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New Release Spotlight: April 18, 2023

Not a huge week for new book releases, EXCEPT for YA books!

This week’s top picks:

  • Sunshine: A Graphic Novel by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (YA)
  • Race Against Death: The Greatest POW Rescue of World War II by Deborah Hopkinson (MG)
  • A Garden in My Hands by Meera Sriram (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #3237-#3252 on The Ginormous book list.


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*Pardalita by Joana Estrela (Author) and Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Translator)

16-year-old Raquel lives in a small town in Portugal, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Her parents are divorced and she’s just been suspended for cursing out a school aide asking about her father’s new marriage. She has two best friends, Luísa and Fred, but wants something more.

Then, from afar, she sees Pardalita, a senior and a gifted artist who’s moving to Lisbon to study in the fall. The two girls get to know each other while working on a play. And Raquel falls in love.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, romance, novel in verse
  • Setting: small town in Portugal
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: LGBT+, trouble at school, divorce, parent’s remarriage, poetry, artists, coming of age
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, Portuguese, queer

*Wings in the Wild by Margarita Engle

Winged beings are meant to be free. And so are artists, but the Cuban government has criminalized any art that doesn’t meet their approval. Soleida and her parents protest this injustice with their secret sculpture garden of chained birds. Then a hurricane exposes the illegal art, and her parents are arrested.

Soleida escapes to Central America alone, joining the thousands of Cuban refugees stranded in Costa Rica while seeking asylum elsewhere. There she meets Dariel, a Cuban American boy whose enigmatic music enchants birds and animals–and Soleida.

Together they work to protect the environment and bring attention to the imprisoned artists in Cuba. Soon they discover that love isn’t about falling–it’s about soaring together to new heights. But wings can be fragile, and Soleida and Dariel come from different worlds. They are fighting for a better future–and the chance to be together.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): novel in verse, romance
  • Setting: Cuba and Costa Rica, 2018-2019
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: oppression, artists, musicians, censorship, Cuban government, Communism, injustice, parental arrest, refugees, conservation, alternating perspectives
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, Cuban, refugee; male, age 16, Cuban American, privileged class

*If I See You Again Tomorrow by Robbie Couch

For some reason, Clark has woken up and relived the same monotonous Monday 309 times. Until Day 310 turns out to be…different. Suddenly, his usual torturous math class is interrupted by an anomaly–a boy he’s never seen before in all his previous Mondays.

When shy, reserved Clark decides to throw caution to the wind and join effusive and effervescent Beau on a series of “errands” across the Windy City, he never imagines that anything will really change, because nothing has in such a long time. And he definitely doesn’t expect to fall this hard or this fast for someone in just one day.

There’s just one problem: how do you build a future with someone if you can never get to tomorrow?

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: Chicago, Sept. 19th (over and over)
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: reliving same day over and over, Groundhog Day, embracing change, time loop, therapy, parental divorce
  • Protagonist description: male, age 17, queer, white

No Boy Summer by Amy Spalding

Lydia Jones and her younger sister Penny have had it with boy drama. Last year was marred by relationship disasters for both of them, threatening Lydia’s standing with her school’s theater tech club and Penny’s perfect GPA. Penny has, naturally, diagnosed the problem and prescribed a drastic solution: a summer off from boys.

Lydia and Penny decide to stay with their Aunt Grace and her boyfriend Oscar in Los Angeles while their parents are off on a European cruise. Penny follows her future-business-school dreams with an internship at Oscar’s office, and Lydia gets a part-time job at Grace’s neighborhood coffeeshop, Grounds Control.

Even when they spent hours, days, weeks dissecting their various boy drama, Lydia’s never felt this connected to her sister before, and it makes her wonder what else in her life could be different. She finds herself drawn to a group of friends she meets through her Grounds Control coworker, Margaret, as well as an intriguing customer, Fran, an aspiring filmmaker and–while not the first girl Lydia finds herself attracted to–the first girl who has mutual feelings for her.

