New Release Spotlight: July 18, 2023

A pretty decent Spotlight this week! All three categories (YA, MG, and PB) have a nice variety of genres and diverse characters.

Wondering what’s happened to the downloadable Google presentations? Don’t worry; they will be back soon! I will reinstate my downloadable Spotlight presentations with the August 1st Spotlight. I took a little break from it for the summer since most of us aren’t in school to show them!

This week’s top picks:

  • I Am Not Alone by Francisco X. Stork (YA)
  • Eerie Tales from the School of Screams by Graham Annable (MG)
  • What a Map Can Do by Gabrielle Balkan (PB)

This week’s Spotlight titles are #3423-#3439 on The Ginormous book list.

*I Am Not Alone by Francisco X. Stork

Alberto’s life isn’t easy: He’s an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who lives with his sister’s abusive boyfriend–but he’d always accepted his place in the world. Until he starts hearing the voice of a man called Captain America, a voice that wants him to achieve more, no matter the cost.

Grace has it all: She has a supportive boyfriend, she’s on track to be valedictorian, and she’s sure to go to the college of her dreams. Still, nothing feels right to her any more after the divorce of her parents, and feels she needs something more.

When Alberto and Grace meet, they have an immediate and electric connection. But when Alberto is present at the scene of a terrible crime, he becomes a suspect. And with his developing schizophrenia, he’s not even sure he believes in his own innocence.

Can Grace find a way to prove Alberto’s innocence to himself and the world?

Kirkus and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, thriller, suspense
  • Setting: New York City, New York, USA
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: undocummented immigrants, abuse, siblings, divorce, schizophrenia, guilt and innocence, false accusations, fleeing from police, racism, mental health, classism, hallucinations
  • Protagonist description: male, age 18, Mexican, undocumented immigrant

*The King Is Dead by Benjamin Dean

Heavy is the crown James has been born to wear, especially as the first Black heir to the British throne. But with his father’s recent passing, and with a new boyfriend to hide, James is woefully unprepared for the sudden shine of public scrutiny.

When his secrets come spilling forth across tabloid pages and the man he thought he loved has suddenly disappeared, James finds himself on the precipice of ruin. As every detail of his life becomes public knowledge, his sense of safety is shattered and the people he trusts the most become the likeliest suspects.

What dangers lurk behind the palace walls–and will the new king find out before it’s too late?

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): romance, thriller, mystery
  • Setting: UK
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: British monarchy, LGBT+, kings, racism, secrets, royalty, secret relationships
  • Protagonist description: male, age 17, UK’s first Black/biracial monarch, closeted gay

All That’s Left to Say by Emery Lord

On prom night, Hannah MacLaren sits in the headmaster’s office in her fanciest dress, soaked to the bone. She is in huge trouble after pulling the fire alarm right as the prom was about to be crowned. But Hannah had her reasons…

One year ago, her cousin Sophie, who was also her best friend and the person she loved most in the world, died of an overdose. Drowning in grief, Hannah became obsessed with one question: Who gave Sophie those pills? Who is refusing to give her family the closure they deserve?

Then she concocted a plan: enroll at her cousin’s fancy private school with a new look and a mouthful of lies, and finally uncover the truth.

But Hannah didn’t expect all the lines to blur. She didn’t expect Sophie’s friends to be so complicated. She didn’t expect to fall for her longtime enemy. Now, she must choose to either let herself really mourn Sophie and move on, or see her search through to its explosive end–even if it means destroying herself.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery, realistic fiction
  • Setting: Ingleside, Maryland
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: substance abuse, drugs, grief, death of best friend, overdose death, truth and lies, opioid overdose
  • Protagonist description: female, white, HS junior and senior year

Frontera by Julio Anta (Author) and Jacoby Salcedo (Illustrator)

As long as he remembers to stay smart and keep his eyes open, Mateo knows that he can survive the trek across the Sonoran Desert that will take him from Mexico to the United States. That is until he’s caught by the Border Patrol only moments after sneaking across the fence in the dead of night.

