New Release Spotlight: September 20, 2022

Another gorgeous September list! All three categories look fantastic this week, but I think picture books are the strongest group. We’ve got two new books for teaching fake news and media literacy, several new YA romances, and a wide variety of genres for middle grades. I’ve also named a couple of picture books I think could be Caldecott contenders!

Popular authors this week include: Lamar Giles, Katherine Applegate, Renee Watson, Justina Ireland, Jodi Lynn Anderson, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Mark Oshiro, Elise Gravel, and Carole Boston Weatherford.

This week’s top picks:

  • What the Fact?: Finding the Truth in All the Noise by Dr Seema Yasmin (YA)
  • Black Bird, Blue Road by Sofiya Pasternack (MG)
  • Maya’s Song by Renée Watson (picture book)
  • Best cover: Standing in the Need of Prayer by Carole Boston Weatherford

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2764-#2788 on The Ginormous book list.

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*What the Fact?: Finding the Truth in All the Noise by Dr Seema Yasmin

What is a fact? What are reliable sources? What is news? What is fake news? How can anyone make sense of it anymore? Well, we have to. As conspiracy theories and online hoaxes increasingly become a part of our national discourse and “truth” itself is being questioned, it has never been more vital to build the discernment necessary to tell fact from fiction, and media literacy has never been more vital.

In this accessible guide, Dr. Seema Yasmin, an award-winning journalist, scientist, medical professional, and professor, traces the spread of misinformation and disinformation through our fast-moving media landscape and teaches young readers the skills that will help them identify and counter poorly-sourced clickbait and misleading headlines.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: research, fake news, propaganda, journalism, facts vs. opinion, truth, media literacy, clickbait, bias, information literacy, controversy, disagreement, Covid-19, social media

*Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland

It is 1937, and Laura Ann Langston lives in an America divided–between those who work the mystical arts and those who do not. Ever since the Great Rust, a catastrophic event that blighted the arcane force called the Dynamism and threw America into disarray, the country has been rebuilding for a better future. And everyone knows the future is industry and technology–otherwise known as Mechomancy–not the traditional mystical arts.

Laura disagrees. A talented young queer mage from Pennsylvania, Laura hopped a portal to New York City on her seventeenth birthday with hopes of earning her mage’s license and becoming something more than a rootworker.

But four months later, she’s got little to show for it other than an empty pocket and broken dreams. With nowhere else to turn, Laura applies for a job with the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps, a branch of the US government dedicated to repairing the Dynamism so that Mechomancy can thrive. There she meets the Skylark, a powerful mage with a mysterious past, who reluctantly takes Laura on as an apprentice.

As they’re sent off on their first mission together into the heart of the country’s oldest and most mysterious Blight, they discover the work of mages not encountered since the darkest period in America’s past, when Black mages were killed for their power–work that could threaten Laura’s and the Skylark’s lives, and everything they’ve worked for.

THREE starred reviews! Includes black and white photographs.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, fantasy, steampunk
  • Setting: New York City, alternate-1937
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: US government, mages, magic, apprentices, blights, racism, magic vs. technology, capitalism, oppression, Great Depression
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, Black, queer, has magical powers

The Getaway by Lamar Giles

Jay is living his best life at Karloff Country, one of the world’s most famous resorts. He’s got his family, his crew, and an incredible after-school job at the property’s main theme park. Life isn’t so great for the rest of the world, but when people come here to vacation, it’s to get away from all that.

As things outside get worse, trouble starts seeping into Karloff. First, Jay’s friend Connie and her family disappear in the middle of the night and no one will talk about it. Then the richest and most powerful families start arriving, only…they aren’t leaving. Unknown to the employees, the resort has been selling shares in an end-of-the-world oasis. The best of the best at the end of days. And in order to deliver the top-notch customer service the wealthy clientele paid for, the employees will be at their total beck and call.

Whether they like it or not.

Yet Karloff Country didn’t count on Jay and his crew–and just how far they’ll go to find out the truth and save themselves. But what’s more dangerous: the monster you know in your home or the unknown nightmare outside the walls?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): horror, dystopia
  • Setting: Virginia mountaintop, near future
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: theme parks, teens with jobs, racism, prejudice, resort vacations, trapped, climate change, missing persons, apocalypse, forced labor, secrets and lies, billionaires, privilege, multiple viewpoints, greed, capitalism
  • Protagonist description: male, HS junior, Black; includes multiple diverse narrators

The Silent Stars Go By by Sally Nicholls

It’s Christmastime, 1919. Three years before, seventeen-year-old Margot Allan, a respectable vicar’s daughter, fell passionately in love. But she lost her fiancé, Harry, to the Great War.

