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New Release Spotlight – May 21, 2024

A huge thank you to all the condolences I received after our beloved dog Molly died last week. Our family was absolutely heartbroken because she was quite young and had already overcome so much. Your emails and virtual hugs really helped me feel supported and loved.

I’m back at the Spotlight this week, and to be honest, the May 21st releases are not nearly as exciting as they were for the May 7th and May 14th lists. This is a good thing though because I had space to add some titles from the last two weeks that did not make the previous Spotlights.

You will therefore notice the publication dates for this Spotlight also include May 7th and May 14th releases that did not make the previous two weeks of Spotlights.

And would you believe that I still have titles for May 7 and May 14 that did not make it this week?! I will continue to add them to next week’s Spotlight.

My top picks this week:

  • Boy Like Me by Simon James Green (YA)
  • The Things We Miss by Leah Stecher (middle grades)
  • Finding Things by Kevin Henkes (picture book)
  • Heatwave by Lauren Redniss (picture book)

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 am including the sequels on the Canva presentations instead of putting them in the weekly Spotlight posts.

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 #4076 – #4090 on The Ginormous Booklist.

 

Historical Fiction
Boy Like Me

Author: Simon James Green

Publication Date: May 7, 2024

Genre: historical fiction, realistic fiction

Setting: 1994; small town of Lincolnshire, England

Recommended for: Grades 7-12

Themes: transgender people, breast binding, gender affirmation

Protagonist: male, age 16, white, English, gay

Starred reviews: Booklist and SLJ

Pages: 352


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

It’s 1994 and thanks to Section 28, there can be no mention of gay relationships in UK schools.

When a kind librarian leads Jamie to a disguised novel in the library that reflects his own confused feelings towards boys, Jamie sees that he’s not the only one who has checked the book out.

Will Jamie and this mystery boy have the courage to meet and if they do, what will it take to hold on to each other?

Graphic Nonfiction
Breathe: Journeys to Healthy Binding (Maia Kobabe and Sarah Peitzmeier, PhD)

Author: Maia Kobabe and Sarah Peitzmeier, PhD

Illustrator: Maia Kobabe

Publication Date: May 7, 2024

Genre: graphic nonfiction

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Themes: gender-affirming care, healthcare, mental health, LGBT+, transgender people, chest binding, personal stories

Protagonist: stories from various transgender people

Starred reviews: Booklist and SLJ

Pages: 64


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Breathe arose from the need for a resource for folks considering chest binding as gender-affirming care.

Dr. Peitzmeier interviewed twenty-five people of different ages and backgrounds about their journeys with binding, and then she and Kobabe combined excerpts from those interviews with evidence-based resources on binding into this extremely accessible guide.

Breathe is both a practical resource for trans and nonbinary folks and an engaging and perspective-broadening read for anyone interested in what it means to be on a journey of expressing one’s gender in ways that are joyful, healthy, and affirming.

Romance
I Wish You Would

Author: Eva Des Lauriers

Publication Date: May 21, 2024

Genre: romance

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Setting: overnight beach camping trip

Themes: overnight trips, senior year, self-reflection, confessions, regrets, friends-to-lovers, camping, alternating perspectives

Protagonist: narrator alternates between male and female, both high school seniors, both Latine

Starred reviews: Booklist

Pages: 288


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

It’s Senior Sunrise, the epic overnight at the beach that kicks off senior year.

But for Natalia and Ethan, it’s the first time seeing each other after what happened at junior prom―when they almost crossed the line from best friends to something more and ruined everything.

After ghosting each other all summer, Natalia is desperate to pretend she doesn’t care and Ethan is desperate to fix his mistake.

When the senior class carries out their tradition of writing private letters to themselves―what they wish they would do this year if they were braver―Natalia pours her heart out. So does Ethan. So does everyone in their entire class.

But in Natalia’s panicked attempt to retrieve her heartfelt confession, the wind scatters seven of the notes across the beach. Now, Ethan and Natalia are forced to work together to find the lost letters before any secrets are revealed―especially their own.

