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New Release Spotlight – May 14, 2024

So I have had a very hard week. We had to say goodbye to our beloved dog Molly on Friday. We took her to the vet Thursday when she was suddenly unable to use the bathroom and was having difficulty walking.

We suspected she might have a urinary blockage, but nope. It was a large kidney tumor and lesions on her spleen. A second, more extensive ultrasound on Friday also revealed a large tumor in her heart.

The vet said we could take her home overnight to say our goodbyes, but this poor baby couldn’t walk on her own or go to the bathroom. She wasn’t eating at all by this point. We called our boys to come to the vet, and we all stayed with her right until the end.

She was only 7 years old. My family is heartbroken.

So this week’s Spotlight isn’t finished. It starts off strong with YA and middle grades since I had started this post last Monday. But picture books, which I usually write up on the weekends, is very skimpy this week. I am going to go ahead and release the Spotlight for the week, then I hope to be able to put some of this week’s titles on the May 21st Spotlight.

Right now, I am just trying to be gentle with myself. Saying goodbye to a dog is just SO HARD.

 

Here’s what I had already written as of last Friday morning…

Phew, another incredible May 2024 Spotlight week! I am super-excited this week for one of the sequels – Road Home by Rex Ogle. This is the fourth book in the Free Lunch memoir series. If you have not read Free Lunch or its sequels, you are truly missing out! All three books are among my favorite audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. I read all three books in one listening session each, and I expect to do the same for Road Home.

The narrator of the Road Home audiobook, Ramon De Ocampo, is the same narrator as the other three books in the series. That’s fantastic news because he is AWESOME for this series.

The bad news? It looks like the audiobook doesn’t release until June 25. So now I need to decide if I want to go ahead and read the ebook version, then do the audiobook again in June, or if I just want to hold out until June to fully experience the audio version without spoilers. Currently undecided on that.

PRESENTATION LINKS:

All May Spotlight presentations are designed in Canva. The presentations for May 2024 will grow throughout May. By the end of the month, each presentation will have 20-30 titles on it! Play the presentations on a loop to show off the week’s newest book releases. This is a great way to get student and staff input on the books that interest them most.

One small change from April to May: I will be adding the sequels to the Canva presentations instead of putting them in the weekly Spotlights. I am not sure if the way I did the new sequels sections in April was compliant with Amazon’s TOU for image use – I am no lawyer and prefer to err on the side of caution for image use.

You can edit the presentations by opening them in Canva using the links below. Click FILE, then Make a Copy. You will need a Canva account (free for educators) to edit the presentation.

YA Presentation Link – Grades 7+

Middle Grades Presentation Link – Grades 3-8

Picture Book Presentation Link – PreS-Grade 5+

This week’s Spotlight titles are #4062 – #4077 on The Ginormous Booklist.

 

Realistic Fiction
Thirsty

Author: Jas Hammonds

Publication date: May 14, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Setting: summer after HS graduation, Virginia, USA

Themes: alcoholism, pledging to a sorority, college, life after graduation, anxiety, long-term effects of bullying, elitism, normalization of alcohol consumption on college campuses, social class differences, racial microaggressions, nonconsensual outing

Protagonists: female, age 18, biracial (Black and white), lesbian, upcoming college freshman

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly and Kirkus

Pages: 336


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

It’s the summer before college and eighteen-year-old Blake Brenner and her girlfriend, Ella, have one goal: join the mysterious and exclusive Serena Society. The sorority promises status and lifelong connections to a network of powerful, trailblazing women of color.

Ella’s acceptance is a sure thing―she’s the daughter of a Serena alum. Blake, however, has a lot more to prove.

As a former loner from a working-class background, Blake lacks Ella’s pedigree and confidence. Luckily, she finds courage at the bottom of a liquor bottle. When she drinks, she’s bold, funny, and unstoppable―and the Serenas love it. But as pledging intensifies, so does Blake’s drinking, until it’s seeping into every corner of her life. Ella assures Blake that she’s fine; partying hard is what it takes to make the cut . . .

But success has never felt so much like drowning. With her future hanging in the balance and her past dragging her down, Blake must decide how far she’s willing to go to achieve her glittering dreams of success―and how much of herself she’s willing to lose in the process.

Magical Realism
The Worst Perfect Moment

Author: Shivaun Plozza

Publication date: May 14, 2024

Genre: magical realism, realistic fiction

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Setting: Marybelle Motor Lodge in Wildwood, New Jersery, USA

Themes: death, heaven, memories, afterlife, angels, LGBT+, parental abandonment

Protagonists: female, age 16, white, queer, dead

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly and Kirkus

Pages: 320


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Tegan Masters is dead.

She’s sixteen and she’s dead and she’s standing in the parking lot of the Marybelle Motor Lodge, the single most depressing motel in all of New Jersey and the place where Tegan spent what she remembers as the worst weekend of her life.