But she’s not breaking her pledge to Penny, right? That was just about boys. Even though in her heart Lydia knows she’s bending the rules, she hasn’t had a connection with anyone as strong as her connection with Fran, so she thinks it can’t be wrong. And Penny won’t mind as long as she’s happy…Right?

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: Los Angeles, California, USA; summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: sisters, dating, teens with jobs, internships, LGBT+, taking a break from dating, coming out
  • Protagonist description: two sisters, both white, one is bisexual

Alondra by Gina Femia

Debut author! Sixteen-year-old Alonda loves professional wrestling. So when she meets a group of teens with aspirations of wrestling fame in her Coney Island neighborhood, she couldn’t be happier.

So as the ragtag team works to put on a show to remember, Alonda sheds her old self behind and becomes Alondra–the Fearless One. But with her conflicting feelings for King, the handsome leader of their group, and Lexi, the girl with the beautiful smile, Alonda has to ask herself: can she be as fearless outside of the ring as she is inside it?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, sports fiction
  • Setting: Coney Island, New York, USA
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: wrestling, being true to oneself, coming of age, LGBT+, girls in sports, grief, death of a parent (mother), sisters
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, HS junior, Puerto Rican, bisexual

Sunshine: A Graphic Novel by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Companion to: Hey, Kiddo. When Jarrett J. Krosoczka was in high school, he was part of a program that sent students to be counselors at a camp for seriously ill kids and their families. Going into it, Jarrett was worried: Wouldn’t it be depressing, to be around kids facing such a serious struggle? Wouldn’t it be grim?

But instead of the shadow of death, Jarrett found something else at Camp Sunshine: the hope and determination that gets people through the most troubled of times.

Not only was he subject to some of the usual rituals that come with being a camp counselor (wilderness challenges, spooky campfire stories, an extremely stinky mascot costume), but he also got a chance to meet some extraordinary kids facing extraordinary circumstances. He learned about the captivity of illness, for sure but he also learned about the freedom a safe space can bring.

This is a standalone companion to Krosoczka’s graphic memoir Hey, Kiddo. Readers do not need to read Hey, Kiddo first to understand Sunshine.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, memoir
  • Setting: Worcester, Massachusetts and a summer camp in Maine
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: summer camp, camp counselors, overcoming adversity, serious illness, determination, hope, volunteer work, brain cancer, wheelchair-bound children, inspiration
  • Protagonist description: male, age 16, white

I Kick and I Fly by Ruchira Gupta

Debut author! On the outskirts of the Red Light District in Bihar, India, fourteen-year-old Heera is living on borrowed time until her father sells her into the sex trade to help feed their family and repay his loans. It is, as she’s been told, the fate of the women in her community to end up here. But watching her cousin, Mira Di, live this life day in and day out is hard enough. To live it feels like the worst fate imaginable. And after a run-in with a bully leads to her expulsion from school, it feels closer than ever.

But when a local hostel owner shows up at Heera’s home with the money to repay her family’s debt, Heera begins to learn that fate can change. Destiny can be disrupted. Heroics can be contagious.

It’s at the local hostel for at risk girls that Heera is given a transformative opportunity: learning kung fu with the other girls. Through the practice of martial arts, she starts to understand that her body isn’t a an object to be commodified and preyed upon, but a vessel through which she can protect herself and those around her. And when Heera discovers the whereabouts of her missing friend, Rosy, through a kung fu pen pal in the US, she makes the decision to embark on a daring rescue mission to New York in an attempt to save her.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Bihar, India
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: sexual abuse, child slavery, human trafficking, martial arts, Kung fu, poverty, red-light districts, gangs, police corruption, prostitution, caste system, women’s rights
  • Protagonist description: female, age 14, Indian

Snow & Poison by Melissa de la Cruz

Known as Snow White, Lady Sophie has led a sheltered life in the mountains of Bavaria. Until now. Her father, the widowed Duke Maximilian, is at last remarrying, and on the day of his historic wedding, Sophie is making her high-society debut.