In turn, she gained a desperate secret, one with the power to ruin her life and her family’s reputation, a secret she guards at all costs. Now Margot’s family is gathering at the vicarage for the first time since the War ended. And Harry, it turns out, isn’t dead. He’s alive and well, and looking for answers.

Can their love survive the truth?

Kirkus starred. Based on the author’s family history.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, romance
  • Setting: North Yorkshire, England; 1919
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: WWI, unplanned pregnancy, family history, family secrets, prisoners of war, PTSD, war, first love
  • Protagonist description: female, age 19, white, vicar’s daughter

Eternally Yours by various authors, edited by Patrice Caldwell

Vampires and merpeople, angels and demons–the stories in this anthology imagine worlds where the only thing more powerful than the supernatural, is love.

A girl in a graveyard goes on an unexpected date, a shipwrecked sailor makes a connection on a forbidden island, a piano melody summons a soul mate. Creatures of folktales and legend, of land and sea, of centuries past and life after life, all wrapped into one spellbinding compendium. Once you sink into its pages, it’ll never let you go.

Publishers Weekly starred. Contributors include Kalynn Bayron, Kendare Blake, Kat Cho, Melissa de la Cruz, Hafsah Faizal, Sarah Gailey, Chloe Gong, Alexis Henderson, Adib Khorram, Anna-Marie McLemore, Casey McQuiston, Sandhya Menon, Akshaya Raman, Marie Rutkoski, and Julian Winters.

  • Genre(s): paranormal, romance, anthology, fantasy, short stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: vampires, mermaids, magic
  • Protagonist description: various diverse characters

Phalaina by Alice Brie`re-Haquet (Author) and Emma Ramadan (Translator)

London, 1881. There’s something a little eerie about Manon–she’s not like the other girls at the orphanage. Maybe it’s her red eyes. Maybe it’s her silence. Maybe it’s the series of violent deaths that seem to follow her.

What we do know: someone is hot on her tail. And there’s a lot of money at stake in finding out where exactly she comes from–and what exactly she is.

Concurrent to Manon’s story are letters to Charles Darwin from Professor Humphrey, a scientist who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Is it true that natural selection left humans at the top of the pyramid of life after all? Or in the process of evolution, was there something elemental that humans lost, something that connected us to the rest of life on earth? Who and what else is out there?

In order to stay alive, Manon must untangle the mystery of her origins, and perhaps the origins of humanity as well.

BCCB starred. Translated from French.

  • Genre(s): mystery, science fiction, historical fiction
  • Setting: London, England; 1881
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Charles Darwin, orphans, natural selection, nature, human connection with earth, omniscient narrator, letters
  • Protagonist description: female, white, has red eyes

*Each Night Was Illuminated by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The day the train fell in the lake, Cassie stopped believing in much of anything, despite growing up in a devout Catholic family. Then she set her mind to forgetting the strange boy named Elias who was with her when it happened.

When Elias comes back to town after many years away, Cassie finds herself talked into sneaking out at night to follow him ghost-hunting–though she knows better than to believe they will find any spirits.

Still, the more time she spends with Elias–with his questions, his rebelliousness, his imagination that is so much bigger than the box she has made for herself–the more Cassie thinks that even in a world that seems broken beyond repair, there just may be something worth believing in.

BCCB and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Green Valley, New Jersey
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: ghosts, Catholic families, siblings, witnessing a horrible accident
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, HS senior, white

*Bone Weaver by Aden Polydoros

The Kosa empire roils in tension, on the verge of being torn apart by a proletarian revolution between magic-endowed elites and the superstitious lower class, but seventeen-year-old Toma lives blissfully disconnected from the conflict in the empire with her adoptive family of benevolent undead.

When she meets Vanya, a charming commoner branded as a witch by his own neighbors, and the dethroned Tsar Mikhail himself, the unlikely trio bonds over trying to restore Mikhail’s magic and protect the empire from the revolutionary leader, Koschei, whose forces have stolen the castle. Vanya has his magic, and Mikhail has his title, but if Toma can’t dig deep and find her power in time, all of their lives will be at Koschei’s mercy.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, supernatural
  • Setting: fantasy world
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: social class, proletariat, witchcraft, living dead, zombies, magic, powers, monsters, Slavic folklore, Russian history, scapegoats
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white

The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers by Adam Sass

Will Boy 100 be the One?

