New Release Spotlight – Week of March 5, 2024

We’ve got a great Spotlight this week! Middle grades look especially strong. They look so great, in fact, that I am still finding new ones after this post went live. I will include those on next week’s list, which is also going to be a great one for middle grades!

A reminder that there is no Google Slides presentation or printable list of the new titles this month. I am taking a much-needed break!

This week’s top picks:

  • The Enigma Girls by Candace Fleming (YA)
  • One Big Open Sky by Lesa Cline-Ransome (MG) – I think this one will be HUGE!
  • Partly Cloudy by Deborah Freedman (picture book) – Great for weather and water cycle units.

This week’s Spotlight titles are #3893 – #3907 on The Ginormous Booklist.


Narrative Nonfiction
The Enigma Girls

Author: Candace Fleming

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: narrative nonfiction

Setting: WWII; 1940s; Bletchley Park, England

Recommended for: Grades 4-11

Themes: codes, cyphers, Nazis, D-Day, code-cracking, encryption, war, WWII, British Royal Navy, London Blitz, Pearl Harbor, cryptography, Women's History Month, world history

Protagonist: 10 British females, most age 18

Starred reviews: Kirkus, SLJ, and Booklist

Pages: 384

Notes: Audience grade levels are all over the place in professional reviews. I've given the range here.

See it on Amazon


“You are to report to Station X at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, in four days time….That is all you need to know.”

This was the terse telegram hundreds of young women throughout the British Isles received in the spring of 1941, as World War II raged.

As they arrived at Station X, a sprawling mansion in a state of disrepair surrounded by Spartan-looking huts with little chimneys coughing out thick smoke―these young people had no idea what kind of work they were stepping into. Who had recommended them? Why had they been chosen? Most would never learn all the answers to these questions.

Bletchley Park was a well-kept secret during World War II, operating under the code name Station X. The critical work of code-cracking Nazi missives that went on behind its closed doors could determine a victory or loss against Hitler’s army.

Amidst the brilliant cryptographers, flamboyant debutantes, and absent-minded professors working there, it was teenaged girls who kept Station X running. Some could do advanced math, while others spoke a second language. They ran the unwieldy bombe machines, made sense of wireless sound waves, and sorted the decoded messages. They were expected to excel in their fields and most importantly: know how to keep a secret.

Candace Fleming is the award-winning and highly acclaimed author of Crash from Outer SpaceThe Curse of the Mummy, and many other nonfiction books for young readers. With her canny and compelling narrative voice she makes history come alive. Thick with tension and suspense, this is an extraordinary and relatively unknown story of World War II that will fascinate readers who will be thrilled to see young people playing such an important role in the wartime effort.

The No-Girlfriend Rule

Author: Christen Randall

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: romance

Setting: Covington, Kentucky, USA

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Themes: LGBT+, role-playing games, sexism, fatphobia, girl power, strong female friendships, anxiety, neurodivergence, nerd culture, body positivity, transgender, toxic masculinity

Protagonist: female, HS senior, white, overweight

Starred reviews: Booklist and Publishers Weekly

Pages: 336

See it on Amazon


Hollis Beckwith isn’t trying to get a girl—she’s just trying to get by. For a fat, broke girl with anxiety, the start of senior year brings enough to worry about.

And besides, she already has a boyfriend: Chris. Their relationship isn’t particularly exciting, but it’s comfortable and familiar, and Hollis wants it to survive beyond senior year.

To prove she’s a girlfriend worth keeping, Hollis decides to learn Chris’s favorite tabletop roleplaying game, Secrets & Sorcery—but his unfortunate “No Girlfriends at the Table” rule means she’ll need to find her own group if she wants in.

Enter: Gloria Castañeda and her all-girls game of S&S! Crowded at the table in Gloria’s cozy Ohio apartment, the six girls battle twisted magic in-game and become fast friends outside it. With her character as armor, Hollis starts to believe that maybe she can be more than just fat, anxious, and a little lost.

But then an in-game crush develops between Hollis’s character and the bard played by charismatic Aini Amin-Shaw, whose wide, cocky grin makes Hollis’s stomach flutter. As their gentle flirting sparks into something deeper, Hollis is no longer sure what she wants…or if she’s content to just play pretend.

