New Release Spotlight: June 27, 2023

Lots of fab-u-ness on this week’s Spotlight! YA and MG books look best to me this week.

The “Spotlight of the Spotlight” video is back this week:

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My top picks:

  • Invisible Son by Kim Johnson (YA)
  • Picture Day by Sarah Sax (MG)
  • Glitter Everywhere! by Chris Barton (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #3388-#3403 on The Ginormous book list.

*Invisible Son by Kim Johnson

Life can change in an instant.
When you’re wrongfully accused of a crime.
When a virus shuts everything down.
When the girl you love moves on.

Andre Jackson is determined to reclaim his identity. But returning from juvie doesn’t feel like coming home. His Portland, Oregon, neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying, and COVID-19 shuts down school before he can return. And Andre’s suspicions about his arrest for a crime he didn’t commit even taint his friendships. It’s as if his whole life has been erased.

The one thing Andre is counting on is his relationship with the Whitaker kids–especially his longtime crush, Sierra. But Sierra’s brother Eric is missing, and the facts don’t add up as their adoptive parents fight to keep up the act that their racially diverse family is picture-perfect. If Andre can find Eric, he just might uncover the truth about his own arrest. But in a world where power is held by a few and Andre is nearly invisible, searching for the truth is a dangerous game.

THREE starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): thriller, mystery
  • Setting: Portland, Oregon; February 2020
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: release from juvenile detention, false accusations, COVID-19, pandemics, gentrification, innocent, missing persons (friend’s brother), power, privilege, living with grandparents, systemic racism, environmental racism, racial bias in the justice system, social justice, erasure of Black history, #BlackLivesMatter
  • Protagonist description: male, age 17, African American, recently released from juvenile detention for a crime he did not commit

*Sing Me to Sleep by Gabi Burton

Debut author! Saoirse Sorkova survives on lies. As a soldier-in-training at the most prestigious barracks in the kingdom, she lies about being a siren to avoid execution. At night, working as an assassin for a dangerous group of mercenaries, Saoirse lies about her true identity. And to her family, Saoirse tells the biggest lie of all: that she can control her siren powers and doesn’t struggle constantly against an impulse to kill.

As the top trainee in her class, Saoirse would be headed for a bright future if it weren’t for the need to keep her secrets out of the spotlight. But when a mysterious blackmailer threatens her sister, Saoirse takes a dangerous job that will help her investigate: she becomes personal bodyguard to the crown prince.

Saoirse should hate Prince Hayes. After all, his father is the one who enforces the kingdom’s brutal creature segregation laws. But when Hayes turns out to be kind, thoughtful, and charming, Saoirse finds herself increasingly drawn to him–especially when they’re forced to work together to stop a deadly killer who’s plaguing the city. There’s only one problem: Saoirse is that deadly killer.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Setting: kingdom of Keirdre
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: sirens, lies, assassins, powers, military training, blackmail, bodyguards, princes, segregation, murder
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, brown skin, siren and assassin

*Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story by Sarah Myer

Sarah has always struggled to fit in. Born in South Korea and adopted at birth by a white couple, she grows up in a rural community with few Asian neighbors. People whisper in the supermarket. Classmates bully her. She has trouble containing her anger in these moments–but through it all, she has her art. She’s always been a compulsive drawer, and when she discovers anime, her hobby becomes an obsession.

Though drawing and cosplay offer her an escape, she still struggles to connect with others. And in high school, the bullies are louder and meaner. Sarah’s bubbling rage is threatening to burst.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic memoir
  • Setting: rural Baltimore County, Maryland
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: bullying, discrimination, prejudice, Asian hate, art as escape, anime, sexual identity, anger, not fitting in, adoption
  • Protagonist description: female, Korean American, born in South Korea but adopted by a white couple in the US

Where Echoes Die by Courtney Gould

Beck Birsching has been adrift since the death of her mother, a brilliant but troubled investigative reporter. She can’t stop herself from slipping into memories of happier days, longing for a time when things were more normal. So when a mysterious letter in her mother’s handwriting arrives in the mail that reads Come and find me, pointing to the small town at the center of her last investigation, Beck hopes that it may hold the answers.

But when Beck and her sister Riley arrive in Backravel, Arizona, it’s clear that something’s off. There are no cars, no cemeteries, no churches. The town is a mix of dilapidated military structures and new, shiny buildings, all overseen by a gleaming treatment center high on a plateau. No one seems to remember when they got there, and when Beck digs deeper into the town’s enigmatic leader and his daughter, Avery, she begins to suspect that they know more than they’re letting on.

