New Release Spotlight: April 4, 2023

Whew! I struggled to get this Spotlight out this week because I’ve been sick since Saturday. I finally went to the doctor today and am hopefully on the mend. For this reason, the first part of the Spotlight (YA) is far more in-depth than the second half (particularly picture books).

This week’s top picks:

  • Silver in the Bone by Alexandra Bracken (YA)
  • School Trip by Jerry Craft (MG)
  • Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers? by Junauda Petrus (picture book for older readers)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #3203-#3218 on The Ginormous book list.

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*Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker

Debut author! Thirty years ago, a young woman was murdered, a family was lynched, and New Orleans saw the greatest magical massacre in its history. In the days that followed, a throne was stolen from a queen.

On the anniversary of these brutal events, Clement and Cristina Trudeau–the sixteen-year-old twin heirs to the powerful, magical, dethroned family–are mourning their father and caring for their sick mother. Until, by chance, they discover their mother isn’t sick–she’s cursed. Cursed by someone on the very magic council their family used to rule. Someone who will come for them next.

Cristina, once a talented and dedicated practitioner of Generational magic, has given up magic for good. An ancient spell is what killed their father and she was the one who cast it. For Clement, magic is his lifeline. A distraction from his anger and pain. Even better than the random guys he hooks up with.

Cristina and Clement used to be each other’s most trusted confidant and friend, now they barely speak. But if they have any hope of discovering who is coming after their family, they’ll have to find a way to trust each other and their family’s magic, all while solving the decades-old murder that sparked the still-rising tensions between the city’s magical and non-magical communities. And if they don’t succeed, New Orleans may see another massacre. Or worse.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): supernatural, fantasy, thriller, mystery
  • Setting: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: twins, grief, parent with illness (mother), death of a parent (father), caring for a sick family member, magic, spells, cultural appropriation of sacred practices, racism, mental illness, sex work, consent
  • Protagonist description: brother and sister, twins, age 16, Black

*The Immeasurable Depth of You by Maria Ingrande Mora

Fifteen-year-old Brynn can’t stop thinking about death. Her intrusive thoughts and severe anxiety leave her feeling helpless–and hopeless. So after her mom interprets one of Brynn’s blog posts as a suicide note, she takes extreme measures, confiscating Brynn’s phone, blocking her Internet access, and banishing her to stay with her father who lives “off the grid” on a houseboat in the Florida mangroves.

Isolated from her online friends–her only friends–Brynn resigns herself to a summer of mind-numbing boredom and loneliness…until Skylar appears.

Skylar is everything Brynn isn’t–sultry, athletic, and confident. Yet Brynn feels at home around this fearless girl who pushes her to try new things and makes her belly flutter with nerves that have nothing to do with anxiety. When Brynn discovers that Skylar is trapped in the bayou and can’t tell her why, she resolves to free her new crush from the dark waters, even if it means confronting all of her worst fears.

Kirkus and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): supernatural, realistic fiction
  • Setting: Florida, USA
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: obsession with death, anxiety, suicide ideation, OCD, social isolation, friendship, LGBT+, social media, mental health, spending time away from screens, living off-grid
  • Protagonist description: female, age 15, bisexual, white

Forget Me Not by Alyson Derrick

Debut author! What would you do if you forgot the love of your life ever even existed?

Stevie and Nora had a love. A secret, epic, once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. They also had a plan: to leave their small, ultra-conservative town and families behind after graduation and move to California, where they could finally stop hiding that love.

But then Stevie has a terrible fall. And when she comes to, she can remember nothing of the last two years–not California, not coming to terms with her sexuality, not even Nora. Suddenly, Stevie finds herself in a life she doesn’t quite understand, one where she’s estranged from her parents, drifting away from her friends, lying about the hours she works, dating a boy she can’t remember crushing on, and headed towards a future that isn’t at all what her fifteen-year-old self would have envisioned.

And Nora finds herself…forgotten. Can the two beat the odds a second time and find their way back together when “together” itself is just a lost memory?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Setting: small town in Pennsylvania, USA
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: brain injuries, accidents, first love, dating, lost memory, amnesia, racism, homophobia
  • Protagonist description: two females, age 18, queer; one is Korean and white; the other is white

Funeral Songs for Dying Girls by Cherie Dimaline

Winifred has lived in the apartment above the cemetery office with her father, who works in the crematorium all her life, close to her mother’s grave. With her sixteenth birthday only days away, Winifred has settled into a lazy summer schedule, lugging her obese Chihuahua around the grounds in a squeaky red wagon to visit the neglected gravesides and nursing a serious crush on her best friend, Jack.

