New Release Spotlight: April 25, 2023

Another smallish Spotlight this week, with YA being the strongest category. But stay tuned! Next week’s Spotlight is going to be a whopper! May is historically one of the best months for new book releases, and all three catergories are set up to be fantastic.

I’ve also got a brand-new video commentary for this week’s New Release Spotlight. In this 15-minute video, I give more details about seven of this week’s titles. Check it out!

This week’s top picks:

  • Star Splitter by Matthew Kirby (YA)
  • Search for a Giant Squid by Amy Seto Forrester (MG)
  • How the Sea Came to Be by Jennifer Berne (picture book)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #3252-#3265 on The Ginormous book list.

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Star Splitter by Matthew J. Kirby

2199. Deep-space exploration is a reality and teleportation is routine. But this time something seems to have gone very, very wrong.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Mathers wakes up in a lander that’s crashed onto the surface of Carver 1061c, a desolate, post-extinction planet fourteen light-years from Earth. The planet she was supposed to be viewing from a ship orbiting far above.

The corridors of the empty lander are covered in bloody hand prints; the machines are silent and dark. And outside, in the alien dirt, there are fresh graves carefully marked with names she doesn’t recognize. Now Jessica must unravel the mystery of the destruction all around her–and the questionable intentions of a familiar stranger.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, mystery, adventure, thriller
  • Setting: 2199, planet called Carver 1061c
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: outer space, exploration, teleportation, what makes a person a person, alternates between “before” and “after”
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white

That Self-Same Metal by Brittany N. Williams

Debut author! Sixteen-year-old Joan Sands is a gifted craftswoman who creates and upkeeps the stage blades for William Shakespeare’s acting company, The King’s Men.

Joan’s skill with her blades comes from a magical ability to control metal–an ability gifted by her Head Orisha, Ogun. Because her whole family is Orisha-blessed, the Sands family have always kept tabs on the Fae presence in London. Usually that doesn’t involve much except noting the faint glow around a Fae’s body as they try to blend in with London society.

But lately, there has been an uptick in brutal Fae attacks. After Joan wounds a powerful Fae and saves the son of a cruel Lord, she is drawn into political intrigue in the human and Fae worlds.

Swashbuckling, romantic, and full of the sights and sounds of Shakespeare’s London, this series starter delivers an unforgettable story–and a heroine unlike any other.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, historical fiction, adventure
  • Setting: London, England; 1605
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: Shakespeare, magic, fae, abilities, Globe Theatre, LGBT+
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, Black

*Money Out Loud: All the Financial Stuff No One Taught Us by Berna Anat (Author) and Monique Sterling (Illustrator)

So no one taught you about money, either? Let’s figure this me$$ out together.

In this illustrated, deeply unserious guide to money, Berna Anat–aka the Financial Hype Woman–freaks out her immigrant parents by doing the unthinkable: Talking about money. Loudly.

Because we’re done staying silent, anxious, and ashamed about our money. It’s time to join the party and finally learn about all the financial stuff that always felt too confusing. Stuff like:

How to actually budget, save, and invest (but also make it fun)
How our traumas shape our most toxic money habits, and how to create new patterns
How to build wealth in a system designed to keep us broke
How to use money to fund our biggest dreams–and change the world
No more keeping our money on mute. It’s time to grab the mic.

Kirkus and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, financial advice
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: money, business, finances, saving money, getting out of debt, budgeting, banking, taxes, credit cards, student loans

Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying

Valerie Chu is quiet, studious, and above all, thin. No one, not even her best friend Jordan, knows that she has been binging and purging for years.

But when tragedy strikes, Val finds herself taking a good, hard look at her priorities, her choices, and her own body. The path to happiness may lead her away from her hometown and her mother’s toxic projections–but first she will have to find the strength to seek help.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: eating disorders, bulimia, body image, death of a parent (father), family problems, body shaming, social media, fatphobia
  • Protagonist description: female, age 16, Chinese American

*Buffalo Flats by Martine Leavitt

Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Leavitt has traveled by covered wagon from Utah to the Northwest Territories of Canada, where her father and brothers are now homesteading and establishing a new community with other Latter-Day Saints. Rebecca is old enough to get married, but what kind of man would she marry and who would have a girl like her–a girl filled with ideas and opinions? Someone gallant and exciting like Levi Howard? Or a man of ideas like her childhood friend Coby Webster?

Rebecca decides to set her sights on something completely different. She loves the land and wants her own piece of it. When she learns that single women aren’t allowed to homestead, her father agrees to buy her land outright, as long as Rebecca earns the money–480 dollars, an impossible sum.

She sets out to earn the money while surviving the relentless challenges of pioneer life–the ones that Mother Nature throws at her in the form of blizzards, grizzles, influenza and floods, and the ones that come with human nature, be they exasperating neighbors or the breathtaking frailty of life.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Setting: Northwest Territories of Canada; 1890
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Latter-Day Saints, traditional gender roles, feminism, pioneer life, natural disasters, getting married
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white

The Lake House by Sarah Beth Durst

Claire’s grown up triple-checking locks. Counting her steps. Second-guessing every decision. It’s just how she’s wired–her worst-case scenarios never actually come true.

Until she arrives at an off-the-grid summer camp to find a blackened, burned husk instead of a lodge–and no survivors, except her and two other late arrivals: Reyva and Mariana.

When the three girls find a dead body in the woods, they realize none of this is an accident. Someone, something, is hunting them. Something that hides in the shadows.

Something that refuses to let them leave.

  • Genre(s): thriller, survival
  • Setting: The Lake House, a remote summer camp in Maine, USA
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: OCD, anxiety, murder, demonology, summer camp, overachievers, resilience
  • Protagonist description: 3 females, one white, one Indian American, one Latine

*Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards by Susan Tan

Moving to a new town is never easy, but it’s even harder when you’re dealing with a stepdad who just left and a mom who can’t get out of bed long enough to find a new a job.