Micah is rich, dreamy, and charming. As the “Prince of Chicago,”–the son of local celebrity sports radio host known as the King of Chicago–he has everything going for him. Unfortunately, he’s also the prince of imaginary meet-cutes, since he’s too nervous to actually ask boys out.

Instead, Micah draws each crush to share on Instagram with a post about their imaginary dates. Ninety-nine “boyfriends” later, his account is hugely popular, and everyone is eagerly awaiting Boy 100. So is Micah. He’s determined that Boy 100 will be different. This time, Micah will sweep the boy off his feet, for real!

So when Micah flirts with a hot boy on the L who’s wearing a vegan leather jacket and lugging a ton of library books, he is sure this is Boy 100. But right before he can make his move and ask for the boy’s number, the guy rushes off the train, leaving behind his pumpkin–embroidered jacket. The jacket holds clues to the boy’s identity, so Micah and his friends set off on a quest to return it. Along the way, Micah will discover that the best relationships aren’t fairy tales. In fact, the perfect fit–and true love–might be closer than he thinks.

Includes some black-and-white line illustrations of Instagram posts. Give this to fans of McQuiston’s Red, White, and Royal Blue.

  • Genre(s): romance, realistic fiction
  • Setting: Chicago, Illinois; present day
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: celebrities, art, drawing, Instagram, dating, social media, rom-com, LGBTQIA+
  • Protagonist description: male, age 17, white, gay

Seoulmates by Susan Lee

Hannah Cho had the next year all planned out—the perfect summer with her boyfriend, Nate, and then a fun senior year with their friends.

But then Nate does what everyone else in Hannah’s life seems to do–he leaves her, claiming they have nothing in common. He and all her friends are newly obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas, and Hannah is not. After years of trying to embrace the American part and shunning the Korean side of her Korean American identity to fit in, Hannah finds that’s exactly what now has her on the outs.

But someone who does know K-dramas–so well that he’s actually starring in one–is Jacob Kim, Hannah’s former best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in years. He’s desperate for a break from the fame, so a family trip back to San Diego might be just what he needs…that is, if he and Hannah can figure out what went wrong when they last parted and navigate the new feelings developing between them.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: summer before senior year, San Diego, California
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: break-ups, dating, K-pop, K-drama, identity, celebrities, actors, fame, family dynamics, anxiety
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, Korean American

Call Him Jack: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Black Freedom Fighte by Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long

According to Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson was “a sit-inner before the sit-ins, a freedom rider before the Freedom Rides.” According to Hank Aaron, Robinson was a leader of the Black Power movement before there was a Black Power movement. According to his wife, Rachel Robinson, he was always Jack, not Jackie–the diminutive form of his name bestowed on him in college by white sports writers. And throughout his whole life, Jack Robinson was a fighter for justice, an advocate for equality, and an inspiration beyond just baseball.

From prominent Robinson scholars Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long comes Call Him Jack, an exciting biography that recovers the real person behind the legend, reanimating this famed figure’s legacy for new generations, widening our focus from the sportsman to the man as a whole, and deepening our appreciation for his achievements on the playing field in the process.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): biography, narrative nonfiction
  • Setting: American South; civil rights era; mid-20th Century
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-11
  • Themes: civil rights, Freedom Riders, sit-ins, protest, Black Power, justice, prejudice, racism, Jackie Robinson, baseball, sports, Black History
  • Protagonist description: Jackie Robinson + multiple African American civil rights leaders

*Black Bird, Blue Road by Sofiya Pasternack

Pesah has lived with leprosy for years, and the twins have spent most of that time working on a cure. Then Pesah has a vision: The Angel of Death will come for him on Rosh Hashanah, just one month away.

So Ziva takes her brother and runs away to find doctors who can cure him. But when they meet and accidentally free a half-demon boy, he suggests paying his debt by leading them to the fabled city of Luz, where no one ever dies–the one place Pesah–will be safe.

