New Release Spotlight: December 6, 2022

Welcome to December! The December Spotlights tend to be much shorter than normal, and that is definitely happening this week. I’ve only got nine featured titles this week. It looks like next week’s Spotlight will be the last of 2022. It will include my favorite new releases for the remainder of December.

For this week, picture books are strongest by a lot! More than half of the Spotlight titles are picture books, and three of them each received two starred professional reviews.

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2939-#2947 on The Ginormous book list.

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The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford

Outsiders are always given a choice: the Forest or the lake. Either way, they’re never heard from again.

Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.

When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.

Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake–and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, romance
  • Setting: fictional, isolated island of Endla
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: exiles, fear of outsiders, perceived danger, isolated communities, magic
  • Protagonist description: female, white; all characters cued as white

Lumara by Melissa Landers

Boarding school student Talia Morris has no idea her boyfriend, Nathaniel, is a Mystic, let alone second in line to the throne of a secretive, aspirational magical community–one no mortal has ever been allowed to step inside.

Until now. Nathanial’s cousin is about to be married in the biggest wedding the magical world has ever seen, and Nathaniel is allowed to bring a date. Talia is the lucky recipient of the golden ticket every Mystic wannabe in the world would kill for–only she doesn’t want it. Talia thinks Mystic worship unnecessarily aggrandizes people for being born a certain way. When she finds out Nathaniel is “one of them,” she almost jumps ship. But Nathaniel loves her, and she loves him. So when he begs her to give his family and their community a shot, she reluctantly agrees.

Enter the most fantastical world any mortal has ever seen, and a magical wedding straight out of a dream. After a few days of bonding with Nathaniel’s family on the island, of seeing how beautiful their magic is and how peaceful their community, Talia’s about to be won over–until the entire wedding party suddenly falls into an unexplainable coma and the community goes on lockdown.

Talia, the outsider, is pegged as the culprit and has to do everything in her meager non-power to prove her innocence. As she embarks on a journey to find the truth, Talia soon discovers reality is not all it seems, and her past may put her in more danger than she ever imagined.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, romance, mystery
  • Setting: magical society where nonmagical and magical people coexist
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-11
  • Themes: magic, weddings, lockdowns, unexplainable illness, innocence, false accusations, congenital heart problems, curses
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17

Acting the Part by Z.R. Ellor

Queer actor Lily Ashton has found fame playing lesbian warrior Morgantha on the hit TV show Galaxy Spark. Lily knows how little representation queer girls have, so when the showrunners reveal that Morgantha’s on-screen love interest, Alietta, is going to be killed off, Lily orchestrates an elaborate fake-dating scheme with the standoffish actress who plays her, to generate press and ensure a happy ending for the #Morganetta ship.

But while playing a doting girlfriend on- and off-screen, Lily struggles with whether a word like “girl” applies to them at all.

Lily’s always been good at playing a part. But are they ready to share their real self, even if it means throwing everything they’ve fought for away?

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: drama, theater, celebrities, TV actors, scandals, online video gaming, enemies-to-lovers, LGBT+, gender identity, homophobia, misogyny, white privilege
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white, queer; secondary cast is diverse

Ode to a Nobody by Caroline Brooks DuBois

Before the storm, thirteen-year-old Quinn was happy flying under the radar. She was average. Unremarkable. Always looking for an escape from her house, where her bickering parents fawned over her genius big brother.

Inside our broken home / we didn’t know how broken / the world outside was.

But after the storm, Quinn can’t seem to go back to average. Her friends weren’t affected by the tornado in the same way. To them, the storm left behind a playground of abandoned houses and distracted adults. As Quinn struggles to find stability in the tornado’s aftermath, she must choose: between homes, friendships, and versions of herself.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, novel in verse
  • Setting: middle school and narrator’s home
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: siblings, tornadoes, storms, being average, skateboarding, gamers, insecurity, arguing parents, healing through writing, middle school
  • Protagonist description: female, age 13, white, 8th grader, gamer

*Dark on Light by Dianne White (Author) and Felicita Sala (Illustrator)

When the family dog trots away from the house at sunset, three siblings tumble out the door to go find him. Soon they find themselves immersed in the luminous colors, shades, and shadows of nature at night–both dark and light. They wander through moonlit lavender meadows, past a timid fawn, beneath a snowy white owl, and much, much more as the night deepens until, at last, they find their sneaky pup.