Graphic Fiction
The Gulf

Author: Adam de Souza

Illustrator: Adam de Souza

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: graphic fiction, realistic fiction, adventure

Setting: islands off the coast of British Columbia, Canada

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Themes: coming of age, road trips, escaping life, summer after high school graduation, uncertainty about the future, friendship, expectations vs. reality

Protagonist: female and three male friends, all recent high school graduates, all are racially ambiguous

Starred reviews: Booklist

Pages: 240

See it on Amazon


Staring down the final days of high school, a group of friends run away from home in order to join a commune in this YA graphic novel for ages 14 and up. Stand by Me meets Catcher in the Rye by way of Skim.

Ever since Oli found a pamphlet for a remote island commune as a kid, it’s all she can think about. Now that she’s nearing the end of high school, feeling frustrated with the mounting pressure to choose a career and follow a path she has no interest in, the desire to escape it all has been steadily increasing.

Everything comes to a head when Oli’s relationship with her best friend goes south and she claps back at a school bully with more than just words. Oli flees to find the commune on a Gulf Island off the coast of Vancouver, taking with her Milo, who can’t help but hide his feelings behind the safety of a video camera, and Alvin, a shy teen who sees more than he lets on.

Behind them trails Liam, Oli’s ex-best-friend and sometimes love interest, who wants to apologize for the way things went down. All four are grappling with a world that cannot be changed . . . and simply trying to find their place in it.

This YA anti-coming-of-age road trip adventure, by talented up-and-coming comic artist Adam de Souza, captures at once the angst and humor of being a teen during a time of great transition.

Dark Fantasy
What Monstrous Gods

Author: Rosamund Hodge

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: dark fantasy, fairy tale retelling, romance

Setting: kingdom of Runakhia

Recommended for: Grades 8+

Themes: Sleeping Beauty, powers, enchanted sleep, mythology, plagues, gods and goddesses, ghosts, royalty, destiny, be careful what you wish for

Protagonist: female, age 17, white, orphan

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly

Pages: 368

See it on Amazon


Centuries ago, the heretic sorcerer Ruven raised a deadly briar around Runakhia’s palace, casting the royal family into an enchanted sleep—and silencing the kingdom’s gods.

Born with a miraculous gift, Lia’s destiny is to kill Ruven and wake the royals. But when she succeeds, she finds her duty is not yet complete, for now she must marry into the royal family and forge a pact with a god—or die.

To make matters even worse, Ruven’s spirit is haunting her.

As discord grows between the old and new guards, the queen sends Lia and Prince Araunn, her betrothed, on a pilgrimage to awaken the gods. But the old gods are more dangerous than Lia ever knew—and Ruven may offer her only hope of survival.

As the two work together, Lia learns that they’re more alike than she expected. And with tensions rising, Lia must choose between what she was raised to believe and what she knows is right—and between the prince she is bound to by duty…and the boy she killed.

Graphic Fiction
Table Titans Club

Author: Scott Kurtz

Illustrator: Scott Kurtz

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: graphic fiction, realistic fiction

Setting: middle school

Recommended for: Grades 3-8

Themes: school clubs, new kid at school, starting a new school, role-playing games, Dungeons and Dragons, web comics, nerd culture, imagination vs. reality, friendship, being one's authentic self, quests, school stories

Protagonist: female, white, middle schooler

Starred reviews: Booklist

Pages: 224

See it on Amazon


Valeria Winters has an easier time finding trouble than making friends. A fantasy-obsessed nerd with the legendary confidence—and temper—of a Valkyrie, Val promises her mom that things will be different at her new school. “No more fighting!”

As if by fate, she meets the Table Titans right away—Alan, Andrew, and Darius, who run the school’s tabletop gaming club. Finally, Val has found her own adventuring party! And even better . . . a place where she belongs.

So when the future of the club is threatened, Val makes it her personal quest to save the Table Titans. She’ll have to face the fire-breathing wrestling coach and popular girl Kate, who seems out for revenge. Revenge for what? Val has no clue.

As the quest grows more and more complicated, Val wishes she was like her peaceful druid Lulani from the Table Titans’ campaign, whose calm voice always prevails. If she loses her cool in real life, Val might lose more than the Table Titans club. She’ll have to roll a natural 20 in charisma to keep her new friends together.

Historical Fiction
Warrior on the Mound

Author: Sandra W. Headen

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: historical fiction, sports fiction

Setting: Poplar Springs, North Carolina, USA; 1939

Recommended for: Grades 3-8

Themes: segregation in sports, baseball, mysterious death of a parent (father), racism, racial violence, prejudice, Jim Crow laws, racial inequality, US history, civil rights, Negro American League (baseball), all-Black baseball team, Satchel Paige

Protagonist: male, age 12, African American

Starred reviews: Kirkus and SLJ

Pages: 272

See it on Amazon


1935. Twelve-year-old Cato wants nothing more than to play baseball, perfect his pitch, and meet Mr. Satchel Paige––the best pitcher in Negro League baseball.