As Beck and her sister search for answers about their mother, she and Avery are increasingly drawn together, and their unexpected connection brings up emotions Beck has fought to keep buried. Beck is desperate to hold onto the way things used to be, but when she starts losing herself in Backravel–and its connection to her mother–she risks losing her way back out.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery, supernatural
  • Setting: Backravel, Arizona
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: LGBT+, grief, death of a parent (mother), sisters, investigative journalism, journal entries
  • Protagonist description: female, age 17, white

The Shadow Sister by Lily Meade

Debut author! Sutton going missing is the worst thing to happen to Casey, to their family. She’s trying to help find her sister, but Casey is furious. She knows Sutton is manipulative, meanwhile everyone paints a picture of her perfection. People don’t look for missing Black girls–or half-Black girls–without believing there is an angel to be saved.

When Sutton reappears, Casey knows she should be relieved. Except Sutton isn’t the same. She remembers nothing about while she was gone―or anything from her old life, including how she made Casey miserable. There’s something unsettling about the way she wants to spend time with Casey and watch her goldfish swim for hours.

What happened to Sutton? The more Casey starts uncovering her sister’s secrets, the more questions she has. Did she really know her sister? Why is no one talking about the other girls who have gone missing in their area? And what will it take to uncover the truth?

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): thriller, horror, supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: missing persons, sisters, hoodoo, root magic, alternating perspectives, sibling rivalry, colorism
  • Protagonist description: alternates between two sisters; both are biracial (white and Black)

House Party (various authors)

The biggest event of the year is happening, and you’re invited! Join us for Florence Hills High School seniors’ last hurrah before graduation.

THE LOCATION: A megamansion in one of Chicago’s wealthiest suburban enclaves

THE HOST: DeAndre Dixon, aka FHHS’s golden boy

THE GUESTS: The populars, the jocks, the artists, and heck, even that one kid

THE HOPE: All the drama ensues. Kisses are swapped between old friends, new friends, and could’ve-sworn-they-were-enemies kind of friends. Relationships get tested. Animals roam free. Secrets are spilled. Add dope music that’s thumping, and there’s a good chance the whole neighborhood will be disrupted.

Featuring: Angeline Boulley • Jerry Craft • Natasha Díaz • Lamar Giles • Christina Hammonds Reed • Ryan La Sala • Yamile Saied Méndez • justin a. reynolds • Randy Ribay • Jasmine Warga

House Party offers a delightful snapshot of diverse classmates getting ready to say goodbye to high school and hello to life’s next chapter–but not before they make their final night together one they’ll never forget!

Booklist starred. Also includes social media posts, text messages, and black and white comics from Jerry Craft sprinkled throughout. For this reason, I would recommend this for reluctant readers.

  • Genre(s): short stories, story collection, realistic fiction
  • Setting: teen house party (huge house!)
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: coming of age, LGBT+, social groups, parties, community, empathy, reluctant readers, social media
  • Protagonist description: multiple diverse teen narrators

*How to Stay Invisible by Maggie C. Rudd

Twelve-year-old Raymond Hurley has never had a place to call home. His free-wheeling parents move their family from town to town, and he’s living in a trailer in a brand-new state when one day, they just up and abandon him. All alone with nothing but a duffle bag full of clothes and his reliable pup, Rosie, he is forced to live in the woods behind his middle school.

With a fishing pole in hand and survival guide checked out from the library, Raymond scrapes by and doesn’t tell anyone his secret. This isn’t the first time he’s had to rely on himself. However, when winter days get colder and finding food becomes nearly impossible, Raymond makes new friends, including a curious coyote, in unexpected places. Soon, he learns that his fate will depend not just on his wilderness skills, but on the people and animals he chooses to trust.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, survival
  • Setting: North Carolina, woods behind a middle school
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: homelessness, parental neglect, parental abandonment, friendship, dogs, wilderness survival, secrets, hunger, trusting others, courage, resilience
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, white, homeless

*The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett

Eleven-year-old Kemi Carter loves scientific facts, specifically probability. It’s how she understands the world and her place in it. Kemi knows her odds of being born were 1 in 5.5 trillion, and that the odds of her having the best family ever were even lower. Yet somehow, Debut author!