At the ball, Sophie charms the dashing Prince Philip, heir to the Spanish throne. But as Philip and Sophie start falling deeply in love, the king of Spain loses his temper. His wish is that Philip would marry a princess. And now, his command is Sophie’s death.

In a quest for survival, Sophie seeks refuge in the home of seven orphans, the counsel of a witch, and the safety of her blade. With the looming threat of war upon her duchy, Sophie must ponder: Can she do right by her home and honor her heart’s desire?

  • Genre(s): retelling, fairy tale, romance
  • Setting: Bavaria, Germany, 1621
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Snow White, good vs. evil, orphans, witches, war, aristocracy, royalty, King Ferdinand of Spain, stepmothers
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, German

*Race Against Death: The Greatest POW Rescue of World War II by Deborah Hopkinson

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, America entered World War II, and a new theater of battle opened up in the Pacific. But US troops, along with thousands of Filipino soldiers who fought alongside them, were overtaken in the Philippines by a fiercely determined Japanese navy, and many Americans and Filipino fighters were killed or captured.

These American and Filipino prisoners of war were forced to endure the most horrific conditions on the deadly trek known as the Bataan Death March. Then, the American servicemen who were held captive by the Japanese military in Cabanatuan Camp and others in the Philippines, faced beatings, starvation, and tropical diseases, and lived constantly under the threat of death.

Unable to forget their comrades’ fate and concerned that these POWs would be brutally murdered as the tides of war shifted in the Pacific, the US Army Rangers undertook one of the most daring and dangerous rescue missions of all time. Aided by the “Angels of the Underground,” the Sixth Ranger Battalion and courageous Filipino guerrilla soldiers set out on an uncertain and treacherous assignment. Often called the Great Raid, this remarkable story remains largely forgotten.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction
  • Setting: Camp O’Donnell, a prisoner camp in The Philippines; 1941-1945
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: WWII, the Philippines, prisoners of war, US Army Rangers, rescue missions, world history, little-known history
  • Protagonist description: US prisoners of war during WWII

Home Away From Home by Cynthia Lord

Mia and her mom visit Grandma in Maine every summer, but this year Mia is going alone. Her mom will stay behind to get their house ready to sell. It’ll be a new start, she says, after the divorce.

Mia doesn’t want a new start. She’d rather everything just stayed the same! At least things will be the same at Grandma’s, though. Mia will walk to town for ice cream, and wait by the water, watching for birds, just like always.

Then Mia meets Grandma’s know-it-all new neighbor, who’s just her age. Cayman acts like he belongs at Grandma’s house. He acts like he’s the expert on everything. And when he and Mia spot an unusual white bird of prey, he acts like it’s his job to find out what it is.

Unless, that is, Mia finds out first. And, in her effort to prove herself to him, she makes a decision that will change things for the town, for the bird, for Cayman, and even for herself. Can Mia stop what she’s put into motion?

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: coastal town in Maine, summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: conservation, environment, grandmothers, parental divorce, life changes, birdwatching, know-it-alls, wildlife rescue
  • Protagonist description: female, age 11, white

The Unofficial Lola Bay Fan Club by C. M. Surrisi

Pop star Lola Bay is everything to Iris and her best friend, Leeza. Her songs speak right to their souls and they can’t wait to start a Lola Bay fan club when middle school starts. But then mean girls take over the fan club and Leeza seems to be interested in other things.

Enter Dana. She’s bold and cool and not afraid to stand up for herself. Plus, she’s a massive Lola Bay fan and knows how to get free merch online. She even has big ideas for getting them to a concert.

When some of Dana’s ideas make Iris a little nervous, she pushes the feelings down–Dana seems to know what she’s doing. Only as Dana’s plans get bigger and bigger, Iris feels worse and worse. And then Dana crosses a line that causes trouble for Iris’s whole family.

