THANKSGIVING TRIVIA GAME: Looking for zero-prep Thanksgiving activities for middle school? This trivia game helps keep your students learning and engaged, even in the days before a holiday break. It’s zero-prep for you, and text and images are 99% editable.

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Since Ragnarokthe great war between the gods and the forces of chaos—the human realm of the Midlands has become a desperate and dangerous place, bereft of magic.

Sixteen-year-old Eiric Halvorsen is among the luckier ones—his family has remained prosperous. But he stands to lose everything when he’s wrongly convicted by a rigged jury of murdering his modir and stepfadir. Also at risk is Eiric’s half-systir, Liv, who’s under suspicion for her interest in seidr, or magic. Then a powerful jarl steps in: He will pay the blood price if Eiric will lead a mission to the fabled Temple at the Grove—the rich stronghold of the wyrdspinners, the last practitioners of sorcery.

Spellsinger, musician, and runecaster Reginn Eiklund has spent her life performing at alehouses for the benefit of her master, Asger, a fire demon she is desperate to escape. After one performance that amazes even herself, two wyrdspinners in the audience make Reginn an irresistible offer: return with them to the Temple to be trained in seidr, forever free of Asger.

Eiric’s, Liv’s, and Reginn’s journeys converge in New Jotunheim, a paradise fueled by magic and the site of the Temple. They soon realize that a great evil lurks beneath the dazzling surface and that old betrayals and long-held grudges may fuel another cataclysmic war. It will require every gift and weapon at their command to prevent it.


Library Challenge #1 tasks you with an annual review (or maybe your first review) of your library's Selection and Reconsideration Policies.

LIBRARY CHALLENGE #1 Are library book challenges scary? I think so! But they are much less scary when you have a strong plan. When you know exactly what to do

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This article is 10 essential tips for new school librarians. These are the 10 things you should do FIRST in your new school library.

You’ve landed a brand new school librarian job–congratulations! All summer, you’ve looked forward to standing in the middle of your very own library, taking a deep breath, and reveling in

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This is a collection of fun ideas for middle school library orientation. Even if you don't use the ideas, the videos are a lot of fun to watch!

Ahh, the first day of school! Call me crazy, but I’ve always loved it! I will see my first middle school library orientation classes this Wednesday. We have a book

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New Release Spotlight: September 27, 2022

Wrapping up September new releases with another strong Spotlight! Middle grades look best to me this week.

This week’s top picks:

  • Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong (YA)
  • The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander (MG)
  • Yellow Dog Blues by Alice Faye Duncan (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2789-#2813 on The Ginormous book list.

Click here to “make a copy” in your Google Drive. You can then edit as needed!

*Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith, Derricak Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile

On October 16, 1968, during the medal ceremony at the Mexico City Olympics, Tommie Smith, the gold medal winner in the 200-meter sprint, and John Carlos, the bronze medal winner, stood on the podium in black socks and raised their black-gloved fists to protest racial injustice inflicted upon African Americans. Both men were forced to leave the Olympics, received death threats, and faced ostracism and continuing economic hardships.

In his first-ever memoir for young readers, Tommie Smith looks back on his childhood growing up in rural Texas through to his stellar athletic career, culminating in his historic victory and Olympic podium protest. Cowritten with Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Honor recipient Derrick Barnes and illustrated with bold and muscular artwork from Emmy Award–winning illustrator Dawud Anyabwile, Victory. Stand! paints a stirring portrait of an iconic moment in Olympic history that still resonates today.

THREE starred reviews! Black-and-white illustrations throughout.

  • Genre(s): memoir, graphic novel
  • Setting: rural Texas, California, Mexico City
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: #BlackLivesMatter, Olympic Games, civil rights, protests, injustice, athletes, racism, prejudice, Black Power, runners, resistance
  • Protagonist description: male, African American, Olympic gold medalist

*Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution by Kacen Callender

Lark Winters wants to be a writer, and for now that means posting on their social media accounts––anything to build their platform.