But when he and his teammates “trespass” on their town’s whites-only baseball field for a practice, the resulting racial outrage burns like a brushfire through the entire community, threatening Cato, his family, and every one of his friends.

There’s only one way this can end without violence: It has to be settled on the mound, between the white team and the Black. Winner takes all.

Written in first person with a rich, convincing voice, Warrior on the Mound is about the experience of segregation; about the tinderbox environment of the prewar South; about having a dream; about injustice, and, finally, about dialogue.

Back matter includes an author’s note, historical background, biographical information about Negro League players, and more.

Historical Fiction

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: historical fiction

Setting: Warsaw, Poland; 1939

Recommended for: Grades 4-8

Themes: WWII, Warsaw Ghetto, resistance movements, bombings, Nazis, based on a true story

Protagonist: female, age 12, Polish

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 384

See it on Amazon


This book doesn’t fit my criteria for inclusion on the Spotlight. It only has one professional review listed on Titlewave (Kirkus), and that review is not positive.

So why am I including it?

Well…number one, Jennifer Nielsen is a hugely popular middle grade author. Librarians and teachers will be interested in it.

Number two: Kirkus reviews do tend to be the sour-face of the reviewers. I do not base my purchasing (or Spotlight inclusion) decisions solely on Kirkus reviews.

Number three: With 87 Goodreads reviews, this book has a 4.33 star average rating. Most of the current reviews are 4 or 5 stars, but even the 3 starred reviews are not terrible. The main criticisms are that WWII is a saturated topic (true) and that the ending is abrupt. There are currently no 2-star reviews, and only one 1-star rating without a written review.

It is possible more professional reviews will come out over the next few weeks. Middle school librarians are advised to keep an eye on this one over the next few weeks to see if it fits your purchasing criteria and library’s needs.


Twelve-year-old Lidia is outside her grandfather’s house when planes fly overhead, bearing the Nazi cross on each wing. Before the bombs hit the ground, Lidia realizes her life is about to change forever.

Poland has fallen under German occupation, and her father makes the brave decision to join the Polish army to fight against the Nazis. Lidia wants to follow him into war, but she’s far too young, and she’s needed by her mother and brother.

After her family returns to Warsaw, where life has changed irrevocably, Lidia continues to play the piano, finding comfort in Chopin, Bach, and Beethoven. But she also wants to aid the Jewish people held captive in the Warsaw Ghetto.

With the help of a friend, Lidia begins to smuggle wheat and food into the ghetto. Still, she feels like she could be doing so much more. She wants to fight. After her brother joins the resistance, Lidia wants only to follow in his footsteps. Soon, she begins to work as a courier, smuggling weapons and messages for the resistance throughout the city.

When the Warsaw city uprising begins―one year after the more well-known Warsaw Ghetto uprising by Polish Jews―with gunfire and bombs echoing throughout the streets, Lidia joins the Polish nationalists’ fight, too, and she and her peers fight with everything they’ve got.

Life will continue to surprise Lidia, as she and the resistance fighters do their best to defeat the German soldiers. No matter the consequences, they’re willing to defend their freedom and their homes from the Nazi invaders―even with their lives.

Drawing on the extraordinary real-life story of Polish teenager Lidia Zakrzewski, bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen presents an inspiring and dramatic account of the Polish resistance fighters who struggled to force out their Nazi occupiers and reclaim their nation’s freedom from tyranny.

Historical Fiction
One Big Open Sky

Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: historical fiction, novel in verse

Setting: 1879; begins Natchez, Mississippi, USA and goes along the wagon trail to North Platte, Nebraska, USA

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: Westward expansion, post-Civil War, US history, 19th Century, racism, prejudice, survival, covered wagons, homesteading

Protagonist: three female narrators. all African Americans: one is age 11; one is the 11-year old girl's mother; one is an 18-year old orphan hired to be a teacher in Nebraska

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 304

See it on Amazon


1879, Mississippi. Young dreamer Lettie may have her head in the stars, but her body is on a covered wagon heading westward. Her father, Thomas, promises that Nebraska will be everything the family needs: an opportunity to claim the independence they’ve strived for over generations on their very own plot of land.

But Thomas’ hopes—and mouth—are bigger than his ability to follow through. With few supplies and even less money, the only thing that feels certain is danger.