But Mo doesn’t have time to dwell on these things. Because it’s her job to keep her family together. To keep them safe.

So when an elephant starts to haunt her dreams–and a mysterious spirit attacks her home–Mo knows it’s up to her to intervene before things get too dangerous.

With her new friend, Nathaniel, she embarks on an investigation, searching for the truth about the town, its people, and their history. But things are much more complicated and tangled than she thought.

To find out what’s really going on, Mo might have to live a little dangerously after all.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, supernatural, mystery
  • Setting: fictional small town of New Warren, Massachusetts, USA
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: parent with depression, family problems, new kid in town, stepfamilies, ghosts, secrets, stepsisters, grief
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, 6th grade, Chinese American

Search for a Giant Squid by Amy Seto Forrester (Author) and Andy Chou Musser (Illustrator)

This series starter takes emerging readers on an expedition to the ocean’s twilight zone in search of a giant squid. But giant squids are hard to find. Readers will need to join the expedition and help make choices along the way.

First they’ll pick their submersible. And then their pilot and dive site. They’ll need to be careful–not every path leads where it seems, but whatever path they pick, they’ll see and learn amazing things!

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, narrative nonfiction, graphic novel
  • Setting: ocean
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: marine life, giant squid, biology, ocean animals, choose your own adventure, STEM, unique formats, research, ocean exploration
  • Protagonist description: large group of diverse scientists

Doodles from the Boogie Down by Stephanie Rodriguez

Eighth grade in New York City means one thing: It’s time to start applying to high schools!

While her friends are looking at school catalogs and studying for entrance exams, Steph is doodling in her notebook and waiting for art class to begin. When her art teacher tells her about LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, Steph desperately wants to apply.

But she’s in the Bronx, and LaGuardia is a public school in Manhattan–which her mom would not approve of. Steph comes up with a plan that includes lying to her mom, friends, and teachers. Keeping secrets isn’t easy, and Steph must decide how far she’ll go to get what she wants.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Setting: New York City, USA
  • Recommended for: 4 professional reviews recommend Grades 3-7; SLJ recommends Grades 6-10
  • Themes: artists, doodles, art schools, parental approval, secrets, mothers and daughters, lies, Spanish language and phrases, school stories
  • Protagonist description: female, 8th grader, Dominican American

Lolo Weaver Swims Upstream by Polly Farquhar

A headstrong girl’s quest to steal back her family’s dog goes awry in this humorous and compassionate novel.

Lolo is stuck in summer school with a teacher who is out to get her while her family is still reeling from her grandfather’s death. Even his dog is mourning, howling outside all night and every night. Finally, lovable old Hank is sent to a farm across the lake that takes foster dogs.

And it’s all Lolo’s fault.

Lolo knows she has to get Hank back. In a tippy canoe, Lolo crosses the almost-dried-out lake to steal her dog back. But she runs into Noah, a student in her summer school class and Hank’s new owner–and he loves Hank as much as she does.

As Lolo’s plan unravels and her uneasy alliance with Noah grows into a friendship, the question of what’s best for Hank becomes muddier. Can Lolo manage to do the right thing–for once?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, humor
  • Setting: lake community, summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: conservation, environment, summer school, dogs, doing the right thing, animal rights, grief, death of grandfather, pregnant mother, high-risk pregnancies, imperfect narrator
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, white

How the Sea Came to Be by Jennifer Berne (Author) and Amanda Hall (Illustrator)

Long, long ago, when the Earth was young and new, the world was a fiery place. Volcanoes exploded from deep down below, and steamy, hot clouds rose up high. Rain poured down for thousands of years, filling the world’s very first oceans. There the teeniest stirrings of life began.

Earth’s creatures grew bigger and bigger, evolving into exciting forms like jellyfish, coral, and worms.

Millions of years passed. Down in the depths and up on the surface, ocean life grew and spread. Now the sea teems with all kinds of animals–squid, turtles, dolphins, barracudas, even glowing fish, all living in the waters where long, long ago, life itself came to be.

Spanning 4.5 billion years of evolution, this extensively researched book is an accessible introduction to geology, oceanography, and marine biology. Entrancing verse, awe-inspiring art, and fascinating back matter capture the mysterious beauty of the ocean and the incredible organisms who call it home.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction picture book
  • Setting: Earth, 4.5 million years ago
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5
  • Themes: earth’s history, evolution, origins of life, biology, marine biology, geology, rhyming book, animals

Grandad’s Pride by Harry Woodgate

Sequel to: Grandad’s Camper. After Milly discovers a pride flag in Grandad’s attic, this adorable pair are motivated by the past to start a pride parade in their small town.

Activism and celebration go hand in hand as the town gathers to help “build a world where everyone is proud to be themselves.” This beautiful follow-up to Grandad’s Camper is filled with heart and purpose.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: Pride parade
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: Pride, LGBT+, parades, activism, being oneself, traditions, grandfathers
  • Protagonist description: grandfather, white, gay; brown-skinned granddaughter

Danbi’s Favorite Day by Anna Kim

Sequel to: Danbi Leads the School Parade, an Asian Pacific American Honor winner.

Danbi’s favorite day is here!

Thrilled to invite her friends to celebrate Children’s Day as she did in Korea, she promises kites, tigers, and magic train rides. But when the reality of a picnic behind her parents’ deli falls short of her grand plans, Danbi must get creative to save the day.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: outdoor Children’s Day celebration behind a family-owned Korean deli
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: Children’s Day, planning a celebration, inclusivity, disappointment, thunderstorms
  • Protagonist description: young girl, Korean American




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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