When former best friend Kasim accidentally posts a thread on Lark’s Twitter declaring his love for a secret, unrequited crush, Lark’s tweets are suddenly the talk of the school–and beyond.

To protect Kasim, Lark decides to take the fall, pretending they accidentally posted the thread in reference to another classmate. It seems like a great idea: Lark gets closer to their crush, Kasim keeps his privacy, and Lark’s social media stats explode.

But living a lie takes a toll–as does the judgment of thousands of Internet strangers. Lark tries their best to be perfect at all costs, but nothing seems good enough for the anonymous hordes––or for Kasim, who is growing closer to Lark, just like it used to be between them…

BCCB and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: West Philadelphia
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: social media, former best friends, secrets, internet fame, going viral, unrequited love, LGBTQIA+, Twitter, autism, ADHD
  • Protagonist description: Lark is nonbinary, polyamorous, neurodivergent, 17-years old, Black; Kasim is Black, transgender, age 17

Forest Hills Bootleg Society by Dave Baker (Author, Illustrator) and Nicole Goux (Author, Illustrator)

When Brooke, Kelly, Maggie, and Melissa buy a bootleg anime DVD at a gas station, they get much more than they bargained for with Super Love XL, a risqué move featuring–among other things–a giant mecha who shoots lasers out of her chest. The four girls are horrified (and maybe a little fascinated). It’s so unlike anything they’ve seen, would probably shock everyone else in their town, and definitely would take over their extremely conservative Christian school. That’s when they have the idea to sell copies to local boys…for twenty dollars a pop.

At first, everything goes perfectly, with the friends raking in cash–pretty soon they’ll even have enough money to buy the matching jackets they’ve always dreamed of! But as the market for mildly titillating anime DVDs grows, the girls realize they’ll need new material. On top of figuring out how to replicate their first success, there’s growing tension within the group. Brooke and Kelly’s romance is on its last legs, and hurt feelings are guaranteed when Melissa starts falling for one of them.

Will the four girls’ shared history be strong enough to see them through this upheaval? Or will they learn that some things can only end in heartbreak?

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, historical fiction, realistic fiction
  • Setting: early 2000s, Forest Hills, California
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: anime films, conservative Christian schools, small conservative towns, entrepreneurship, female friendships, love triangles, loneliness
  • Protagonist description: four female best friends: Saudi Arabian, Black, Asian, and white

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

It’s 1931 in Shanghai, and the stage is set for a new decade of intrigue.

Four years ago, Rosalind Lang was brought back from the brink of death, but the strange experiment that saved her also stopped her from sleeping and aging–and allows her to heal from any wound. In short, Rosalind cannot die. Now, desperate for redemption for her traitorous past, she uses her abilities as an assassin for her country.

Code name: Fortune.

But when the Japanese Imperial Army begins its invasion march, Rosalind’s mission pivots. A series of murders is causing unrest in Shanghai, and the Japanese are under suspicion. Rosalind’s new orders are to infiltrate foreign society and identify the culprits behind the terror plot before more of her people are killed.

To reduce suspicion, however, she must pose as the wife of another Nationalist spy, Orion Hong, and though Rosalind finds Orion’s cavalier attitude and playboy demeanor infuriating, she is willing to work with him for the greater good. But Orion has an agenda of his own, and Rosalind has secrets that she wants to keep buried. As they both attempt to unravel the conspiracy, the two spies soon find that there are deeper and more horrifying layers to this mystery than they ever imagined.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, adventure
  • Setting: Shanghai, China, 1931
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: medical experiments, superpowers, immortality, assassins, Japanese Imperial Army, murder, spies, conspiracies, Chinese history, Communism, nationalism
  • Protagonist description: female assassin, immortal, Chinese

If Anything Happens I Love You by Will McCormack (Author), Michael Govier (Author), and Youngran Nho (Illustrator)

Based on the Academy Award-winning animated short by the same name, If Anything Happens I Love You is a young adult graphic novel that follows two parents as they reckon with the loss of their young daughter, Rose, in a school shooting.