With beautiful illustrations by Felicita Sala and lyrical text by Dianne White that’s perfect for reading aloud, this book invites young readers to step into the wondrous, colorful nighttime natural world.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, bedtime stories
  • Setting: outdoors during sunset and nighttime
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: lost dog, sunset, noticing nature, nighttime, dark and light, the moon, color, wonder, chiaroscuro, rhyming couplets
  • Protagonist description: three light-skinned children with fair hair

*Polar Bear by Candace Fleming (Author) and Eric Rohmann (Illustrator)

April in the Arctic…
Cold winds send snow clouds scuttling across the sky.
Temperatures barely nudge above freezing.
But every now and again,
The cloud cover parts,
The sun shines down,
And the frozen world stretches awake.

As spring approaches in the Arctic, a mother polar bear and her two cubs tentatively emerge from hibernation to explore the changing landscape. When it is time, she takes her cubs on a forty-mile journey, back to their home on the ice. Along the way, she fends off wolves, hunts for food, and swims miles and miles.

This companion book to Honeybee and Giant Squid features the unique talents of Fleming and Rohmann on a perennially popular subject. Eric Rohmann’s magnificent oil paintings feature (as in Honeybee) a spectacular gatefold of the polar landscape.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): informational picture book
  • Setting: Hudson Bay, Ontario, Canada; book spans one year
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: Arctic, winter, seasons, polar bears, snow, predators, baby animals, polar bear cubs, climate change, sea ice, survival, figurative language
  • Protagonist description: mother polar and her two cubs

*Blurp’s Book of Manners by Cindy Derby

When etiquette coach Ms. Picklepop teeters off her stool and spills a bucket of paint, a creature emerges. Not a scary one, or an evil one, or anything of the sort. Instead, what comes alive is…

BLURP!

She’ll have to carry on with her lesson, despite Blurp’s many, messy distractions. But paint splotches and burps aren’t all that disrupt Ms. Picklepop’s decorous class. Perhaps through an unlikely friendship, Ms. Picklepop will learn a thing or two about manners herself.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Setting: classroom
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: manners, etiquette, distractions, messes, kindness, interruptions, rudeness, apologizing
  • Protagonist description: blue-skinned female teacher

The Bird Book by Steve Jenkins (Author, Illustrator) and Robin Page (Author)

They can dance, sing, and, of course, fly–what’s not to love about birds?

With more than 10,000 species of dramatically different colors, shapes, and sizes, birds are some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. The only animal with feathers, birds have soared through the skies for millions of years. In this beautiful picture book, learn what makes a bird a bird, what birds like to eat, and how these masters of the air have evolved.

Ever wonder which bird is the smallest? Or the fastest? Which can fly the highest? Or stay airborne longest? You’ll find answers to these questions and countless others in The Bird Book.

  • Genre(s): informational picture book
  • Setting: global
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: birds, climate change, animals, evolution, superlatives (smallest, fastest, etc), fact book

The Flying Man: Otto Lilienthal, the World’s First Pilot by Mike Downs (Author) and David Hohn (Illustrator)

In 1862, balloons were the only way to reach the sky. But 14-year-old Otto Lilienthal didn’t want to fly in balloons. He wanted to soar like a bird.

Scientists, teachers, and news reporters everywhere said flying was impossible. Otto and his brother Gustav desperately wanted to prove them wrong, so they made their own wings and tried to take flight. The brothers quickly crashed, but this was just the beginning for Otto, who would spend the next 30 years of his life sketching, re-sketching, and building gliders.

Over time, Otto’s flights got longer. His control got better. He learned the tricks and twists of the wind. His flights even began to draw crowds. By the time of his death at age 48, Otto had made more than 2,000 successful glider flights. He was the first person in history to spend this much time in the air, earning the title of the world’s first pilot and paving the way for future aviation pioneers.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Setting: 19th Century, Germany
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: inventors, STEM, aviation history, hot air balloons, brothers, perseverance, Wright Brothers, little-known history
  • Protagonist description: two brothers, German, white

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (YA):

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS & FAVORITE CHARACTERS (ELEMENTARY):

ABOUT THE SPOTLIGHT

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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