How could someone who is supposed to be a friend do that? And, Iris wonders, how did I let things go this far?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: middle school
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: celebrities, pop stars, concerts, fans, standing up to a friend, standing up for oneself, trusting oneself, friendship drama, peer pressure, best friends, emotional abuse, transition from elementary to middle school, cyberbullying, jealousy
  • Protagonist description: female, sixth grader, white

The Rhythm of Time by Questlove and S. A. Cosby

Seventh grader Rahim Reynolds loves testing out the gadgets invented by his brilliant friend Kasia Collins.

First there were the X-ray glasses and all the trouble they caused. Now there’s the new cell phone she built for his birthday, even though his parents won’t let him have one.

But Rahim is excited to use the phone to search for videos of his favorite old-school rap group. What he doesn’t know is the phone has a special battery that interfaces with a secret government satellite, which spells trouble when the phone transports him back to 1997.

Almost immediately, he learns what every time traveler before him has: Actions in the past jeopardize the future. With Kasia as his only lifeline to the present, Rahim works with her to get home unscathed, all the while dodging bullies (on his end) and suspicious government agents (on hers).

Philadelphia in the late nineties is a new world for Rahim and Kasia, but it is a familiar place for Questlove, who, alongside S. A. Cosby, delivers a high-velocity tale where two best friends discover that sometimes the best beat is the one that brings you back home.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, adventure
  • Setting: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; June 1997
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: time travel, 1990s, bullying, best friends, phones, strict parents, inventors, rap music, fathers and sons
  • Protagonist description: male, Grade 7, African American

The Train Home by Dan-ah Kim

Nari lives in a rowdy home in a crowded city. She sometimes wishes she lived somewhere else, somewhere quiet that she has all to herself. So when a train rumbles by her window, Nari goes on a journey to find her dream home.

Could it be in a vibrant garden? A colorful coral reef under the sea? Even up among the stars? Hmmm…what if those places are too quiet, or so beautiful she wants to share them? Maybe the train can take her back home, where she truly belongs.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: crowded apartment in a city
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: immigration, large families, journeys, imagination, home, too many people, need for quiet
  • Protagonist description: female, Asian

The Night Tent by Landis Blair

Watson is having trouble sleeping. He lies awake at night, doing his best not to think about the lurking, creeping things that might be hiding in his closet or under his bed. But the more he tries, the harder it gets.

Then he notices a mysterious light coming from under his covers. When he takes a pee­k he discovers a beautiful, tented night sky full of twinkling stars. And because he isn’t sleepy, he follows a path the stars show him. It leads him through a forest and onto an adventure that includes friendly creatures and a magical trolly ride to a tiny island with a very tall tower–and finally, sleep.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: nighttime
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: Where the Wild Things Are, bedtime, adventure, falling asleep, fear of the dark, wonder, imagination
  • Protagonist description: boy, tan-skinned, yellowish-brown hair

A Garden in My Hands by Meera Sriram (Author) and Sandhya Prabhat (Illustrator)

There’s a wedding tomorrow! And one little girl sits patiently while her mother tenderly applies intricate, delicate henna designs on her hands.

As she does, she shares family stories–about weddings, monsoons, and ancestors long gone. The little girl must be careful to protect her hands as the henna dries–one smudge could ruin a story! After a whole night of anticipation, when the flakes are washed away, what will they reveal?

Lyrical text pairs with vibrant illustrations for this poignant picture book that blooms with heart, connects us to our roots, and sweetly reminds us of the the garden of love we curate with those closest to us.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: weddings, henna art, tattoos, culture, traditions, family, stories
  • Protagonist description: mother and child; South Asian

A Girl Can Build Anything by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (Author), Pat Zietlow Miller (Author), and Keisha Morris (Illustrator)

Have you ever dreamed of building something? Maybe something little–like a birdhouse? Or something big–like a skyscraper?

If you can envision it, you can build it! A Girl Can Build Anything is a playful celebration of all the different ways girls can make things–from tinkering to tool wielding, from ideas on paper to big, lived-out dreams that require brick and mortar.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: empowering girls, STEM, building things, engineering
  • Protagonist description: multiple girls, diverse skin tones, diverse hair colors and textures

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (YA):

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (MIDDLE GRADES):

 

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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