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New Release Spotlight – Picture Books – January 2, 2024

Welcome to the January 2024 picture books Spotlight! The blog has a brand-new look for the new year, plus I’ve got another surprise…

I’m going back to weekly Spotlights!

As I mentioned in the YA and Middle Grade Spotlights for January 2, I am going back to a weekly Spotlight format in the new year. I got several requests for this, so I’m going to honor those requests. Also by request, I’ve added the setting, protagonist description, themes, grade levels, etc. back to the main blog post for the Spotlight. This information is still in the Google Slides presentation, too.

I am keeping the Google Slides presentation and the printable Google Slides list in the monthly format by grade level group (YA, Middle Grades, and Picture Books).

I still prefer to keep the books for the entire month together, and I like separating the slideshows by grade level. This also helps new titles “get seen” in case I miss them in the week of release. Often, a title will meet my minimum number of professional reviews in Titlewave AFTER I’ve posted the Spotlight for that week. Because they didn’t meet my review criteria in the week before release (when I write the Spotlight), many great titles that would have made the Spotlight get missed.

Picture Book
My Block Looks Like

Author: Janelle Harper

Illustrator: Frank Morrison

Copyright: 2024

Genre: picture book

Setting: Bronx, New York City, New York, USA

Recommended for: PreK - Grade 3

Themes: city life, rhythm

Protagonist: young child with dark brown skin and an Afro

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Publishers Weekly

Pages: 40


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

My block looks like
a collision of cultures
a melting pot of cool
a burst of life
my favorite groove

…No matter what happens
I’ve seen it for myself
my block looks like
the coolest place
I’ve ever been.

A lyrical and proud picture book that recognizes the beauty of the bodegas, subways, and playgrounds that characterize everyday life in the Bronx and pays homage to the ways that its residents have shaped pop culture through music, visual art, and dance.

Picture Book
Angela's Glacier

Author: Jordan Scott

Illustrator: Diana Sudyka

Copyright: 2024

Genre: picture book

Setting: Snæfellsjökull, a glacier in Reykjavik, Iceland

Recommended for: PreS - Grade 4

Themes: glaciers, growing up, passage of time, getting back to nature, climate change, fathers and daughters, inner peace

Protagonist: female, from baby to teen years, light-skinned

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly

Pages32


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

As soon as she’s born, Angela’s father introduces her to her glacier. He carries her on his back up the icy expanse as the wind makes music of the snow and the water underneath. Over time, Angela gets big enough to walk beside him, and then, to go alone. She tells her glacier everything, and it answers.

But then, life gets busy. Angela’s days fill up with school, homework, violin and soccer and friends. Until one day, Angela’s heart doesn’t sound right anymore. Luckily, Angela’s dad is there to remind her what she needs: a visit to her ancient icy friend.

My note: A great wintertime read, especially if you are looking for international picture books or stories that tie-in with lessons on climate change.

Picture Book
When I Wrap My Hair

Author: Shauntay Grant

Illustrator: Jenin Mohammed

Copyright: 2024

Genre: picture book

Setting: inside a store filled with brightly-colored fabrics

Recommended for: PreS - Grade 4

Themes: hair wrapping, African diaspora, hair, hairstyles, simile and metaphor, connecting to one's culture and history

Protagonist: young Black child

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Publishers Weekly

Pages32


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

When I wrap,

my roots run deep.

As deep as an African marketplace

or a city sidewalk

or the stories between them.

With lyrical text by acclaimed author Shauntay Grant and vibrant illustrations by Jenin Mohammed, When I Wrap My Hair is both an act of joyful recognition and a demonstration of how knowledge is passed through generations.

My note: Look at those beautiful illustrations! Rich colors and lots of interesting details. This will be the first book on my possible Caldecott 2025 contender list! It’s over a year away, but my top pick for 2024, An American Story by Kwame Alexander, was also an early-January release.

Picture Book
Coretta: The Autobiography of Mrs. Coretta Scott King

Author: Coretta Scott King

Illustrator: Ekua Holmes

Copyright: 2024

Genre: picture book biography, autobiography, picture book for older readers

Setting: Alabama and other southern US states, mid-20th Century

Recommended for: Grades 3-5

Themes: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Black history, US history, civil rights, racism, violence

Protagonist: Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Starred reviews: Kirkus and SLJ

Pages40

Notes: Adapted from Coretta: My Life, My Love, My Legacy (2017, adult memoir)


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Adapted from her adult memoir, this is the autobiography of Coretta Scott King––wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., founder of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (the King Center), and twentieth-century American civil and human rights activist.

My note: I included this book on the Spotlight because it received two starred reviews, plus January book award season is a great time to introduce Coretta Scott King and her namesake book awards.

The illustrations are GORGEOUS. I plan to review this book soon as a possible early Caldecott or Coretta Scott King Award-Artist contender for 2025.

