New Release Spotlight – Middle Grade Books – Week of February 13, 2024

Welcome to the Middle Grade Spotlight for the week of February 13! Remember that for the purposes of this list, I consider middle grades as Grades 3-8.

My top pick this week is Viewfinder by Christine D. U. Chung and Salwa Majoka. This is a post-apocalyptic graphic novel, but it’s wordless! I love wordless books for their wide range and ability to tell a story only through pictures. 

Viewfinder is the story of a young astronaut exploring abandoned earth. This is great for inferencing activities because along the way, we see visual clues as to why earth was abandoned. Very nice!

Links to the Google Slides presentation, printable list, the Ginormous Book List, and the YA and picture book Spotlights for this week are at the bottom of this post.


The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Author: Elizabeth Kolbert

Publication date: February 13, 2024

Genre: nonfiction 

Recommended for: Grades 3-8

Themes: human impact on the environment, extinction, animals, climate change, pollution, Earth Day

Starred reviews: Booklist and SLJ

Pages: 224

See it on Amazon


Over the last half-billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted.

Scientists around the world are monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Adapting from her New York Times-bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning adult nonfiction, Elizabeth Kolbert explores how humans are altering life on Earth.

Wordless Graphic Fiction

Authors and Illustrators: Christine D. U. Chung and Salwa Majoka

Publication date: February 13, 2024

Genre: science fiction, mystery, wordless book, graphic fiction

Setting: post-apocalyptic, abandoned Earth

Recommended for: Grades K-7

Themes: abandoned earth, life on earth, post-apocalypse 

Protagonist: young astronaut with pale skin and red hair

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 144

See it on Amazon


A young space traveler visits Earth on a whim and finds a planet empty of people. She happens upon a strange contraption that contains images of what the planet used to be like, and using this viewfinder, she sees Earth as it was, juxtaposed against Earth as it is: abandoned, but still full of amazing things.

Her adventure takes her to a museum full of hints about the planet’s past and the strange glowing mushrooms that grow everywhere, a library that has become home to a variety of zoo animals, and a beautiful but crumbling space station from which she makes a daring escape. As she wanders, though, she sees signs that perhaps there is still someone here. A time capsule, a friendly cat and a makeshift railcar all add to the mystery . . . is she really alone?

The lush and captivating art and subtle nod to stewardship in this wordless graphic novel will draw readers in and leave them with a renewed sense of wonder for the resilient and extraordinary place we call home.

Novel in Verse
Hummingbird Season

Author: Stephanie V. W. Lucianvoic

Publication date: February 13, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction, novel in verse

Setting: California, during Covid-19 shutdowns, 2020

Recommended for: Grades 2-7

Themes: Covid-19, pandemics, lockdowns, birds, hummingbirds, distance learning, loneliness, wildfires

Protagonist: male, age 9, white, asthmatic

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 272

See it on Amazon


Archie’s life–and the whole world–is turned upside down by Covid-19. Suddenly there are no more Friday night dinners out, no more going to school, no more hanging out with friends…no leaving the house at all.

Even though he’s inside with his family all day every day, Archie can’t help but feel more alone than ever before. While everyone else seems to be adapting to their new normal just fine, it’s like Archie is permanently on mute, unable to find the words to describe how he feels–and sometimes, unable to find someone who will listen. 

The bright spot of Archie’s days at home is watching and learning about the hummingbirds that feed outside his windows. 

But just when it seems like this could be what brings his family together again, California experiences its worst wildfire in history, and Archie’s favorite hummingbird disappears.

 In a time when hope is hard to hold on to, Archie must find his voice and find hope once again.

Hummingbird Season is an honest and healing novel in verse documenting the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic and the things that bring us together when circumstances keep us apart.

Eowulf: Of Monsters & Middle School

Author: Mike Cavallaro

Illustrator: Mike Cavallaro

Publication date: February 13, 2024

Genre: graphic fiction, fantasy, classic retelling

Setting: suburban New Jersey, USA

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: monsters, friendship, Beowulf, battles, making new friends

Protagonist: female tween, white, red hair, descendant of Beowulf

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 224

Notes: planned trilogy, has a cliffhanger ending; only one review at the moment, but I included it because I think this will be popular

See it on Amazon


Eowulf Wegmund just had the most amazing summer ever! 

She traveled to a magical supply shop at the crossroads of all realities, rescued unicorn soldiers from a pocket dimension, and fought an evil god with the help of her new friend Nico Bravo. 

Pretty rad stuff, even if you are descended from the legendary monster hunter Beowulf!

Now Eowulf finds herself back home in her boring New Jersey suburb, where the only monsters are the ones in her D&D game and the weirdest creature around is her middle school classmate Amadeus Hornburg―and he’s just an angry little jerk that nobody likes. 

But when a mysterious supervillain returns to wreak havoc on their quiet town, Eowulf and Amadeus must join forces to unearth a dark past that wants to stay buried.

Sports Fiction
Swimming into Trouble

Author: Angela Ahn

Illustrator: Julie Kim

Publication date: February 13, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction, sports fiction, chapter book

Recommended for: Grades 2-5

Themes: swimming, swim team, ear problems, ear infections, keeping secrets from parents, community, family businesses, slice of life, the need for medical care when sick, determination, SEL, making good decisions, responsibility, girls in sports

Protagonist: female, age 9, Korean American

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 224

Notes: first book in a new chapter book series

See it on Amazon


As a member of the Vipers Swim Team, Julia Nam’s always in the pool. Mountainview Community Center is like her second home, not only because swimming at the aquatic center is her favorite thing in the world, but also because her parents run the center’s sushi café. Julia would much rather be in the pool than sitting behind the counter of Sushi on the Go! watching other people swim. 

She’s the youngest swimmer on the team, but definitely not the slowest. Julia can’t wait for Personal Best Day — the most important day for all of the swimmers. If their times are good enough, they can enter a big regional swim meet.

But then the worst thing happens. A sharp pain in Julia’s ear reveals an infection and she’s forbidden to swim for ten days. How can she get timed during Personal Best Day when she’s not allowed in the water?    

Julia is desperate to get back in the pool, even if it means having to go behind her parents’ backs in order to do so. But Julia’s solution lands her in a sticky situation, and it’s going to require the entire community center to come together to help her out of it!

Dread Detention

Author: Jennifer Killick

Publication date: February 13, 2024

Genre: horror, scary stories, thriller, humor

Setting: Dread Wood Academy, a private school surrounded by forest of monsters

Recommended for: Grades 3-8

Themes: detention, trouble at school, secrets, school stories, monsters, spiders, arachnophobia, friendship, family problems, gallows humor

Protagonist: male, defaults to white

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 224

See it on Amazon


When classmates Hallie, Angelo, Gustav and Naira are forced to come to school on a Saturday, they think things can’t get much worse. But they’re wrong. Things are about to get seriously scary.

What has dragged their teacher underground? Why do the creepy caretakers keep humming the tune to Itsy Bitsy Spider? 

And what horrors lurk in the shadows, getting stronger and meaner every minute…? 

Cut off from help and in danger each time they touch the ground, the gang’s only hope is to work together. But it’s no coincidence that they’re all there on detention. Someone has been watching and plotting and is out for revenge…






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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