Kemi lucked out. But everything Kemi thought she knew changes when she sees an asteroid hover in the sky, casting a purple haze over her world. Amplus-68 has an 84.7% chance of colliding with earth in four days, and with that collision, Kemi’s life as she knows it will end.

But over the course of the four days, even facts don’t feel true to Kemi anymore. The new town she moved to that was supposed to be “better for her family” isn’t very welcoming. And Amplus-68 is taking over her life, but others are still going to school and eating at their favorite diner like nothing has changed. Is Kemi the only one who feels like the world is ending?

With the days numbered, Kemi decides to put together a time capsule that will capture her family’s truth: how creative her mother is, how inquisitive her little sister can be, and how much Kemi’s whole world revolves around her father. But no time capsule can change the truth behind all of it, that Kemi must face the most inevitable and hardest part of life: saying goodbye.

THREE starred reviews! The summary sounds really interesting, but this line from the Kirkus review is about all I need to read: “This realistically drawn, gut-wrenching novel will stick with readers long after they’ve finished reading.” I love books like that!

  • Genre(s): apocalypse, realistic fiction
  • Setting: predominantly white neighborhood on an Earth with numbered days due to an asteroid
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: asteroids, eminent destruction of Earth, new kid in town, end of the world, time capsules, saying goodbye, grief and loss, probability, statistics, pre-apocalypse, sisters
  • Protagonist description: female, age 11, Black, Nigerian American, 6th grader

*Wishing Season by Anica Mrose Rissi

Of course Anders wasn’t lonely in the afterlife. He still, like always, had Lily.

Lily doesn’t believe in making wishes. Not anymore. Not since Anders died.

Wishes can’t fix the terrible thing that happened. Wishing won’t change how it feels.

But Lily does believe in the impossible. She has a secret so extraordinary, so magical, no one would believe that it’s true.

No one except Anders, of course.

Nothing about this summer is turning out how Lily would have wished. But wishes, like seasons, can change.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, magical realism
  • Setting: Deer Isle, Maine, USA; summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: grief, death, wishes, afterlife, secrets, twins, death of sibling, illness, cancer, depressed parent (mother), healing
  • Protagonist description: twin brother and sister, both white; the boy died of cancer in 5th grade; girl is now age 11

Picture Day by Sarah Sax

Seventh-grader Viv never looks forward to picture day. It’s just another day where she wears a boring braid and no one notices her. (Her two best friends, Milo and Al, don’t count, of course.)

But enough is enough. This year, she’s taking matters into her own hands. Literally. Viv grabs a pair of scissors, her phone for live-streaming, and, well, bye-bye braid.

Suddenly Viv is an over-night influencer at Brinkley Middle School. Everyone wants her help planning their next big moment—from haircuts, to dance proposals, activist rallies and mathlete championships. She hardly even has time for her friends anymore. It’s exactly how she dreamed of reinventing herself…right?

Kirkus starred. I loved this book, especially the illustrations! Will post my review in the next few days!

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, realistic fiction
  • Setting: diverse middle school and home of a 7th grade girl and her mother
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: friendship, being oneself, exploring new identities, confidence, strong personalities in a friendship, arguing with friends, leaders, social media, standing out
  • Protagonist description: female, 7th grader, light brown skin with freckles and purple hair

Conjure Island by Eden Royce

If you ask Delphinia Baker, she’d tell you she has all the family she needs. Sure, her mom passed away when she was young, her dad is often away on deployment, but even though Del has never had anyone she can call her people, she has always had her grandmother–and that’s enough. Besides, having no roots just makes it that much easier when you have to move again.

All of that changes, though, when Gramma falls ill and Del is sent to stay with her great-grandmother. Del has never even heard of Nana Rose, and she has no interest in spending the summer on an unbearably hot island off the South Carolina coast. And when Nana Rose starts talking about the school she runs dedicated to their family’s traditions–something called “conjure magic”–Del knows she’s in for a weird, awkward summer.

That is, until the magic turns out to be real.