Her habit of wandering the graveyard at all hours has started a rumor that Winterson Cemetery might be haunted. It’s welcome news since the crematorium is on the verge of closure and her father’s job being outsourced.

Now that the ghost tours have started, Winifred just might be able to save her father’s job and the only home she’s ever known, not to mention being able to stay close to where her mother is buried. All she has to do is get help from her con-artist cousin to keep up the rouse and somehow manage to stop her father from believing his wife has returned from the grave.

But when Phil, an actual ghost of a teen girl who lived and died in the ravine next to the cemetery, starts showing up, Winifred begins to question everything she believes about life, love and death. Especially love.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): supernatural
  • Setting: Cabbagetown, a gentrified neighborhood in Toronto, Canada
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: cemeteries, grief, death, parental job instability, fake ghosts, real ghosts, con-artists, romance with a ghost
  • Protagonist description: female, age 15-16, Canadian, Metis and European

Danger and Other Unknown Risks by Ryan North (Author) and Erica Henderson (Author, Illustrator)

Here’s the deal–on midnight of January 1st, 2000, the world ended. But it wasn’t technology that killed it: It was magic. Now, years later, the Earth has transformed. Magic works (sort of). People are happy (sort of). But this new world isn’t stable, and unless Marguerite de Pruitt and her canine pal, Daisy, do something about it, it’ll tilt into deadly chaos. Good thing they’ve been training their whole lives for this and are destined to succeed. Or so they think.

Ryan North and Erica Henderson, the bestselling masterminds behind Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, serve up a graphic novel that is equally laugh-out-loud adventure and emotional gut punch. A story about the search for truth, chosen family, and rebirth, the journey of Marguerite and Daisy seeks to ask one vital question: How far are you willing to go to save the world?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure, graphic novel, humor
  • Setting: early 2000s, post-Y2K magical world
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: apocalypse, dark magic, talking dogs, saving the world, superheroes, alternate history, Y2K
  • Protagonist description: female and her talking dog

Silver in the Bone by Alexandra Bracken

Born without a trace of magic, Tamsin Lark is no match for the sorceresses and Hollowers who populate the magical underground of Boston. But when the only parent she’s ever known disappears without so much as a goodbye, she has no choice but to join in their cutthroat pursuit of enchanted relics to keep herself–and her brother, Cabell–alive.

Ten years later, rumors are swirling that her guardian found a powerful ring from Arthurian legend just before he vanished. A run-in with her rival Emrys ignites Tamsin’s hope that the ring could free Cabell from a curse that threatens both of them. But they aren’t the only ones who covet the ring.

As word spreads, greedy Hollowers start circling, and many would kill to have it for themselves. While Emrys is the last person Tamsin would choose to partner with, she needs all the help she can get to edge out her competitors in the race for the ring. Together, they dive headfirst into a vipers’ nest of dark magic, exposing a deadly secret with the power to awaken ghosts of the past and shatter her last hope of saving her brother.

  • Genre(s): dark fantasy, romance
  • Setting: magical Boston underground
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: dark magic, orphans, siblings, magical objects, curses, abandonment
  • Protagonist description: teen female, white

A Whole Song and Dance by Sarvenaz Tash

Nasrin Mahdavi is an Iranian-American college freshman who’s a triple threat on Broadway–but she’s living a double life.

It’s her first semester majoring in musical theater at NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, and Nasrin spends her days prepping for auditions, sweating through dance classes, and belting her heart out for the viral streaming show she’s been cast in.

But on calls with her maman and baba, she’s the golden child who put her theater dreams aside to follow in their entrepreneurial footsteps as a business major. At least her whole life isn’t a lie–she is taking a single business course. Except she’s kind of failing it.

Nasrin needs to bring her grade up fast if she’s going to keep her parents in the dark, so she grudgingly signs up for tutoring with the infuriatingly smug and annoyingly attractive Max.