Seven private confessions. Seven time bombs loose for anyone to find. And one last chance before the sun rises for these two to fall in love.

Realistic Fiction
Dispatches from Parts Unknown

Author: Bryan Bliss

Publication Date: May 7, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction, romance

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Setting: high school

Themes: grief, recent death of a parent (father), Prom, high school, making new friends, getting involved at school, friendship

Protagonist: female, age 18, white

Starred reviews: Booklist

Pages: 288


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Ever since her dad died three years ago, Julie has been surviving more than thriving.

And surviving is sneaking into her parents’ closet when her mom is out, since it’s the only place that still sometimes smells like her dad.

It’s roaming around the Mall of America. It’s pulling out the box of her dad’s VHS tapes, recordings of his favorite vintage professional wrestling matches.

And it’s hearing the voice of the Masked Man in her head, running a commentary of her life.

It’s embarrassing, really. Sure, he was her dad’s favorite wrestler, but that doesn’t mean she wants him in her head.

As Julie finally starts to come out of the haze of grief, maybe she’ll finally figure out why that voice is there, and how to let it go.

Thriller
Have You Seen This Girl

Author: Nita Tyndall

Publication Date: May 21, 2024

Genre: thriller, mystery

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Setting: small town of Cardinal Creek

Themes: LGBT+, murder, serial killers, father in prison, secrets, ghosts, copycat killers, small town rumors, falsely accused

Protagonist: nonbinary teen, white, high school senior

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 272


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Another girl has gone missing in Cardinal Creek.

Sid knows their dad didn’t do it—this time. He’s currently serving a life sentence for the five girls he murdered ten years ago. Girls whose bodies he dumped into the lake. The same lake where June Hargrove was just found. And while Sid’s dad couldn’t have done it, suspicion is now directed at Sid. The only person who doesn’t suspect Sid is the new girl, Mavis—as long as Sid doesn’t let her find out about their past.

But Sid has another secret: They’re being haunted by the ghosts of the five girls their father killed. Except now there are six. And unlike the others, June isn’t content to just whisper in Sid’s ear. She wants them to find out who’s killing again, especially as another girl goes missing. If Sid wants any chance of solving the current disappearances, they’re going to have to face what their father did—or risk being haunted forever.

Realistic Fiction
Gooseberry

Author: Robin Gow

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: LGBT+, foster homes, dogs, therapy dogs, stray dog adoption, transgender, nonbinary, ADHD, autism, bullying, microaggressions, anxiety, homophobia, importance of names

Protagonist: nonbinary tween, age 12, white, orphan, neurodivergent

Starred reviews: SLJ and Booklist

Pages: 312


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

There’s a lot twelve-year-old B doesn’t know—like what their new name should be after coming out as nonbinary. Or what it would feel like to finally feel at home after moving around to different foster families for years.

But there’s one thing B does know: they want to be a dog trainer when they grow up. And when they meet Gooseberry—a feisty stray dog who seems as wary of strangers as B does—B feels an instant connection.

With Gooseberry, B could have everything they want: a family of their own, and a dog to train. And B’s newest foster parents agree to let B adopt him.

But training a dog isn’t as easy as B expected. Gooseberry is anxious and barely lets B pet him, let alone train him.

Will Gooseberry ever feel at ease with B? And how can B teach Gooseberry to trust, when they know so little about trust themself?

Realistic Fiction
Telephone of the Tree

Author: Alison McGhee

Publication Date: May 7, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: grief, loss, serious accidents, communicating with the dead, best friends, death of best friend, unreliable narrator, denial of death

Protagonist: female, age 10, minimal descriptions of skin tone; best friend uses they/them pronouns

Starred reviews: BCCB and Kirkus

Pages: 208


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Ayla and her best friend Kiri have always been tree people. They each have their own special tree, and neighbors and family know that they are most likely to be found within the branches.

But after an accident on their street, