New Release Spotlight: November 15, 2022

As typically happens by mid-November, the Spotlight lists start to get smaller. By mid-December the lists will dry up to almost nothing, so my last list of the year will be coming in the next few weeks. Only 13 titles this week, which is not enough for me to do a “top picks” section.

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2907-#2920 on The Ginormous book list.

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*The Lies We Tell by Katie Zhao

Anna Xu moves out of her parent’s home and into the dorms across town as she starts freshman year at the local, prestigious Brookings University. But her parents and their struggling Chinese bakery, Sweetea, aren’t far from campus or from mind, either. At Brookings, Anna wants to keep up her stellar academic performance and to investigate the unsolved campus murder of her childhood babysitter.

She also finds a familiar face–her middle-school rival, Chris Lu. The Lus happen to be the Xu family’s business rivals since they opened Sunny’s, a trendy new bakery on Sweetea’s block. Chris is cute but still someone to be wary of…until a vandal hits Sunny’s and Anna matches the racist tag with a clue from her investigation.

Anna grew up in this town, but more and more she feels like maybe she isn’t fully at home here–or maybe it’s that there are people here who think she doesn’t belong. When a very specific threat is made to Anna, she seeks out help from the only person she can; Anna and Chris team up to find out who is stalking her and take on a dangerous search into the hate crimes happening around campus. Can they root out the ugly history and take on the current threat?

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): thriller
  • Setting: Michigan college town
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: struggling family businesses, murder, unsolved crimes, family rivalry, prejudice, hate crimes, stalking, threats, immigrants, anti-Asian hate
  • Protagonist description: female, Chinese American, university freshman

Briarcliff Prep by Brianna Peppins

Debut author! It’s fourteen-year-old Avielle “Avi” LeBeau’s turn to do what everyone in her family has done: leave home to attend Briarcliff Prep–a Historically Black Boarding School (HBBS). And as scared as she is to say goodbye to her parents and move to Georgia, she knows her fearless big sister Belle will be there to show her the ropes.

Before long, Avi settles into life at Briarcliff. New friends (and foes), challenging classes (at times too challenging), and maybe a cute tutor-turned-something-more (if her brothers don’t get in the way). Meanwhile, Belle does what she always does: she runs the campus’s social scene, especially now that she’s dating Logan, the pride and joy of Briarcliff’s sibling school Preston Academy.

But something about Logan doesn’t sit well with Avi, no matter how many times Belle reassures her Logan is a good guy. And when Avi stumbles across the truth, her relationship with Belle is put to the test. If Avi reveals what she knows, their sisterhood might never recover. But if she doesn’t, she might lose Belle forever.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realsitic fiction
  • Setting: Georgia, USA; historically Black boarding school
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: relationships and dating, boarding schools, secrets, school stories
  • Protagonist description: female, age 14, Black

Reader, I Murdered Him by Betsy Cornwell

Adele grew up in the shadows–first watching from backstage at her mother’s Parisian dance halls, then wandering around the gloomy, haunted rooms of her father’s manor. When she’s finally sent away to boarding school in London, she’s happy to enter the brightly lit world of society girls and their wealthy suitors.

Yet there are shadows there, too. Many of the men that try to charm Adele’s new friends do so with dark intentions. After a violent assault, she turns to a roguish young con woman for help. Together, they become vigilantes meting out justice. But can Adele save herself from the same fate as those she protects?

With a queer romance at its heart, this lush historical thriller offers readers an irresistible mix of vengeance and empowerment.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, romance
  • Setting: England and France, 19th Century
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Jane Eyre, gothic literature, high society, con artists, boarding school, LGBT+
  • Protagonist description: female, bisexual, white

The Hope Raisers: How a Group of Young Kenyans Fought to Transform Their Slum and Inspire a Community by Nihar Suthar

The poignant and inspiring true story of three young Kenyans who fought to transform their slum and improve the lives of those around them.

Korogocho is one of Kenya’s darkest slums, plagued by gang violence, food and water shortages, and rampant pollution. Most children have no future except for scavenging through trash piles or resorting to lives of crime. One day, a boy named Daniel Onyango decided to do more, creating a band called the Hope Raisers to inspire the kids of Korogocho. His friend, Mutura Kuria, quickly joined in.

In The Hope Raisers: How a Group of Young Kenyans Fought to Transform Their Slum and Inspire a Community, Nihar Suthar tells the amazing story of how Daniel and Mutura turned the band into a platform for change. They started teaching children on the streets how to express themselves through art and established a skating team after finding a pair of rollerblades in the dump.

Suthar closely follows the story of one rebellious girl, Lucy Achieng, who refused to get married off at a young age and instead used competitive rollerblading to reach for her dreams. Lucy continues to inspire girls to stand up for themselves and challenge the longstanding practices in Korogocho of early marriage and prostitution.

The Hope Raisers is an eye-opening look into a world of poverty and violence where children receive only a basic education and are left with little to no means to get out. Yet it also reveals the remarkable impact that a few determined individuals can have on their community, even in the most challenging of conditions.

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction
  • Setting: Korogocho, a large slum in Kenya
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: true story, food shortages, water shortages, pollution, gangs, slums, art, rollerblading, community activism, getting involved, child marriage, prostitution, poverty, social change, music
  • Protagonist description: three young Kenyans, two male and one female

The Do-Over by Lynn Painter

After living through a dumpster fire of a Valentine’s Day, Emilie Hornby escapes to her grandmother’s house for some comfort and a consolation pint of Ben & Jerry’s. She passes out on the couch, but when she wakes up, she’s back home in her own bed–and it’s Valentine’s Day all over again. And the next day? Another nightmare V-Day.

Emilie is stuck in some sort of time loop nightmare that she can’t wake up from as she re-watches her boyfriend, Josh, cheat on her day after day. In addition to Josh’s recurring infidelity, Emilie can’t get away from the enigmatic Nick, who she keeps running into–sometimes literally–in unfortunate ways.

How many days can one girl passively watch her life go up in flames? And when something good starts to come out of these terrible days, what happens when the universe stops doling out do-overs?

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: Valentine’s Day; Omaha, Nebraska
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: Valentine’s Day, repeating the same day, cheating boyfriend, relationships, dating, Groundhog Day, time loops
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, white

The 9:09 Project by Mark H. Parsons

It has been two years since his mom’s death, and Jamison, his dad, and his younger sister seem to be coping, but they’ve been dealing with their loss separately and in different ways. When Jamison almost forgets the date of his mother’s birthday, he worries that his memory of her is slipping away. To help make sense of the passing of time, he picks up his camera–the Nikon his mother gave to him.

Jamison begins to take photos of ordinary people on the street, at the same time and place each night. As he focuses his lens on the random people who cross his path, Jamison begins to see the world in a deeper way. His endeavor turns into a school project, and then into something more. Along with his new outlook, Jamison forges new and unexpected friendships at school. But more importantly, he’s able to revive the memory of his mother, and to connect with his father and younger sister once again.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: California
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: photography, death of a parent (mother), grief, loss, memories, school projects, family, synesthesia, cancer
  • Protagonist description: male, age 17, white

Oscar from Elsewhere by Jaclyn Moriarty

During a sleepover, a letter comes to five children begging for the urgent assistance of Esther Mettlestone-Staranise, the newly-realized Rain Weaver; she must arrive before 10am on Monday to save an entire town of elves. When they arrive, the children find two incredibly odd things: first, the town of elves, buried under layers of silver; and second, a regular-size boy who, soon after seeing the children, dies.

Oscar is that boy who skipped school in our world on Monday to skate, and found himself in the city of the elves at just the wrong moment: He fled as fast as he could, but not fast enough because the silver wave struck him and he fell down dead.

And that’s just the beginning! At breakneck pace the cousins and friends (and a six-year-old stowaway elf named Gruffudd, who’s a troublemaker) try to stop the clock and rewind the tragedy. Can they do it?

The pleasure is all in the adventure, as only Jaclyn Moriarty can tell it.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Setting: parallel fantasy world of elves and other magical creatures
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: elves, parallel worlds, keys, quests, alternating voices, magical creatures
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, Australian; female, age 13, white

Tenmile by Sandra Dallas

Life in 1880 Tenmile, Colorado, isn’t easy. But it’s all that 13-year-old Sissy Carlson knows. She’s lived here her whole life, watching her father, the local doctor, tend to the town’s citizens. And while the mountain setting is gorgeous, Tenmile is a rough gold mining town.

It often feels like there’s just a thin line between life and death. Mining is a hard job; men are hurt or even killed. Sissy sees the same thin line between the haves and the have-nots as she assists her father in his practice, seeing firsthand the personal and not-always-private struggles of his patients.

Now that she’s older, Sissy is starting to think of the world beyond Tenmile and where she might fit in. What opportunities might she find if she could just get away? What kind of future does Tenmile offer, especially for a girl?

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Setting: 1880; Tenmile, Colorado (a gold mining town in the mountains)
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: gold mining, privilege, poverty, social class, doctors, dangerous jobs, traditional gender roles, immigrants, tuberculosis, 19th Century, classism
  • Protagonist description: female, age 13, white

Heart Finds by Jaime Berry

Eleven-year-old Mabel Cunningham is a quiet loner who only feels free to be herself when she’s “extreme treasure hunting” with her grampa–much to her perfectionist mother’s disapproval. Nothing excites Mabel more than discovering a heart find, an item that calls to her heart, and the maybes that come along with it.

But when her friendships start to crumble and her grampa suffers a stroke, Mabel quickly learns that real-life maybes are harder to handle than imagined ones. Desperate to change things back to the way they were, Mabel devises a plan that she believes will fix everything. Except bringing her plan to fruition means lying to her grampa and disappointing her mother.

Will Mabel learn that letting go of the past doesn’t mean letting go of her grampa and that embracing the future might be one of her most important heart finds yet?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Abner, Oklahoma
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: found treasures, friendship, grandfathers, stroke, difficult mother-daughter relationships, puns
  • Protagonist description: female, age 11, white, 6th grader

Van Dog by Mikolaj Pa (Author) and Gosia Herba (Illustrator)

Van Dog rides to the countryside to paint a landscape one day. As he mounts his easel, mixes his paints, and contemplates the scenery, the landscape slowly unfolds in weird and wonderful ways: a snail nibbles on a mushroom, ants gather to work, and a giant lizard monster sets off on a journey to Tokyo.

As the landscape becomes busier and busier, Van Dog struggles to finish his painting–but is he overwhelmed by his subject, or is the richness of the countryside precisely what inspires him?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture books
  • Setting: a beautiful morning
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1
  • Themes: dogs, art, painting, urbanization, Van Gogh, Monet, nature
  • Protagonist description: dog that is an artist

*A Land of Books: Dreams of Young Mexihcah Word Painters by Duncan Tonatiuh

A young Aztec girl tells her little brother how their parents create beautiful painted manuscripts, or codices. She explains to him how paper is made from local plants and how the long paper is folded into a book. Her parents and others paint the codices to tell the story of their people’s way of life, documenting their history, science, tributes, and sacred rituals.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: Mexico
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: Aztecs, Native Americans, indigenous peoples, Mesoamericans, making paper, artisans, codices, Latin American history, books, Nahuatl words, colonization
  • Protagonist description: young Aztec girl

Elephants Remember: A True Story by Jennifer O’Connell

From the author-illustrator of The Eye of the Whale (Tilbury House, 2013), this nonfiction picture book tells the story of Lawrence Anthony and the deep bond he forged with the matriarch of the herd he saved at his animal reserve in South Africa.

When Lawrence died, the matriarch led all the elephants from remote parts of the reserve in a procession to his home, where they gathered to mourn him. They returned on the same day at the same time for the next two years–because elephants remember. This moving story of human-elephant mutual love and respect will inspire readers of all ages.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction picture book
  • Setting: Thula Thula Game Reserve, Zululand, South Africa
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: elephants, memory, mourning, human-elephant friendships, animal intelligence, poaching, conservation
  • Protagonist description: male conservationist, white; a herd of elephants

*How to Send a Hug by Hayley Rocco (Author) and John Rocco (Illustrator)

Artie loves giving hugs. But she can’t give a hug to her Grandma who lives so far away. Instead, she shows us how to send hugs using the magic of handwritten letters in this timeless story about connecting to loved ones when you can’t always do so in person.

Both timely and timeless, How to Send a Hug is about reaching out across the miles when you can’t do so yourself in person and turning words into love.

Kirkus and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: love, affection, hugs, innovation, grandmothers, snail mail, writing letters, US mail process, community helpers, postal workers
  • Protagonist description: young girl and her grandmother, both white

A Sweet New Year for Ren by Michelle Sterling (Author) and Dung Ho (Illustrator)

Little Ren looks forward to the preparation for and festivities of Lunar New Year, but she is always too little to help make the delicious pineapple cakes that are her favorite.

She watches family members rolling out the dough and loves the mouth-watering smell. Watching and waiting, when will Ren be old enough?

  • Genre(s): picture book, holidays
  • Setting: Chinese American family home at Lunar New Year
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: food, Lunar New Year, holidays, cooking, family, traditions
  • Protagonist description: Chinese American girl and her family





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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