They just need to run faster than The Angel of Death can fly…

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure, mythology, historical fiction
  • Setting: Khazar, an ancient Jewish city in modern-day Ukraine, 11th Century
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: leprosy, diseases, Rosh Hashanah, siblings, twins, premonitions, death, journeys, magic, Angel of Death, Jewish folklore, demons
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, Jewish, Eastern European (Ukraine)

*Wildoak by C. C. Harrington

Debut author! Maggie Stephens’s stutter makes school especially hard. She will do almost anything to avoid speaking in class or calling attention to herself. So when her unsympathetic father threatens to send her away for so-called “treatment,” she reluctantly agrees to her mother’s intervention plan: a few weeks in the fresh air of Wildoak Forest, visiting a grandfather she hardly knows.

It is there, in an extraordinary twist of fate, that she encounters an abandoned snow leopard cub, an exotic gift to a wealthy Londoner that proved too wild to domesticate. But once the cub’s presence is discovered by others, danger follows, and Maggie soon realizes that time is running out, not only for the leopard, but for herself and the forest as well.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, magical realism, animal stories
  • Setting: England, 1963
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: grandparents, stuttering, speech differences, snow leopards, animal rights, nature, animal-human friendships
  • Protagonist description: female, age 11, white, English

The Vanquishers by Kalynn Bayron

Malika “Boog” Wilson and her best friends have grown up idolizing The Vanquishers, a group of heroic vampire hunters who wiped out the last horde of the undead decades ago. Nowadays, most people don’t take even the most basic vampire precautions–the days of garlic wreaths and early curfews long gone–but Boog’s parents still follow the old rules, much to her embarrassment.

When a friend goes missing, Boog isn’t sure what to think. Could it be the school counselor, Mr. Rupert, who definitely seems to be hiding something? Or could it be something more dangerous? Boog is determined to save her friend, but is she ready to admit vampires might not be vanquished after all?

No one ever expected the Vanquishers to return, but if their town needs protection from the undead, Boog knows who to call.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery, supernatural
  • Setting: suburbs
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: vampires, heroes, missing persons, undead, middle school, friendship
  • Protagonist description: female, sixth grader, brown-skinned; entire cast is diverse

*Odder by Katherine Applegate (Author) and Charles Santoso (Illustrator)

Odder spends her days off the coast of central California, practicing her underwater acrobatics and spinning the quirky stories for which she’s known. She’s a fearless daredevil, curious to a fault. But when Odder comes face-to-face with a hungry great white shark, her life takes a dramatic turn, one that will challenge everything she believes about herself–and about the humans who hope to save her.

Inspired by the true story of a Monterey Bay Aquarium program that pairs orphaned otter pups with surrogate mothers, this poignant and humorous tale told in free verse examines bravery and healing through the eyes of one of nature’s most beloved and charming animals.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): animal stories, novel in verse
  • Setting: California coast
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: animals, ocean, sharks, surrogate mothers for baby animals, based on a true story, conservation, environment, sea otters, sea animals
  • Protagonist description: female baby sea otter

*Nowhere Better Than Here by Sarah Guillory

Debut author! For thirteen-year-old Jillian Robichaux, three things are sacred: bayou sunsets, her grandmother Nonnie’s stories, and the coastal Louisiana town of Boutin that she calls home.

When the worst flood in a century hits, Jillian and the rest of her community band together as they always do–but this time the damage may simply be too great. After the local school is padlocked and the bridges into town condemned, Jillian has no choice but to face the reality that she may be losing the only home she’s ever had.

But even when all hope seems lost, Jillian is determined to find a way to keep Boutin and its indomitable spirit alive. With the help of friends new and old, a loveable golden retriever, and Nonnie’s storytelling wisdom, Jillian does just that in this timely and heartfelt story of family, survival, and hope.

Kirkus and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, adventure
  • Setting: coastal Louisiana town
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: floods, climate change, home, community, dogs, grandmothers, survival, conservation, absent fathers, coastal erosion
  • Protagonist description: female, age 13, white

Mysteries of Trash and Treasure: The Secret Letters by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Mysteries of Trash and Treasure, book 1. When Colin finds a shoebox full of letters hidden in a stranger’s attic, he knows he’s supposed to throw them away. That’s his summer job, getting rid of junk. But Colin wants to rescue the letters–and find out what really happened to best friends Rosemary and Toby way back in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, across town, Nevaeh also finds a mysterious letter. But this one reads like a confession to a crime. And Nevaeh knows her father, the “Junk King,” expects her to join the rest of the family in blaming a single suspect: his business rival, Colin’s mom.