Soon, Del is surrounded by teachers who call themselves witches, kids with strange abilities, creatures and ghosts who can speak to her. She has a hundred questions, but one more than any other: Why didn’t Gramma ever tell her about her family, the island, this magic? As Del sets out to find her place in a world she never knew existed, she also discovers a shadowy presence on the island–and comes to believe that it all might be connected.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Setting: island off the coast of South Carolina, USA; summer
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: grandmothers, moving frequently, deployed parent, magic, witches, ghosts, southern US culture, community
  • Protagonist description: female, age 11, Black/li>

The Umbrella Maker’s Son by Katrina Leno

Oscar Buckle lives in a city where it’s always raining. And when it isn’t raining, it’s about to rain, so the townspeople have learned to embrace it. Oscar’s father is an umbrella maker–appropriate for a place where you can’t leave home without one!–but while Buckle Umbrellas are strong, reliable, and high quality, they’re expensive. Because of this, people are buying from the competitor instead, which is threatening Oscar’s family’s business.

To make ends meet, Oscar is forced to quit school and work in his father’s shop as an apprentice. But when extraordinary events start to occur in their rainy town, Oscar becomes suspicious of their competitor. Desperate to save his town, Oscar must enlist the help of his best friend, Saige, to discover if there’s more than nature involved in their city’s weather.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery, fantasy
  • Setting: planet Erde in the city of Roan, where it’s always raining or about to rain
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: rain, family businesses, competition, apprenticeships, teens with jobs, weather, friendship, family
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, white

Glitter Everywhere!: Where it Came From, Where It’s Found & Where It’s Going by Chris Barton (Author) and Chaaya Prabhat (Illustrator)

If you love glitter, this book is for you. If you hate glitter, this book is also for you.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about glitter. But how much do you know about the tiny, shiny confetti? What makes glitter glitter? Why does it stick to everything? Who invented it? How is it made? Is glitter bad for the environment?

Chris Barton’s informative wit and Chaaya Prabhat’s vibrant art make Glitter Everywhere sparkle as it covers the good, the bad, and shiny of all things glitter.

Booklist starred. OMG, how much do I want this book? I LOVE glitter!!! Great for art teachers, too. I think this could be a Sibert Medal contender for 2024!

  • Genre(s): informational picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-5
  • Themes: glitter, environment, pollution, art, iridescence, child labor, mica mines
  • Protagonist description: racially diverse cast, mostly children

Cake Vs. Pie by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (Author) and Stephani Stilwell (Illustrator)

Join Cake and Pie in this fun-loving, laugh-out-loud picture book about the ultimate friendship rivalry and overcoming jealousy to realize being together is the Sweetest Thing. There can only be one favorite dessert…

Will it be Cake, the friend who rises to every occasion?

Or will Pie’s surprisingly sweet center be the most irresistible?

There’s only one way to settle this battle, once and for all: FOOD FIGHT!

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, humor
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: friendship, food, dessert, pie, cake, rivalry, puns, wordplay, personification, conflict resolution
  • Protagonist description: anthropomorphized desserts

The Horseback Librarians by Jane Yolen (Author) and Alexandra Badiu (Illustrator)

There were no libraries in the backwoods of Kentucky in the 1930s. Librarians there and throughout the South delivered books to families by horseback and mule, sleeping outdoors or sheltering in barns when they could, going from farm to farm in remote areas.

In this story, a woman named Anna Mary stands in for all the real-life horseback librarians who helped keep the love of books alive in Appalachia during the Great Depression.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: rural Kentucky, 1930s, Great Depression
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: librarians, books, horses, horseback riding, farm life, Appalachia, Great Deperssion, classic children’s literature titles
  • Protagonist description: fictional female librarian, white

Luna Ranchera by Rodrigo Morlesin (Author), Mariana Ruiz Johnson (Illustrator), and Sara Lissa Paulson (Translator)

This spellbinding original story opens in a cantina crowded with desert animals, cowboys, and cowgirls all excited to see the glamorous Luna Ranchera mother-daughter singing duo. Long ago, Luna was down on her luck, starving and struggling to feed her pups, reduced to thieving from nearby ranchers.

One day, escaping another heist, Luna has to hide in the worst possible place: on top of a beehive! She howls in pain so loudly, it carries all across the desert. It turns out Luna’s musical wails are something special, captivating creatures far and wide.

Her most rebellious pup, Ranchera, joins her, and soon the two become the famous howling singing act with the flea-bitten souls, Luna Ranchera! Immersive and unforgettable, with knockout, whimsical art, the tale ends with the lyrics to Luna Ranchera’s most famous song.

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book, tall tale
  • Setting: “Nuevo Wild West” desert, crowded cantina
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: desert animals, mothers and daughters, singing, cowboys, dogs, anthropomorphic animals
  • Protagonist description: 2 anthropomorphic dogs, mother and daughter



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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