Readers follow Rose from “above” as she watches her parents slowly break down under the weight and pain of their loss.

Throughout the novel, Rose’s soul seeks to help her parents reconnect. We learn who Rose was and how much life she lived in her short time. By incorporating a wide range of characters, her boyfriend, teacher, and her cat, Rose is able to introduce healing into the lives of the people she left behind. If Anything Happens I Love You may be a story about loss, but in it we see ourselves–in the grief, the pain, and, most importantly, in the fight toward human connection, love, and acceptance.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Setting: aftermath of a school shooting
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: school shootings, grief, parents and child, afterlife, healing, violence, souls
  • Protagonist description: parents and daughter; all have white skin and straight dark hair

Well, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto

After Sharlot Citra’s mother catches her in a compromising position, she finds herself whisked away from LA to her mother’s native Indonesia. It’ll be exactly what they both need. Or so her mother thinks.

When George Clooney Tanuwijaya’s father (who is obsessed with American celebrities) fears he no longer understands how to get through to his son, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

To ensure that their children find the right kind of romantic partner, Sharlot’s mother and George’s father do what any “good” parent would do: they strike up a conversation online, pretending to be their children.

When the kids find out about their parents’ actions, they’re horrified. Not even a trip to one of the most romantic places on earth could possibly make Sharlot and George fall for each other. But as the layers peel back and the person they thought they knew from online is revealed, the truth becomes more complicated. As unlikely as it may seem, did their parents manage to find their true match after all?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: Jakarta, Indonesia, summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: social media, parents pretending to be kids on social media, matchmaking, wealthy families, being caught in compromising positions, fake relationships
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, biracial (white and Chinese Indonesian)

Talk Santa to Me by Linda Urban

Francie was born in a stable. Really. Granted, it was the deluxe model with the light-up star on the roof, one of the many Christmas items for sale at her family’s Hollydale Holiday Shop. Their holiday gift empire also includes the Santa School, which was founded by Francie’s beloved grandpa, who recently passed away.

Francie’s always loved working in the shop, but lately Aunt Carole has been changing everything with her ideas for too-slick, Hollywood-inspired Santas and horrible holiday-themed employee uniforms. Aunt Carole’s vision will ruin all the charm and nostalgia Francie loves about her family’s business…unless she does something about it.

But this winter is about more than preserving the magic of Christmas. Francie is saving up for a car and angling to kiss the cute boy who works at the tree lot next door–hopefully it will be good enough to wipe her fiasco of a first kiss from her memory.

As the weather outside gets more and more frightful, can Francie pull off the holiday of her dreams?

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: Hollydale, Indiana, holiday season
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Christmas, holidays, family businesses, grief, death of a grandparent, teens with jobs, commercialism, rom-com, volunteer work
  • Protagonist description: female, age 15, white, HS sophomore

Spells for Lost Things by Jenna Evans Welch

Willow has never felt like she belonged anywhere and is convinced that the only way to find a true home is to travel the world. But her plans to act on her dream are put on hold when her aloof and often absent mother drags Willow to Salem, Massachusetts, to wrap up the affairs of an aunt Willow didn’t even know she had. An aunt who may or may not have been a witch.

There, she meets Mason, a loner who’s always felt out of place and has been in and out of foster homes his entire life. He’s been classified as one of the runaways, constantly searching for ways to make it back to his mom; even if she can’t take care of him, it’s his job to try and take care of her. Isn’t it?

Naturally pulled to one another, Willow and Mason set out across Salem to discover the secret past of Willow’s mother, her aunt, and the ambiguous history of her family. During all of this, the two can’t help but act on their natural connection. But with the amount of baggage between them–and Willow’s growing conviction her family might be cursed–can they manage to hold onto each other?

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: Salem, Massachusetts
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: witches, aunts, foster care, runaways, family history, mothers, curses
  • Protagonist description: teen male and teen female, both white

How to Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislinn Brophy

Debut author! Shay Johnson has all the makings of a successful witch. As a junior at T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School, she’s determined to win the Brockton Scholarship–her ticket into the university of her dreams. Her competition? Ana freaking Álvarez. The key to victory? Impressing Mr. B, drama teacher and head of the scholarship committee.