But that’s not what Nevaeh wants, either.

Even as one set of letters bring Colin and Nevaeh together, the one Nevaeh found threatens to tear them apart. Is their new friendship as doomed as Rosemary and Toby’s?

Each book in the Mysteries of Trash and Treasure series will examine a different time period in history and make readers think about how we value the stuff we hold on to–and what it is that makes it valuable.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Setting: small town of Groveview, Ohio
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: letters, kids with jobs, crime, family feuds, friendship, junk, family history, 1970s, decluttering, possessions, memories
  • Protagonist description: male and female, both age 12, both white

*You Only Live Once, David Bravo by Mark Oshiro

Middle school is the worst, especially for David Bravo. He doesn’t have a single class with his best (okay, only) friend, Antoine. He has to give a class presentation about his heritage, but he’s not sure how–or even if–he wants to explain to his new classmates that he’s adopted. After he injures Antoine in an accident at cross-country practice, he just wishes he could do it all over.

He doesn’t expect his wish to summon a talking, shapeshifting, annoying dog, Fea, who claims that a choice in David’s past actually did put him on the wrong timeline…and she can take him back to fix it.

But when their first try (and the second, and the third) is a total disaster, David and Fea are left scrambling through timeline after timeline–on a quest that may lead them to answers in the most unexpected places.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred. This is a Groundhog Day or Sliding Doors premise.

  • Genre(s): magical realism
  • Setting: California, September 12
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: middle school, friendship, adoption, dogs, fixing past mistakes, terrible days, alternating timelines, time travel, learning about birth parents
  • Protagonist description: male, age 11, 7th grader, Latinx, adopted

Killer Underwear Invasion!: How to Spot Fake News, Disinformation & Conspiracy Theories by Elise Gravel

Can peanuts give you super strength? Were unicorns discovered on the moon? Did Martians really invade New Jersey? For anyone who has ever encountered outrageous stories like these and wondered whether they were true, this funny, yet informative book breaks down what fake news is, why people spread it, and how to tell what is true and what isn’t. With quirky illustrations and a humorous tone, Elise Gravel brings her kid-accessible wit to the increasingly important subject of media literacy and equips younger readers with the skills needed to interact with global news.

SERIOUSLY FUNNY: While the topic is serious, the funny text and wacky pictures will tickle any reader’s funny bone.

IMPORTANT: Misinformation and disinformation are everywhere. It is increasingly important that parents and educators help kids learn how to navigate the confusing, modern media landscape.

JUST THE FACTS!: Rather than tackle specific news stories, this book teaches kids how to research and judge information in order to make their own decisions about what to believe.

BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR: Whether deciding what products to buy, which organizations to support and what scientific information to believe, being a smart media consumer helps keep ourselves and our communities safer.

No starred reviews, but all reviews I found are positive. Elementary librarians, this is perfect for teaching fake news and media literacy!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, nonfiction, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: fake news, media literacy, journalism, truth, misinformation, research, social media, critical thinking, fear, confirmation bias, determining valid sources
  • Protagonist description: two jellybean-shaped creatures; one pink and one blue

*Maya’s Song by Renée Watson (Author) and Bryan Collier (Illustrator)

This picture book introduces young readers to the life and work of Maya Angelou, whose words have uplifted and inspired generations of readers. The author of the celebrated autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya was the first Black person and first woman to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration, and her influence echoes through culture and history. She was also the first Black woman to appear on the United States quarter.

Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Renée Watson uses Angelou’s beloved medium of poetry to lyrically chronicle her rich life in a deeply moving narrative. Vivid and striking collage art by Caldecott Honor recipient and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Bryan Collier completes this unforgettable portrait of one of the most important American artists in history.

THREE starred reviews! Angelou’s sexual assault at age 7 is referenced as “hurt her body, hurt her soul,” as is her five years of subsequent mutism. Could this be another Caldecott contender? Time will tell!

  • Genre(s): picture book biography; picture book for older readers
  • Setting: multiple locations (St. Louis, California, Ghana, Harlem); 1928-1993
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: Maya Angelou, poets, poetry, presidential inaugurations, Black history, US currency, possible Caldecott contender, school segregation, civil rights, social justice, trauma, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Protagonist description: female, African American, from birth in 1928 to 1993

*Wanda the Brave by Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni (Author) and Chantelle and Burgen Thorne (Illustrator)

Today, Wanda is visiting the hair salon where she’ll use all the hair secrets Makhulu taught her. But Aunty Ada wants her to straighten her hair with a white chemical. Wanda and her new friend Nkiruka come up with a plan and both girls stand strong and brave in the face of this big challenge.

