyler Merritt (Author) and Lonnie Ollivierre (Illustrator)

In this story based on the author’s childhood, a young Black boy confronts his first experience of overt racism.

In recounting the events to his grandfather, the young narrator asks: “How can she hate me when she doesn’t know me?” Grandpa offers wisdom and encouragement to the child, reminding him that another person’s hate does not change the fact that he is loved and that he matters.

While offering an unflinching look at the emotional impact of the encounter, Tyler Merritt presents a message of love and acceptance that will resonate with young readers and offer a starting point for conversations about racial equality between parent or caregiver and child.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: summer, an area with a river to fish in
  • Recommended for: PreS-2
  • Themes: based on a true story, racism, prejudice, fishing, friendship, grandfathers, family, conversations about racism
  • Protagonist description: young boy, Black

A Dream for Every Season by Haddy Njie (Author), Lisa Aisato (Illustrator), Megan Turney (Translator), and Rachel Rankin (Translator)

Translated from Norwegian. The beauty of each season of the year…the change each season brings…the passage of time and its special charm come to life in poetic rhyme, accompanied by gorgeous illustrations in this bedtime book.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: outdoors in the four seasons
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: seasons, passage of time, story in verse
  • Protagonist description: personified seasons (summer is a young girl; winter is an old man)

Finding My Dance by Ria Thundercloud (Author) and Kalila J. Fuller (Illustrator)

At four years old, Ria Thundercloud was brought into the powwow circle, ready to dance in the special jingle dress her mother made for her. As she grew up, she danced with her brothers all over Indian country. Then Ria learned more styles–tap, jazz, ballet–but still loved the expressiveness of Indigenous dance. And despite feeling different as one of the only Native American kids in her school, she always knew she could turn to dance to cheer herself up.

Follow along as Ria shares her dance journey–from dreaming of her future to performing as a professional–accompanied by striking illustrations that depict it while bringing her graceful movements to life.


  • Genre(s): picture book biography, autobiography
  • Setting: Wisconsin and New Mexico
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: Indigenous dance, tap, jazz, ballet, Ho-chunk Nation, identity, pride, culture, not fitting in at school
  • Protagonist description: female, Ho-Chunk Nation; age 4 to adulthood






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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