In the front office, she meets Zelda, an annoyingly cute teen angel with a snarky sense of humor and an epic set of wings. According to Zelda, Tegan is in heaven, where every person inhabits an exact replica of their happiest memory. For Tegan, Zelda insists, that place is the Marybelle—creepy minigolf course, sad breakfast buffet, filthy swimming pool, and all.

Tegan has a few complaints about this.

When Tegan takes these concerns up with Management, she and Zelda are sent on a whirlwind tour through Tegan’s memories, in search of clues to help her understand what mattered most to her in life. If Zelda fails to convince Tegan (and Management) that the Marybelle was the site of Tegan’s perfect moment, both girls face dire eternal consequences. But if she succeeds…they just might get their happily-ever-afterlife.

Historical Fiction
The Brightwood Code

Author: Monica Hesse

Publication date: May 14, 2024

Genre: historical fiction, mystery

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Setting: 1918, WWI; Washington, DC, USA and France (in flashbacks)

Themes: WWI, secret codes, war, flashbacks, self-blame, responsibility, trauma, guilt, teens with jobs, mistakes at work

Protagonists: female, age 18, white

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly and BCCB

Pages: 336


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Seven months ago, Edda was on the World War I front lines as one of two hundred “Hello Girls,” female switchboard operators employed by the US Army.

She spent her nights memorizing secret connection codes to stay ahead of spying enemies, and her days connecting vital calls between platoons and bases and generals, all trying to survive—and win—a brutal war.

Their lives were in Edda’s hands, and one day, in fateful seconds, everything went wrong.

Now, Edda is back in Washington, DC, working as an American Bell Telephone operator, the picture of respectability. But when her shift ends, Edda is barely hanging on, desperate to forget the circumstances that cut her time overseas short.

When Edda receives a panicked phone call from someone who utters the fateful code word “Brightwood,” she has no choice but to confront her past.

With precious few clues and help only from Theo, a young man bearing his own WWI scars, Edda races to uncover what secrets may have followed her across the ocean.

Mystery
It Waits in the Forest

Author: Sarah Dass

Publication date: May 14, 2024

Genre: mystery, thriller, folklore

Recommended for: Grades 7-12

Setting: small, fictional Caribbean island of St. Virgil

Themes: grief, loss of both parents, orphans, murders, journalism, character-driven stories, Caribbean folklore, botany

Protagonists: female, age 18, Black, Caribbean

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 336


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Unlike the other residents of the small Caribbean Island of St. Virgil, Selina DaSilva does not believe in magic. With a logical mind and a knack for botany, Selina used to dream of leaving the island to study Pharmacology—until a vicious, unsolved attack left her father dead and her mother in a coma.

Now her guilt over her mother’s condition keeps her tethered to the island, relegated to conning gullible tourists with useless talismans and phony protection rituals.

But when one of those tourists ends up at the center of a string of strange murders, the truth that Selina has been denying can no longer be avoided: there is evil lurking in the forests that surround St. Virgil.

Another thing that can’t be avoided? Selina’s ex-boyfriend Gabriel, newly employed at the local newspaper and eager to put his investigative skills to use.

Desperate to put an end to the killings and claim justice for Selina’s family, these two former lovers race to find answers. But evil bides its time. And as long-buried feelings and long-hidden secrets about Selina’s family’s past begin to reveal themselves, only one answer remains—and it waits in the forest.

Rom-Com
The Ballad of Darcy and Russell

Author: Morgan Matson

Publication date: May 7, 2024

Genre: romance, rom-com

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Setting: bus station 2 hours north of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Themes: stranded, bus stations, growing up, music festivals, meet-cutes, strong character development

Protagonists: female, age 18, white, just before starting college

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 400


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Darcy believes in love at first sight.

Even though it’s never happened to her, she’s spent her whole life waiting for that perfect, magical moment.

But right now, her life is anything but perfect. In the aftermath of a music festival, she’s stranded at a bus station until morning—the day before she leaves for college. Her phone is dead, she has no cash, and she’s convinced nothing good can come of this night…but then she meets Russell.

Russell. Cute and nice, funny, and kind. She knows this is the moment—and the guy—she’s been waiting for. And they have until sunrise to walk and talk and connect.

Over the course of this one fateful night—filled with football field picnics, night swimming, and escape-artist dogs—Darcy and Russell’s lives will change forever. They’ll discover things they never imagined about each other…and about themselves.

But can you really know someone after only a handful of hours? Is it possible to fall in love in just one day?

Graphic Fantasy
Young Hag and the Witches’ Quest

Author: Isabel Greenberg

Illustrator: Isabel Greenberg

Publication date: May 14, 2024

Genre: fantasy, retelling, graphic fiction

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Setting: alternate Britain that once had magic but does not any longer

Themes: witches, hags, changelings, magic, quests, journeys, Arthurian legends

Protagonists: young female hag, British

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Booklist

Pages: 288


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Once there was magic in Britain. There were dragons and wizards and green knights and round tables and kings that pulled swords out of stones.