Escaping their clutches comes at a price and, lost in the desert without a guide or water, Mateo is ill-prepared for the unforgiving heat that is sure to arrive come sunrise. With the odds stacked against him, his one chance at survival may be putting his trust in something, or rather someone, that he isn’t even sure exists.

If you’d asked him if ghosts were real before he found himself face-to-face with one, Mateo wouldn’t have even considered it. But now, confronted with the nearly undeniable presence of Guillermo, he’s having second thoughts. Having spent his afterlife guiding migrants to safety, Guillermo knows things about the Sonoran Desert far beyond what could be explained by a mere hallucination. But even as Mateo forms an uneasy partnership with Guillermo, survival is still uncertain.

The Sonoran Desert, with its hostile temperatures and inhabitants, is teeming with danger as the Border Patrol and rogue militias prowl its deadly terrain. As his journey stretches on, Mateo will have to decide exactly what and who he’s willing to sacrifice to find home.

Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, magical realism, adventure
  • Setting: Sonoran Desert, Mexico
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: US-Mexico border crossing, escape, refugees, survival, ghosts, migrants, undocumented immigrants
  • Protagonist description: teen male, Mexican

Under This Forgetful Sky by Lauren Yero

Sixteen-year-old Rumi Sabzwari has spent his entire life behind the armored walls of St. Iago, which protect citizens of the Union of Upper Cities from the outside world’s environmental devastation. But when rebels infect his father with a fatal virus, Rumi escapes St. Iago, desperate to find a cure.

In the ruined city of Paraíso, Rumi meets fifteen-year-old Paz, who agrees to guide him on his journey. As they travel together, Rumi finds himself drawn to Paz–and behind her tough exterior, she begins to feel the same way. But Paz knows more about Rumi’s father’s illness than she’s saying and has her own agenda. With the powerful forces at play in their cities putting them at odds, can the two learn to trust in each other–enough to imagine a different world?

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): dystopia, science fiction
  • Setting: futuristic world that was once Chile
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: environmental disaster, walled cities, viruses, pandemics, rebellion, star-crossed lovers, poverty, political corruption
  • Protagonist description: male, age 16, Latino

*The International House of Dereliction by Jacqueline Davies

Ten-year-old Alice is moving for the eleventh time.

She’s lived in so many houses, each more broken than the last, that home to Alice is nothing more than a place you fix and then a place you leave. After all, who needs a permanent home when you’re a whiz at fixing things?

But when Alice arrives at her new home, she can’t take her eyes off the house next door, the stately dark house that hulked in the dimming light. The once-grand mansion, now dilapidated and condemned, beckons Alice; it’s the perfect new repair job!

As Alice begins to restore the House to its former splendor, she senses strange presences. Is there a heartbeat coming from the House’s walls? Is someone looking at her? Soon she realizes she’s not alone. Three ghosts have been watching, and they need Alice’s help to solve their unfinished business.

Will Alice be able to unravel the mysteries of the House and find her forever home….before it’s too late?

Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): supernatural
  • Setting: dilapidated and haunted old mansion
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: old buildings, renovations, ghosts, the afterlife
  • Protagonist description: female, age 10, white

Eerie Tales from the School of Screams by Graham Annable

School is tough.
School is scary.
School is EERIE.

No one knows this better than Davis and Emily. But they’re not scared of school because of tough tests or merciless vice-principals. No, they’re scared because their teacher wants her students to present the class with the spookiest, most chilling stories they can think of.

From the twisted mind of Graham Annable comes five horrifying stories that will scare your skeleton right out of your skin. Are you ready to stare down “The Face in the Forest”? Do you think you can handle the truth behind “The Village that Vanished?”

Lock the doors, turn on all the lights, and arm yourself with candy–you’ll need all the help you can get to face these nightmares.