HOWEVER…

Before you purchase this title, I recommend taking a quick look at the free sample on Amazon. The text on each page is lengthy, which does not tend to do well with my students. There are oddly-placed brackets around parts of the text, as well as wordy text with too many commas added.

Two examples of this, from just the first three pages:

From page 1: “Who could have dreamed that a little girl [who at age 10 hired herself out with her sister to pick] cotton for two dollars a week in the piercing hot sun would rise to a position that allowed her to help pick U.S. mayors, Congresspersons, and even presidents?” — This is a very long sentence for elementary students. It could be broken into three separate sentences and lose the brackets altogether.

From pages 4-5: “In the summer of 1943, [my older sister] Edythe became, for a time, the only Black student at Antioch College. I, too, applied, and was accepted in 1945.” Again, we have unnecessary brackets, and it’s far too wordy for an elementary picture book.

Between Amazon and the MacMillan Publishers website (the print version was not available on NetGalley), I reviewed about eight pages total. I do plan to review the entire book soon as I believe it could be a 2025 Caldecott or CSK winner for illustrations. When I do that, I will link the review with the book cover image above.

Fractured Fairytale
Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu

Author: Ying Chang Compestine

Illustrator: Crystal Kung

Copyright: 2024

Genre: picture book, fractured fairytale

Setting: long ago in China

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3

Themes: Rapunzel retelling, Chinese food, cooking, princes

Protagonist: female, Chinese, loves to cook

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages40


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

The story of Rapunzel where she’s being locked in a tower by a witch is a good one—but it’s not totally the truth.

The real story is about a young princess in China named Ra Pu Zel who doesn’t want to talk to princes or look proper.

What Pu Zel wants is to cook and eat in peace, her long hair neatly braided to keep it out of her food.

And when she gets tired of everyone telling her what to do, she locks herself in a tower with her dog Bao. Although princes from everywhere try to convince her to come down, it’s not until a young chef arrives with an intriguing food to share that Ra Pu Zel finally has a reason.

Informational Picture Book
Everybody's Book

Author: Linda Leopold Strauss

Illustrator: Tim Smart

Copyright: 2024

Genre: informational picture book; picture book for older readers

Setting: worldwide, across history from 14th Century to present

Recommended for: Grades 1-5

Themes: religious texts, Jewish literature, Sarajevo Haggadah, world history, Passover, Jewish traditions, war, book banning, survival of books over time, Spanish Inquisition

Protagonist:  people of diverse faiths and cultural backgrounds

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages40


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

This true story begins long ago in Spain, where a bride and groom are gifted a hand-painted haggadah.

It is used at many Passover seders until the Spanish Inquisition when the family escapes.

The haggadah survived for centuries in different countries. Scholars declared it a treasure. To protect it from the Nazis, a curator smuggled it out of a Sarajevo museum and hid it in a village mosque.

On Passover of 1995, with bombs exploding overhead, the Bosnian president brought out the book from an underground vault to show the world that it was safe. The Sarajevo Haggadah has become a symbol of people of many faiths and cultures working together.

Holiday Picture Book
A Ramadan to Remember

Author: Marzieh A. Ali

Illustrator: Najwa Awatiff

Copyright: 2024

Genre: informational picture book; holidays and celebrations

Setting: neighborhood

Recommended for: PreS - Grade 4

Themes: Islam holidays, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Muslims, family, neighbors, making new friends, holiday traditions, feeling alienated

Protagonist: young boy, Muslim

Starred reviews: SLJ

Pages32


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Ramadan is almost here! It’s Zain’s favorite time of the year.

Well, it usually is. After a recent move and with no mosque or Islamic school in his new neighborhood, will Zain find a new Muslim friend to celebrate with him?

Children will learn what makes the ninth Islamic month special from pre-Ramadan decorating, the importance of fasting and volunteering in the community, and the festivities and prayers that continue through the month, ending with Eid al-Fitr.

 

THE LINKS YOU’LL NEED FOR JANUARY

MORE JANUARY 2024 NEW RELEASE SPOTLIGHTS

This is the New Release Spotlight for the week of January 2, 2024. These are the picture books and chapter books.   This is the New Release Spotlight for the week of January 2, 2024. These are the middle grade books, for Grades 3-8.   This is the New Release Spotlight for the week of January 2, 2024. These are the YA books, for Grades 7-12.

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.

Each week, school librarian Leigh Collazo compiles the New Release Spotlight using a combination of Follett’s Titlewave, Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. Recommended grade levels represent the range of grade levels recommended by professional book reviewers. See the full selection criteria here.

Inevitably, there are far more books that meet my criteria than can make it on the Spotlight. When I have to make the tough decisions on what to include, I just use my “librarian judgment.” Would I buy this book for my own library? Would my students want to read this book? Is the cover appealing? Does it fill a need?

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