But now, the doors to the Otherworld have closed, and the magic is gone. All that is left are the stories of those bygone days. Young Hag, her mother and her grandmother, Ancient Crone, are the last of the witches in Britain. At least, that’s what Ancient Crone says.

Young Hag has grown up hearing those tales and believing in her the power of her Grandmother. But when tragedy strikes, and their world is shaken, Young Hag turns her back on magic. She is sick of the tales of family curses, faerie doors, lost magic, and ancient swords. If they are witches, where is their magic when they really need it?

And then one day they find a changeling baby in the woods. Confronted with real magic at last, Young Hag has no choice but to believe. She sets off on the greatest quest of her life; to bring the magic back to Britain.

But when faced with magic and myth, can Young Hag put aside her doubts and fears? Or will she simply become a forgotten footnote in the tale of famous kings and wizards?

Narrative Nonfiction
The Mine Wars: The Bloody Fight for Workers' Rights in the West Virginia Coalfields

Author: Steve Watkins

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: narrative nonfiction

Recommended for: Grades 5-10

Setting: West Virginia, USA; 1920-21

Themes: labor unions, labor uprising, workers rights, exploitation, coal mining, Battle of Blair Mountain (1921), Matewan Massacre (1920), job safety, corruption, poverty, immigrants, racism, US history inaccuracies and lies, hazardous working conditions

Protagonist: multiple players in the West Virginia mining uprisings in the 1920s

Starred reviews: SLJ

Pages: 272


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

For fans of Steve Sheinkin and Deb Heiligman, a riveting true story of the West Virginia coal miners who ignited the largest labor uprising in American history.

In May of 1920, in a small town in the mountains of West Virginia, a dozen coal miners took a stand. They were sick of the low pay in the mines. The unsafe conditions. The brutal treatment they endured from mine owners and operators. The scrip they were paid-instead of cash-that could only be used at the company store.

They had tried to unionize, but the mine owners dug in. On that fateful day in May 1920, tensions boiled over and a gunfight erupted-beginning a yearlong standoff between workers and owners.

The miners pleaded, then protested, then went on strike; the owners retaliated with spying, bribery, and threats. Violence escalated on both sides, culminating in the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest labor uprising in United States history.

In this gripping narrative nonfiction book, meet the resolute and spirited people who fought for the rights of coal miners, and discover how the West Virginia Mine Wars paved the way for vital worker protections nationwide. More than a century later, this overlooked story of the labor movement remains urgently relevant.

Narrative Nonfiction
Mountain of Fire: The Eruption and Survivors of Mount St. Helens

Author: Rebecca E.F. Barone

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: narrative nonfiction

Recommended for: Grades 5-AD

Setting: events before, during, and after the Mount St. Helens eruption on May 18, 1980; Washington state, USA

Themes: volcanoes, Mount St. Helens, US history, geology, seismology, earthquakes, natural disasters, panic, evacuations

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Booklist

Pages: 192

See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

For weeks, the ground around Mount St. Helens shuddered like a dynamite keg ready to explode.

There were legends of previous eruptions: violent fire, treacherous floods, and heat that had scoured the area. But the shaking and swelling was unlike any volcanic activity ever seen before. Day and night, scientists tried to piece together the mountain’s clues―yet nothing could prepare them for the destruction to come.

The long-dormant volcano seethed away, boiling rock far below the surface. Washington’s governor, Dixie Lee Ray, understood the despair that would follow from people being forced from their homes.

How and when should she give orders to evacuate the area? And would that be enough to save the people from the eruption of Mount St. Helens?

Includes a QR code for a website featuring eye-catching photos of the eruption.

Realistic Fiction
Samira's Worst Best Summer

Author: Nina Hamza

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction

Recommended for: Grades 3-8

Setting: summer break

Themes: vandalism, prejudice, friendship, former friends, making new friends, middle school, standing up for oneself, introverts, bullying, grandmothers, community, self-advocacy

Protagonist: female, age 13, Indian American, Muslim

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 336


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Samira knows this is going to be the worst summer ever.

Her best friend, Kiera, ditched her for the cool girls. Her parents and older sister are taking a trip to India, so Sammy is staring down endless weeks spent with Imran, her little brother, and her Umma.

To top it all off—literally!—her house gets TP’d.

The TP’ing upsets Imran, who is convinced that they’re being targeted because they’re the only brown family on the block.

When Sammy attempts to solve the problem, she creates a bigger mess instead. But she also meets new girl Alice, who is determined to figure out who was behind the TP’ing.