Publishers Weekly starred. This looks deliciously-creepy and perfect for all those scary story requests around Halloween!

  • Genre(s): scary stories, graphic novel
  • Setting: school classroom
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: storytelling, ghosts, aliens, school stories, interconnected stories, teachers, monsters, Halloween reads
  • Protagonist description: teacher is white (but really a monster); students have diverse skin tones

Flora la Fresca & the Art of Friendship by Veronica Chambers (Author) and Sujean Rim (Illustrator)

Flora Violeta LeFevre, aka Flora “la Fresca” (so called because she tells it like it is, occasionally to her parents’ chagrin) can always count on her best friend Clara Ocampo Londra to turn anything-from a day at the skate park to dreaded Saturday Spanish school ­into an exciting adventure.

But amidst Flora’s personal nightmare that is her sister Maylin’s never-ending dress try-ons and dance practices for her upcoming quinceañera, news breaks that Clara’s moving, and Flora doesn’t know how she’ll survive without her.

The girls quickly roll up their sleeves and use their larger-than-life imaginations to make the most of each passing day together. But things get complicated when Clara moves and starts making new friends, an unlikely alliance blossoms between Flora and a new student, and preparations for Maylin’s quince take a disastrous (but hilarious) turn.
Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Setting: Rhode Island
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: quinceañera, sisters, best friend moving away, making new friends, Spanish language
  • Protagonist description: female, age 10, Afro-Panamanian

The Very Unfortunate Wish of Melony Yoshimura by Waka T. Brown

Melony Yoshimura’s parents have always been overprotective. They say it’s because a demonic spirit called the Amanjaku once preyed upon kids back in Japan, but Melony suspects it’s just a cautionary tale to keep her in line. So on her twelfth birthday, Melony takes a chance and wishes for the freedom and adventure her parents seem determined to keep her from.

As if conjured by her wish, the Amanjaku appears. At first, Melony is wary. If this creature is real, are the stories about its destructive ways also real? In no time, however, the Amanjaku woos Melony with its ability to shape-shift, grant wishes, and understand her desire for independence. But what Melony doesn’t realize is that the Amanjaku’s friendship has sinister consequences, and she quickly finds every aspect of her life controlled by the demon’s trickery–including herself.

Melony is determined to set things right, but will she be able to before the Amanjaku turns her life, her family, and her community upside down?

  • Genre(s): supernatural, folktale
  • Setting: Oregon, USA
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: wishes, independence, demons, trickery, cautionary tales, shape-shifters, intergenerational trauma, Japanese folktale, overprotective parents, immigrants
  • Protagonist description: female, age 12, Japanese American

Mixed Up by Gordon Korman

Reef and Theo don’t know what’s happening to them. They’ll be going about their days and then suddenly they’ll have these strange flashes of memory–but the memories don’t belong to them. And at the same time, their own memories are starting to…vanish.

For Reef, this is a big problem, because memories are all he has left of his mom.

For Theo, it’s strange because the new memories give him a freedom he doesn’t have with his domineering dad.

  • Genre(s): magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: memories, grief, death of a parent (mother), domineering father, fathers and sons, COVID-19, phenomenons, alternating viewpoints
  • Protagonist description: two males, both age 12, cue white

Buzzing by Samuel Sattin and Rye Hickman

Isaac Itkin can’t get away from his thoughts.

As a lonely twelve-year-old kid with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), everything from studying to looking in the mirror becomes a battle between him and a swarm of unhelpful thoughts.

The strict therapy his mother insists on doesn’t seem to be working, but when a group of friends invites him to join their after-school role-playing game, the thoughts feel a little less loud, and the world feels a little brighter.