And yet…as the semester rushes by, the sparks of anger that first flew between them start to turn into a very different kind of spark. The kind she definitely does not have time for. Except when Nasrin’s charmingly devious cousin takes an interest in Max too, Nasrin has to figure out exactly what has been an act, and what’s for real. Can Nasrin decide what–and who–is truly worth fighting for, and find a way to step into the spotlight as her full self?

  • Genre(s): rom-com, realistic fiction, romance
  • Setting: NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts; New York, New York
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: theater, drama, Broadway, performance arts, New York University, parental expectations, lying to parents, tutoring, being true to oneself
  • Protagonist description: female, college freshman, Iranian-American

*School Trip by Jerry Craft

Jordan, Drew, Liam, Maury, and their friends from Riverdale Academy Day School are heading out on a school trip to Paris. As an aspiring artist himself, Jordan can’t wait to see all the amazing art in the famous City of Lights.

But when their trusted faculty guides are replaced at the last minute, the school trip takes an unexpected–and hilarious–turn. Especially when trying to find their way around a foreign city ends up being almost as tricky as navigating the same friendships, fears, and differences that they struggle with at home.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction, humor
  • Setting: Paris, France
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: artists, school field trips, friendship, growing up, art school, making difficult decisions, travelling internationally
  • Protagonist description: male, 8th grader, African American

Parachute Kids by Betty C. Tang

Feng-Li can’t wait to discover America with her family! But after an action-packed vacation, her parents deliver shocking news: They are returning to Taiwan and leaving Feng-Li and her older siblings in California on their own.

Suddenly, the three kids must fend for themselves in a strange new world–and get along. Starting a new school, learning a new language, and trying to make new friends while managing a household is hard enough, but Bro and Sis’s constant bickering makes everything worse. Thankfully, there are some hilarious moments to balance the stress and loneliness. But as tensions escalate–and all three kids get tangled in a web of bad choices–can Feng-Li keep her family together?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Setting: California. 1981
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: siblings, travelling internationally, arguing with siblings, learning a new language, new kids at school, moving, undocumented immigrants, bullying, racism, separating from parents, #ownvoices
  • Protagonist description: female, age 10, Taiwanese; her siblings are ages 14 (brother) and 16 (sister)

Indigo and Ida by Heather Murphy Capps

When eighth grader and aspiring journalist Indigo breaks an important story, exposing an unfair school policy, she’s suddenly popular for the first time.

The friends who’ve recently drifted away from her want to hang out again. Then Indigo notices that the school’s disciplinary policies seem to be enforced especially harshly with students of color, like her. She wants to keep investigating, but her friends insist she’s imagining things.

Meanwhile, Indigo stumbles upon a book by Black journalist and activist Ida B. Wells–with private letters written by Ida tucked inside. As she reads about Ida’s lifelong battle against racism, Indigo realizes she must choose between keeping quiet and fighting for justice.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Minnesota, USA
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: friendship, journalism, unfair school policies, popularity, racism, school discipline, microaggressions, Ida B. Wells, speaking up, school elections, standing up for one’s rights, civil rights, protests
  • Protagonist description: female, 8th grader, biracial (black and white)

*The Red Ear Blows Its Nose: Poems for Children and Others by Robert Schechter (Author) and S Federico (Illustrator)

The publisher’s summary for this one is just heaps of praise without saying anything real about the book. This is one of my biggest complaints about children’s book marketing. What I can tell you is that it’s a poetry collection along the lines of Jack Prelutsky. Poems are nonsense or absurd, which is always a hit with young readers. Most of the poems rhyme, and illustrations are blackline.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-6
  • Themes: absurd poetry, silly poems

Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy by Angie Thomas

Nic Blake and the Remarkables, book 1. It’s not easy being a Remarkable in the Unremarkable world. Some things are cool–like getting a pet hellhound for your twelfth birthday. Others, not so much–like not being trusted to learn magic because you might use it to take revenge on an annoying neighbor.

All Nic Blake wants is to be a powerful Manifestor like her dad. But before she has a chance to convince him to teach her the gift, a series of shocking revelations and terrifying events launch Nic and two friends on a hunt for a powerful magic tool she’s never heard of…to save her father from imprisonment for a crime she refuses to believe he committed.