Right after the war ended/and we were free/we believed/all of us did/that couldn’t nothing hurt us/the way master had when we were slaves/Couldn’t no one tell us/how to live/how to die.

Lettie, her mother, Sylvia, and young teacher Philomena are free from slavery—but bound by poverty, access to opportunity, and patriarchal social structures. Will these women survive the hardships of their journey? And as Thomas’ desire for control overpowers his common sense, will they truly be free once they get there?

Historical Fiction
The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry

Author: Anna Rose Johnson

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: historical fiction, adventure

Setting: 1912; lighthouse on Harmony Island, Lake Superior, Michigan, USA

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: fear of water, phobias, Anishinaabe, living in a lighthouse, foster families, sunken treasure, shipwrecks, homeschooling families

Protagonist: female, French-Ojibwe, orphan

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Publishers Weekly

Pages: 192

See it on Amazon


Selena Lucy Landry (named for a ship, as every sailor’s child should be) has been frightened of the water ever since she lost her father at sea. But with no one else to care for her, she’s sent to foster with the Martins—a large Anishinaabe family living on a lighthouse in the middle of stormy Lake Superior.

The Martin family is big, hard-working, and close, and Lucy—who has always been a dreamer—struggles to fit in.

Can she go one day without ruining the laundry or forgetting the sweeping? Will she ever be less afraid of the lake?

Although life at the lighthouse isn’t what Lucy hoped for, it is beautiful—ships come and go, waves pound the rocks—and it has one major advantage: it’s near the site of a famous shipwreck, a shipwreck that went down with a treasure her father wanted more than anything.

If Lucy can find that treasure—a priceless ruby necklace—won’t it be like having Papa back again, just a little bit?

But someone else is hunting for the treasure too. And as the lighthouse company becomes increasingly skeptical that the Martins can juggle Lucy and their duties, Lucy and the Martin children will need to find the necklace quickly—or they may not have a home at all.

Realistic Fiction

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction

Setting: unnamed late-20th Century American small town

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: ghosts, grandmothers, family problems, eccentric characters, community, sisters

Protagonist: female, age 10, white, rising 5th grader

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Booklist

Pages: 240

See it on Amazon


It’s the summer before fifth grade, and for Ferris Wilkey, it is a summer of sheer pandemonium: Her little sister, Pinky, has vowed to become an outlaw. Uncle Ted has left Aunt Shirley and, to Ferris’s mother’s chagrin, is holed up in the Wilkey basement to paint a history of the world.

And Charisse, Ferris’s grandmother, has started seeing a ghost at the threshold of her room, which seems like an alarming omen given that she is also feeling unwell.

But the ghost is not there to usher Charisse to the Great Beyond. Rather, she has other plans—wild, impractical, illuminating plans. How can Ferris satisfy a specter with Pinky terrorizing the town, Uncle Ted sending Ferris to spy on her aunt, and her father battling an invasion of raccoons?

As Charisse likes to say, “Every good story is a love story,” and Kate DiCamillo has written one for the ages: emotionally resonant and healing, showing the two-time Newbery Medalist at her most playful, universal, and profound.

Picture Book Biography
Cactus Queen

Author: Lori Alexander

Illustrator: Jenn Ely

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: picture book biography

Setting: 1920s; Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave Desert, California, USA

Recommended for: Grades 1-5

Themes: Joshua Tree National Park, national parks, Women's History Month, conservation, deserts

Protagonist: Minerva Hoyt (1866-1945), a female environmental activist, American

Starred reviews: SLJ

Pages: 40

See it on Amazon


Long before she became known as the Cactus Queen, Minerva Hamilton Hoyt found solace in the unexpected beauty of the Mojave Desert in California. She loved the jackrabbits and coyotes, the prickly cacti, and especially the weird, spiky Joshua trees.

However, in the 1920s, hardly anyone else felt the same way. The desert was being thoughtlessly destroyed by anyone and everyone.

Minerva knew she needed to bring attention to the problem. With the help of her gardening club, taxidermists, and friends, she took the desert east and put its plants and animals on display.

The displays were a hit, but Minerva needed to do much more: she wanted to have the desert recognized as a national park. Although she met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and won him over, Minerva still had to persuade politicians, scientists, teachers, and others to support her cause. And, it worked!

Minerva’s efforts led to what came to be known as Joshua Tree National Park in California, and saved hundreds of thousands of plants and animals. Now, the millions of people who visit each year have learned to love the desert, just as Minerva did.