Suddenly, Sammy’s “boring” summer is full of clue-finding hunts, garage band practices, and getting to know her neighbors like never before.

But when Kiera starts stealing Alice away, Sammy must decide if she wants to stand up for herself. One thing is certain: This summer is either going to be the worst (or maybe the best) of Samira’s life.

Historical Fiction
Safiyyah's War

Author: Hiba Noor Khan

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: historical fiction

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Setting: Grand Mosque in Nazi-occupied Paris, France; 1940s

Themes: WWII, Holocaust, Nazis, religious persecution, libraries, book censorship, resistance movements, mosques, courage

Protagonist: female, French, Muslim

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Publishers Weekly

Pages: 336


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Safiyyah loathes the brutal Nazi occupation of Paris, even though her Muslim identity keeps her safe—or, at least, safer than her Jewish neighbors. Violence lurks in the streets, her best friend has fled, and even her place of refuge—the library—has turned shadowy and confusing, as the invaders fear the power of books.

Safiyyah longs to fight back and hates feeling powerless to help her Jewish friends. Worse yet, her father—who taught her to always do the right thing—is acting strangely and doing nothing to help them either.

Or is he?

Unravelling the mystery of her father’s odd behavior draws Safiyyah deep in the heart of the perilous underground resistance to the Nazis, where her bravery is put to the ultimate test…

Realistic Fiction
Keep It Like a Secret

Author: John David Anderson

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction

Recommended for: Grades 4-8

Setting: small town in Ohio, USA

Themes: siblings, family problems, conflict with parent, mothers and daughters, complex family relationships, growing up

Protagonist: male, age 12, white

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 320


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

From the first moment Morgan can remember, Claire has always been there. Big sister and little brother. Cat and Mouse. They’ve always understood each other, saved each other, seen each other. And they stuck to their own personal code, unwritten but understood, that siblings were inseparable, that they had each other’s backs, no matter what.

At least, they used to.

Somewhere along the line, things between them shifted. Claire started fighting more with Mom, storming out of the house, spending more and more time away, and Morgan felt his sister and best friend slipping away. Now he spends nearly every night sitting awake in his room, waiting for the sound of her key in the lock.

It’s a sound he hasn’t heard in nearly a week, ever since her and Mom’s worst fight ever. So when Claire finally calls and tells Morgan she wants to spend the day together, just the two of them, he knows this might be his only chance—not just to convince her to come home but to remind her how good things used to be, and could be again.

But Claire has her own plan for the day. One that will mean that, no matter what happens, things between them are going to change forever.

Graphic Fantasy
Lunar Boy

Author: Jes and Cin Wibowo

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: graphic fiction, fantasy

Recommended for: Grades 3-8

Setting: neo-Indonesia on "New Earth"

Themes: the moon, aliens, extraterrestrial beings, making new friends, moving to a new place, LGBT+, stepfamilies, adoption, transgender, Bahasa Indonesian language

Protagonist: transgender male child from the moon, white hair, dark brown skin, adopted by a human woman

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Publishers Weekly

Pages: 240


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Indu, a boy from the moon, feels like he doesn’t belong. He hasn’t since he and his adoptive mom disembarked from their spaceship—their home—to live on Earth with their new blended family.

The kids at school think he’s weird, he has a crush on his pen pal who might not like him back, and his stepfamily doesn’t seem to know what to do with him. Worst of all, Indu can’t even talk to his mom about how he’s feeling because she’s so busy.

In a moment of loneliness, Indu calls out to the moon, begging them to take him back. And against all odds, the moon hears him and agrees to bring him home on the first day of the New Year.

But as the promised day draws nearer, Indu finds friendship in unlikely places and discovers that home is more than where you come from. And when the moon calls again, Indu must decide: Is he willing to give up what he’s just found?

Chapter Book Memoir
Born Naughty: My Childhood in China

Author: Jin Wang and Tony Johnston

Illustrator: Anisi Baigude

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: chapter book memoir

Recommended for: Grades 2-5

Setting: village of Nan Ba Zi, Inner Mongolia, China; 1982

Themes: Chinese culture, poverty, play, everyday activities, Chinese village life

Protagonist: male (the author), age 8, Chinese

Starred reviews: Kirkus and Booklist

Pages: 112

Notes: Includes black and white iIlustrations


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Growing up in Inner Mongolia, Jin Wang was rambunctious and boisterous and did not always listen to her Ma.

Jin and her family were poor, but like kids everywhere, she still found a way to have fun and get into lots of mischief climbing trees, digging for mushrooms, and even looking for wolves.

Paired with delightful, kid-friendly illustrations, this early middle grade memoir invites readers to join Jin and her family in the outskirts of Inner Mongolia to remind us that though we all have different customs and traditions, we are more alike than not, and that mischief lives within all of us.

PREVIOUS NEW RELEASE SPOTLIGHTS

   
 

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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