Publishers Weekly starred. Includes black and white illustrations.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Setting: Jackson, Mississippi, USA
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: magic, powers, fathers and daughters, destiny, African American folklore, chosen one
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, African American

Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt

Selah knows her rules for being normal.

She always, always sticks to them. This means keeping her feelings locked tightly inside, despite the way they build up inside her as each school day goes on, so that she has to run to the bathroom and hide in the stall until she can calm down. So that she has to tear off her normal-person mask the second she gets home from school, and listen to her favorite pop song on repeat, trying to recharge. Selah feels like a dragon stuck in a world of humans, but she knows how to hide it.

Until the day she explodes and hits a fellow student.

Selah’s friends pull away from her, her school threatens expulsion, and her comfortable, familiar world starts to crumble.

But as Selah starts to figure out more about who she is, she comes to understand that different doesn’t mean damaged. Can she get her school to understand that, too, before it’s too late?

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, novel in verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: OCD, autism, strict rules for oneself, not fitting in, trouble at school, school suspension, hypersensitivity, self-advocacy
  • Protagonist description: female, 7th grader, autistic

*How to Write a Poem by Kwame Alexander (Author), Deanna Nikaido (Author), and Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)


with a question

like an acorn

waiting for spring.

From this first stanza, readers are invited to pay attention–and to see that paying attention itself is poetry. Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido’s playful text and Melissa Sweet’s dynamic, inventive artwork are paired together to encourage readers to listen, feel, and discover the words that dance in the world around them–poems just waiting to be written down.

THREE starred reviews! Companion to How to Read a Book (2019).

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: writing poetry, teaching tools, awareness of the world around you, how-to books, ELA teachers, metaphors, similes, writers
  • Protagonist description: diverse children

*A Bed of Stars by Jessica Love

Going to bed each night can be dark and scary. The night sky stretches out endlessly, making one sensitive child feel small in comparison.

So Dad comes up with a plan: a night of camping out in the desert. Together, the two load up Darlin’, the old pickup truck, and drive over the mountain with the radio on, stopping to shoot the breeze at a junkyard before setting up camp, jumping in sand dunes, and lying back to name all the birds they can see.

After sunset, when the young thinker feels tiny against the vast sky, Dad knows just what to ask—and just what to say—to soothe away fears. Maybe this night spent under the stars (and a surprise from Mom and the baby later) are just what is needed to show that the universe is a friendly place. From acclaimed author-illustrator Jessica Love comes a story of small moments between father and child that affirms the comfort of finding one’s place in the world.

BCCB and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: open desert at night
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: camping, nature, fears, parent-child relationships, sensitive children, fathers
  • Protagonist description: child and father, both white

The Red Tin Box by Matthew Burgess (Author) and Evan Turk (Illustrator)

This moving and radiant story of the relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter, and the joy and promise passed down between them, begins one quiet dawn…

On the morning of her eighth birthday,
Maude buries a secret
at the foot of a flowering dogwood—
and inside it,
a tiny toy elephant,
a marble like a tiger’s eye,
a bird’s nest with purple string woven through the twigs,
and more.

A special box.
A gift, waiting for the right moment to be opened again.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: starts on the morning of a girl’s 8th birthday and goes until she is a grandmother
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Themes: family, birthdays, treasures, growing up, hidden keepsakes, generational love, grandmothers
  • Protagonist description: female, age 8 to old age, Black

*Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers? by Junauda Petrus (Author) and Kristen Uroda (Illustrator)

Petrus first published and performed this poem after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. With every subsequent police shooting, it has taken on new urgency, culminating in the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, blocks from Junauda’s home.

In its picture book incarnation, Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers? is a joyously radical vision of community-based safety and mutual aid. It is optimistic, provocative, and ultimately centered in fierce love. Debut picture book artist Kristen Uroda has turned Junauda’s vision for a city without precincts into a vibrant and flourishing urban landscape filled with wise and loving grandmothers of all sorts.

Kirkus and SLJ starred. Elementary librarians–please note this book contains the word “badass.” Thank you to Haylee H. for the heads-up!

  • Genre(s): picture book for older readers, poetry
  • Setting: a Black neighborhood
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-9
  • Themes: Black Lives Matter, police violence, civil rights, community, alternatives to incarceration of Black youth
  • Protagonist description: all characters are Black and brown




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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