Picture Book
Everyone Gets a Turn

Author: Marianne Dubuc

Illustrator: Marianne Dubuc

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: picture book

Setting: the homes of four woodland animals

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 1

Themes: caring for an egg, caring for a baby chick, taking turns, friendship, woodland animals, community

Protagonist: Bear, Hare, Turtle, and Mouse - anthropomorphic woodland animals who are friends

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Publishers Weekly

Pages: 60

See it on Amazon


Enter the world of Bear, Hare, Turtle, and Mouse. In Dubuc’s signature soft and inviting watercolor scenes, these forest friends make an unexpected discovery and turn to each other to find a shared solution. They decide they each will have a turn caring for the egg in their homes.

Mouse’s house is chilly, so a cozy fire is set ablaze in the fireplace. At Bear’s house, exercise and activity rule the day, and Little Egg hatches out of her shell! The next stop is Hare’s house, where Bear and Hare dote over the newborn chick and face a new challenge: trying to find something for her to eat!

Finally, it’s on to Turtle’s house for a special time exploring Turtle’s treasures and sharing stories.

An endearing picture book that celebrates friendship and encourages young readers to share and trust in the power of community and their own resourcefulness, Everyone Gets a Turn is a wonderful read-aloud book for children with a timeless message.

Early Graphic Fiction
Duck and Moose: Duck Moves In!

Author: Kirk Reedstrom

Illustrator: Kirk Reedstrom

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: early graphic fiction, humor

Setting: homes of a moose and a duck, both neighbors

Recommended for: Grades K-4

Themes: animal stories, annoying neighbors, spring, friendship, opposite personalities, social-emotional learning

Protagonist: a quiet-loving moose and a party-loving duck; both anthropomorphic

Starred reviews: SLJ

Pages: 64

Notes: Book 1 of the Duck and Moose series

See it on Amazon


Moose loves peace and quiet, relaxing, living alone, and spring! He can’t wait for the arrival of sun, flowers, and…a new neighbor?!

Duck just landed himself a new home. He loves parties, karaoke, and living with—and on—Moose’s head.

Moose tries everything he can to send Duck away, but he soon finds that this persistent neighbor might just be the best thing spring could bring.

Picture Book
Partly Cloudy

Author: Deborah Freedman

Illustrator: Deborah Freedman

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: picture book

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3

Themes: watching clouds, science, water cycle, imagination, clouds, different perspectives on the same objects, types of clouds, weather, predicting weather

Protagonist: two bunnies, one wearing glasses

Starred reviews: Kirkus and SLJ

Pages: 40

See it on Amazon


Two curious bunnies enjoy watching clouds go by. But when they look at the sky, they each see something completely different!

While one bunny likes to use his imagination and sees cotton candy or whipped cream, the other bunny can only see the science behind them. Together they learn that cloud watching is much more fun when they can see it through each other’s eyes.

With extensive back matter about the many kinds of clouds and the water cycle, celebrated author and illustrator Deborah Freedman once again combines the educational with the whimsical, while introducing young readers to two irresistible characters who see the power of possibility.

Picture Book Biography
The Fastest Drummer: Clap Your Hands for Viola Smith!

Author: Dean Robbins

Illustrator: Susanna Chapman

Publication date: March 5, 2024

Genre: picture book biography

Setting: 1930s to 2020; begins in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, USA and goes all over the world

Recommended for: K-Grade 4

Themes: drummers, musicians, musical families, traditional gender roles, Women's History Month, jazz, WWII

Protagonist: Viola Smith, a female jazz drummer, white, age 13 to 100

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 40

See it on Amazon


Five girls played together in the Smith Sisters Orchestra: Irene on trombone, Erma on vibraphone, Edwina on trumpet, Mildred on violin, and Lila on saxophone.

But what of the littlest sister? When Viola’s time came, almost every instrument was taken . . . except one.

When she first sat behind a drum kit, she lost the beat, made a terrible racket, and had more fun than she’d ever had before. Viola took to the road with her family, learned from the greats, formed her own band in the face of discrimination and ridicule, mastered twelve- and seventeen-piece drum kits, and played so fast she left no room for doubt: women could not only keep the beat—they could beat the odds.

At one hundred years of age, Viola was still slamming her snare and socking her cymbals.

Dean Robbins’s affectionate portrait of one of the few female professional drummers of the early twentieth century includes an endnote with resources for discovering other female musicians. Susanna Chapman’s swirling illustrations capture the joy and energy of Viola’s stage presence while introducing young readers to the essential art form of jazz.




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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