When Mr. B asks Shay to star in this year’s aggressively inclusive musical, she warily agrees, even though she’ll have to put up with Ana playing the other lead. But in rehearsals, Shay realizes Ana is…not the despicable witch she’d thought. Perhaps she could be a friend–or more.

And Shay could use someone in her corner once she becomes the target of Mr. B’s unwanted attention. When Shay learns she’s not the first witch to experience his inappropriate behavior, she must decide if she’ll come forward. But how can she speak out when her future’s on the line?

  • Genre(s): supernatural, romance
  • Setting: magnet school for witches
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: witches, private schools, university scholarships, drama, theater, school musicals, inappropriate teacher behavior, academic competition, high school, Jane Austen, LGBTQIA+
  • Protagonist description: female, biracial (Black and white), lesbian, witch

*The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

11-year-old Kofi Offin dreams of water. Its mysterious, immersive quality. The rich, earthy scent of the current. The clearness, its urgent whisper that beckons with promises and secrets…

Kofi has heard the call on the banks of Upper Kwanta, in the village where he lives. He loves these things above all else: his family, the fireside tales of his father’s father, a girl named Ama, and, of course, swimming. Some say he moves like a minnow, not just an ordinary boy so he’s hoping to finally prove himself in front of Ama and his friends in a swimming contest against his older, stronger cousin.

But before this can take place, a festival comes to the villages of Upper and Lower Kwanta and Kofi’s brother is chosen to represent Upper Kwanta in the wrestling contest. Encircled by cheering spectators and sounding drums, the two wrestlers from different villages kneel, ready to fight.

You are only fine, until you are not.

The match is over before it has barely begun, when the unthinkable–a sudden death–occurs…

The river does not care how grown you are.

As his world turns upside down, Kofi soon ends up in a fight for his life. What happens next will send him on a harrowing journey across land and sea, and away from everything he loves.

SIX starred reviews! This is the first book in a planned trilogy.

  • Genre(s): survival, historical fiction, novel in verse
  • Setting: West Africa’s Asante Kingdom, village in Ghana, 1860
  • Recommended for: Grades 5+
  • Themes: swimming, water, contests, slavery, accidental death, coming-of-age, world history, African history, retaliation
  • Protagonist description: male, age 11, Ghanaian, Black

*Holler of the Fireflies by David Barclay Moore

Javari knew that West Virginia would be different from his home in Bushwick, Brooklyn. But his first day at STEM Camp in a little Appalachian town is still a shock. Though run-ins with the police are just the same here. Not good.

Javari will learn a lot about science, tech, engineering, and math at camp. And also about rich people, racism, and hidden agendas. But it’s Cricket, a local boy, budding activist, and occasional thief, who will show him a different side of the holler–and blow his mind wide open.

Javari is about to have that summer. Where everything gets messy and complicated and confusing…and you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Brooklyn, New York and a STEM camp in West Virginia, summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: camp, STEM, racism, activism, police brutality, #BlackLivesMatter, eviction, water rights, opioid crisis, white supremacy, corporate greed
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, African American

American Murderer: The Parasite that Haunted the South by Gail Jarrow

Imagine microscopic worms living in the soil. They enter your body through your bare feet, travel to your intestines, and stay there for years sucking your blood like vampires. You feel exhausted. You get sick easily. It sounds like a nightmare, but that’s what happened in the American South during the 1800s and early 1900s.