Bold and zesty, Wanda the Brave is a celebration of girl power, and a reminder that courage and friendship is a mighty force!

Kirkus and Booklist starred. As of this writing, 18 US states have passed the CROWN Act, a law that prohibits discrimination based on natural hair and hairstyles typically worn by African Americans. For older students, this is a great book to explain the law and help students and adults understand their rights.

  • Genre(s): picture book; picture book for older readers
  • Setting: hair salon for children
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: natural hair, hair salons, courage, girl power, friendship, standing up for oneself, self-advocacy, Xhosa language (South African Bantu), body autonomy, cornrows, braids
  • Protagonist description: young Black girl with natural hairstyle

*Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual by Carole Boston Weatherford (Author) and Frank Morrison (Illustrator)

Starting from 1619 and stretching more than four hundred years, this book features such pivotal moments in history as the arrival of enslaved people in Jamestown, Virginia; Nat Turner’s rebellion; the integration of the US military; the Selma to Montgomery marches; and peaceful present-day protests. It also celebrates the feats of African American musicians and athletes, such as Duke Ellington and Florence Griffith Joyner.

At the end of the book, readers will find descriptions of the people, places, and events that are featured, along with a note from Carole Boston Weatherford.

THREE starred reviews! Oh, this also looks so gorgeous! Another Caldecott contender?

  • Genre(s): picture book; picture book for older readers
  • Setting: various events throughout US history, starting in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: Black history, slavery, slave revolts, civil rights, racism, prejudice, protests, famous African Americans, perseverance, prayer, faith, US history
  • Protagonist description: variety of African Americans throughout history

Like by Annie Barrows (Author) and Leo Espinosa (Illustrator)

From bestselling author Annie Barrows and Pura Belpre Honor award recipient Leo Espinosa, this funny yet thought-provoking picture book offers a sequence of outlandishly fun compare-and-contrasts that show how humans are much more like each other than we are different.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: comparisons, human vs. nonhuman, compare and contrast, similarities and differences, silly stories
  • Protagonist description: child narrator has light brown skin and dark, curly hair; other people are diverse in age, race, religion, and ability

Bessie the Motorcycle Queen by Charles R. Smith Jr. (Author) and Charlot Kristensen (Illustrator)

In 1929, 18-year-old Bessie Stringfield hopped on her motorcycle and headed out on an adventure, an unusual choice for a young Black woman at the time. Paying her way by winning motorcycle races, she criss-crossed the country through small towns, big cities, and wide open spaces.

But not everyone was happy to see Bessie’s brown face peeking out from underneath her helmet. And more than once, Bessie found herself making some quick exits on the back of her bike to escape Jim Crow. A trailblazer in the world of women’s racing and motorcycling, Bessie Stringfield was a figure who will inspire all children to pursue their dreams.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography, adventure
  • Setting: 1920s-1930s, various towns and US states
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: road trips, motorcycles, cross-country, travel, US history, civil rights, Jim Crow laws, Black history, Women’s History Month, taking chances, segregation, “colored” water fountains and restrooms, courage
  • Protagonist description: female, age 18, African American

Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head by Jeanne Walker Harvey (Author) and Diana Toledano (Illustrator)

As a child in the small mining town of Searchlight, Nevada, Edith Head had few friends and spent most of her time dressing up her toys and pets and even wild animals using fabric scraps. She always knew she wanted to move somewhere full of people and excitement. She set her sights on Hollywood and talked her way into a job sketching costumes for a movie studio.

Did she know how to draw or sew costumes? No. But that didn’t stop her!

Edith taught herself and tirelessly worked her way up until she was dressing some of the biggest stars of the day, from Audrey Hepburn to Grace Kelly to Ginger Rogers. She became the first woman to head a major Hollywood movie studio costume department and went on to win eight Academy Awards for best costume design—and she defined the style of an era.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Setting: isolated home in the Nevada desert and Los Angeles, California, early 20th Century
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: fashion, Hollywood, costume designers, cinema, film, movies, boredom, imagination, loneliness, creativity
  • Protagonist description: female, 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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