But Isaac’s therapist says that exposure to games can have negative effects on kids with OCD, and when his grades slip, his helicopter mother won’t let him play anymore. Now Isaac needs to find a way to prove to himself, to his mother, and to the world that the way to quiet the noise in his head may have been inside him all along.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), mental health, anxiety, therapy, role-playing games, middle school
  • Protagonist description: male, age 12, brown skin

*My Head Has a Bellyache: And More Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris (Author) and Andrea Tsurumi (Illustrator)

There’s a whole new cast of characters to meet in this follow-up to I’m Just No Good at Rhyming. There’s a Nail-Clipping Fairy (who delivers teeth at night), Orloc the Destroyer (who can be defeated only by his mommy), andthe Elderly Caveman (who complains about the younger generation obsessed with playing with fire).

There are more verbal and visual riddles, plus there’s plenty of hijinks hiding around every corner, whether it’s a buffalo that escapes one poem and roams through others or a meteor threatening to land on the book and obliterate everything. There’s even a mini book-within-a-book! In between it all, cartoonist Andrea Tsurumi’s diverse range of exuberant people, creatures, and anthropomorphic objects ripple through the pages with playful energy.

Kirkus and Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): poetry, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-5

*Greenlight: A Children’s Picture Book About an Essential Neighborhood Traffic Light by Breanna Carzoo

The cars stop for Redlight and slow for Yellowlight, so why do they leave Greenlight all alone?

When Greenlight decides to stop shining altogether, will she be able to find the power and connection of her own light?

From Breanna Carzoo, creator of Lou, comes a sweet and poignant story that reminds us all that the world is waiting for us to shine, so when you’re ready…



Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Setting: traffic intersection
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: traffic, loneliness, self-acceptance, feeling unappreciated
  • Protagonist description: anthropomorphic traffic light

*Bunny & Tree by Balint Zsako

Bunny and Tree first meet when the tree observes a ferocious wolf threatening the bunny and comes to its protection.

From that moment on, there is a bond of trust between the two, which flowers not only into friendship, but amazingly, into a road trip adventure, when Bunny, who’s looking for his rabbit friends, convinces Tree that it’s time to uproot and see the world.

Compelled by sympathy and a shared purpose, Bunny and Tree hit the road, becoming another tremendous and memorable picture book odd couple.

Depicted in bright colors in a world of lavish skies and so much to see, Bunny and Tree share in wonder, adventure, misadventure, solidarity, and a sense of homecoming.

Booklist and Publishers Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): wordless picture book, adventure
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Themes: friendship, seeing the world, road trips, adventures, making new friends, cooperation
  • Protagonist description: a small white rabbit and a tree

Invisible Things by Andy J. Pizza (Author) and Sophie Miller (Author)

If we could put on a pair of magical invisible glasses and see all the feelings, ideas, and other invisible things that populate our world, what would they look like? Could you see an itch? Could you describe hope? From the sound of a dog barking to the rainbow-MAGIC taste of a lollipop, from gratitude to grit, this book will help you meet the many interesting sensations that follow you every day, even if you can’t see them.

Explore the way a sad song can sometimes make you happy and discover that laughs–even fake ones–can multiply faster than you’d imagine. As readers give these unknown forces a name, they’ll also find a gentle invitation to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on the invisible things at work in their own lives.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: emotions, feelings, social-emotional learning, self-awareness, senses, abstract nouns
  • Protagonist description: human characters are diverse

What a Map Can Do by Gabrielle Balkan (Author) and Alberto Lot (Illustrator)

A raccoon narrator embarks on a big adventure in this exciting exploration of maps for the youngest readers.

Traditional maps of cities, roads, and parks are joined by some less conventional ones such as inside the body, each one methodically introduced with humor and clear explanation. A clever, colorful, and engaging first look at constructing and decoding maps.

Kirkus starred. This is a must for elementary social studies classrooms!

  • Genre(s): informational picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: maps, geography, map skills, human body, city maps, bird’s-eye view, counting, color recognition, symbols, compass rose
  • Protagonist description: cartoon raccoon





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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