Doctors never guessed that hookworms were making patients ill, but zoologist Charles Stiles knew better. Working with one of the first public health organizations, he and his colleagues treated the sick and showed Southerners how to protect themselves by wearing shoes and using outhouses so that the worms didn’t spread. Although hookworm was eventually controlled in the US, the parasite remains a serious health problem throughout the world. The topic of this STEM book remains relevant and will fascinate readers interested in medicine, science, history–and gross stories about bloodsucking creatures.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Setting: southern USA, 1800s-early 1900s
  • Recommended for: Grades 5+
  • Themes: microscopic organisms, microbiology, parasites, 19th Century, early 20th Century, hookworms, STEM, medicine, US history, gross, zoology, public health crisis
  • Protagonist description: most people in the book are white (at the time–due to segregation and discrimination–medical treatment of hookworms leaned toward treating white patients; this is mentioned briefly in the book)

A Field Guide to Mermaids by Emily B. Martin

Few mythical creatures are more instantly recognizable or more mysterious than mermaids. Whether seen perched on a rock at the water’s edge or spied only as a dim outline beneath the waves, mermaids have long fascinated sailors, scientists, storytellers, and surprised onlookers alike.

Now, for the first time, thanks to dedicated research and a hint of magic, comes A Field Guide to Mermaids, introducing the many species of mermaids native to the United States. With an eye toward the preservation of our natural habitats, Emily B. Martin shares the never-before-told stories of the mermaids who share our waters in this enchanting and beautifully illustrated guidebook.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, mythology
  • Setting: US waterways
  • Recommended for: Grades 6-10
  • Themes: mermaids, field guides, legends, stories, ocean, lakes, rivers, conservation
  • Protagonist description: various types of mermaids

*Ghostcloud by Michael Mann

Debut author! Kidnapped and forced to shovel coal underground, in a half-bombed power station, 12-year-old Luke Smith-Sharma keeps his head down and hopes he can earn his freedom from the evil Tabitha Margate.

Then one day he discovers he can see things that others can’t. Ghostly things. A ghostly girl named Alma, who can bend the shape of clouds to her will and rides them through the night sky. With Alma’s help, Luke discovers his own innate powers and uncovers the terrible truth of why Tabatha is kidnapping children and forcing them to shovel coal.

Desperate to escape, Luke teams up with Alma, his best friend Ravi, and new girl Jess. Can Luke and his friends get away before they each become victims to a cruel and sinister scheme?

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): supernatural, dystopia, adventure, mystery
  • Setting: post-apocalyptic London, England
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: kidnapped, forced labor, ghosts, powers, be careful what you wish for, Dickensian
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, biracial (white and Indian)

Roll for Initiative by Jaime Formato

Riley Henderson has never taken a bus to school in her entire life. Or made an afterschool snack, or finished her homework on her own, or–ewww–done her own laundry. That’s what her older brother Devin was for.

But now Devin’s gone. He’s off in California attending a fancy college gaming program while Riley is stuck alone in Florida with her mom. That is, until a cool nerd named Lucy gives Riley no choice but to get over her shyness and fear of rejection and become friends.

The best part is…both girls are into Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, playing D&D was something Riley and Devin used to do together, with Devin as the dungeon master, guiding Riley through his intricately planned campaigns. So, of course, Riley is more than a little nervous when Lucy suggests that she run a campaign for them. For the chance at a friend, though, she’s willing to give it a shot.

Soon, their party grows and with the help of her new D&D friends, Riley discovers that not only can she function without Devin, she kind of likes it. She figures out that bus thing, totes the clothes down to the laundry room and sets up her D&D campaigns right there on the slightly suspect folding table, makes her own snacks and dinner–the whole deal.

But when Devin runs into trouble with his program and returns home, it’s pretty clear, even to Riley, that since he can’t navigate his own life, he’s going to live Riley’s for her. Now she has to help Devin go back to college and prove to her mom that she can take care of herself…all before the upcoming Winter-Con.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Florida
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: Dungeons & Dragons, siblings, independence, self-reliance, middle school, sibling in college, new friendships
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, 6th grader, white

Play Like a Girl by Misty Wilson (Author), David Wilson (Illustrator)

Debut author! Misty never shies away from a challenge, on or off the field. So when the boys tell her she can’t play football, there’s only one thing to do: join their team and show them what she’s got.

But the training is rougher than she thought–and so are the other guys, who aren’t thrilled about having a girl on their team.

Middle school isn’t so easy, either. Misty wants to fit in with the popular kids, but they think a girl playing football is “weird.” Even her best friend doesn’t get it.

Can Misty find a way to score points with her teammates, make new friends, and show everyone—including herself–what it means to play like a girl?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, memoir, biography, sports
  • Setting: middle school
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: sports, football, women/girls in sports, middle school, strong female protagonist, overcoming adversity, perseverance, play-by-play action, friendship drama, being true to oneself
  • Protagonist description: female, seventh grader, white

*Rain Rising by Courtne Comrie

Debut author! Rain is keeping a big secret from everyone around her: She’s sad. All the time. Rain struggles with her image and feels inferior to her best friend, Nara. Not even her all-star student-athlete big brother (and personal superhero), Xander, can help Rain with her dark thoughts and low self-esteem.

And when Xander becomes the victim of violence at a predominantly white university, Rain’s life and mind take a turn for the worse. But when her favorite teacher, Miss Walia, invites her to an after-school circle group, Rain finds the courage to help herself and her family heal.

Like the rain, she is both gentle and a force, finding strength to rise again.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, novel in verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: depression, hiding sadness, body image, low self-esteem, racism, violence, group therapy, siblings, colorism, mental health
  • Protagonist description: female, 8th grader, age 13, Black

*Concrete: From the Ground Up by Larissa Theule (Author) and Steve Light (Illustrator)

From a lowly mixture of stone, sand, water, and cement have sprung sidewalks, streets, and skyscrapers, sturdy lighthouses and magnificent palaces, long bridges and massive dams.

In ancient building practices, in modern engineering, and in the architecture of the future, humble concrete plays a mighty role in the creation of the human-made world.

Brimming with facts and spiced with clever running narrative in the form of repartee-filled speech bubbles, Concrete is as intimate and entertaining as it is informative and visually sweeping. Curious readers of all ages–from would-be engineers to science and history buffs to retro-design lovers–will delight in this bold, one-of-a-kind guide to the (literal) bedrock of civilization, amplified by a bibliography in the back matter.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Setting: worldwide man-made structures
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-6
  • Themes: STEM, buildings, building materials, man-made structures, roads, bridges, skyscrapers, architecture, engineering
  • Protagonist description: engineers, inventors, and other narrators are racially diverse

*Oh, Sal by Kevin Henkes

Stand-alone companion to The Year of Billy Miller and Billy Miller Makes a Wish. This one is told from 4-year old Sal’s point of view.

The Miller family is celebrating its first holiday with the new baby. Billy is excited that Uncle Jake is visiting, but nothing about this holiday season is making Billy’s little sister Sal happy. The baby is a noisy nuisance and hogging all of Mama’s attention. Plus, the baby doesn’t even have a name yet. To make matters worse, Sal lost the very best gift that Santa gave her!

Will Sal find her present? Will the Millers find a name for the baby? Will Billy always be an annoying big brother?

THREE starred reviews! Includes black and white illustrations throughout.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, early chapter book
  • Setting: Christmas holidays
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: holidays, Christmas, new baby, siblings, family
  • Protagonist description: female, age 4, white

*Yellow Dog Blues by Alice Faye Duncan (Author) and Chris Raschka (Illustrator)

One morning Bo Willie finds the doghouse empty and the gate wide open! Farmer Fred says Yellow Dog hit Highway 61 and started running. Aunt Jessie picks up Bo Willie in her pink Cadillac, and together they look for his missing puppy love. Their search leads them from juke joints to tamale stands to streets ringing with the music of B.B. King and Muddy Waters. Where, where did that Yellow Dog go?

Acclaimed creators Alice Faye Duncan and Chris Raschka present a boogie-woogie journey along the Mississippi Blues Trail. With swinging free verse and stunning hand-stitched art, Yellow Dog Blues is a soulful fable about what happens when the blues grabs you and holds on tight.

Kirkus and Booklist starred. Another Caldecott contender? That artwork is hand-stitched (paint and embroidery on canvas)!

  • Genre(s): picture boo
  • Setting: Mississippi Delta, American South
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: dogs, rhythm and blues, music, colloquialisms
  • Protagonist description: boy, African American

*A Library by Nikki Giovanni (Author) and Erin K. Robinson (Illustrator)

In what other place can a child “sail their dreams” and “surf the rainbow” without ever leaving the room? This ode to libraries is a celebration for everyone who loves stories, from seasoned readers to those just learning to love words, and it will have kids and parents alike imagining where their library can take them.

This inspiring read-aloud includes stunning illustrations and a note from Nikki Giovanni about the importance of libraries in her own childhood.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, memoir
  • Setting: Carnegie Library, Knoxville, Tennessee, 1950s
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: libraries, books, reading, Carnegie Library, grandmothers, segregation, history of libraries, civil rights
  • Protagonist description: young Black girl, American

Latkes and Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story by Fran Manushkin (Author) and Kris Easler (Illustrator)

Republication with new illustrations of a 1989 picture book. The Menashes love latkes and applesauce during Hanukkah. But a blizzard begins and erases any hope that they’ll harvest potatoes and apples in time.

When a stray cat and dog show up, there’s not a lot of food to offer them, but kindness prevails, and they’re invited in. It turns out that the dog–Latke–and the cat–Applesauce–save the day.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, holiday stories
  • Setting: inside a Jewish family home on a snowy Hanukkah night
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: Jewish holidays, Hanukkah, food, blizzards, snow, harvest, cats, dogs, compassion, traditions, family, dreidel
  • Protagonist description: Jewish family; all have tan skin and dark brown hair

Giving Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday by Denise Kiernan (Author) and Jamey Christoph (Illustrator)

All across the world, among hundreds of cultures and across centuries, people have come together to give thanks. But Americans didn’t have an official Thanksgiving holiday until the 1800s. The holiday Americans know today exists because of a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale, a spirited letter-writing campaign, a sympathetic president, and a civil war.

My note: This book does not mention anything about the Wampanoags or Pilgrims; it instead focuses on the universality of gratitude across cultures, how Thanksgiving became a US national holiday, and how some American Thanksgiving traditions (football games, pardoning a turkey) came about.

  • Genre(s): picture book, holiday stories, picture book for older readers
  • Setting: 1800s
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: giving thanks, Thanksgiving, American holidays, Sarah Josepha Hale, US Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, writing letters to ignite change, advocacy, persistence, persuasive writing
  • Protagonist description: Sarah Josepha Hale, a white woman; children of various ethnicities saying Thank You in different languages

*Curve & Flow: The Elegant Vision of L.A. Architect Paul R. Williams by Andrea J. Loney (Author) and Keith Mallett (Illustrator)

As an orphaned Black boy growing up in America in the early 1900s, Paul R. Williams became obsessed by the concept of “home.” He not only dreamed of building his own home, he turned his dreams into drawings.

Defying the odds and breaking down the wall of racism, Williams was able to curve around the obstacles in his way to become a world-renowned architect. He designed homes for the biggest celebrities of the day, such as Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball, and created a number of buildings in Los Angeles that are now considered landmarks.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Setting: early 1900s; Los Angeles, California
  • Recommended for: Grades K-3
  • Themes: STEM, architecture, drawing, racism, prejudice, landmarks, orphans, overcoming adversity, goals, pursuing one’s dreams, perseverance
  • Protagonist description: young boy, African American, orphan

*The Circles in the Sky by Karl James Mountford

One morning, Fox is drawn toward the forest. There, in a clearing, he sees something small and silent, perhaps forgotten. It’s a bird, lying as still as can be.

Fox is confused, upset, and angry. Is the bird broken? Why doesn’t it move or sing, no matter what Fox does? His curious antics are spied by a little moth, who shares a comforting thought about the circles in the sky–that the sun, even after it sets, is reflected by the moon and the stars, reminding us of its light.

Kirkus and BCCB starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: forest at dawn
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: forest animals, foxes, moths, memory, death, mourning
  • Protagonist description: multiple forest animals






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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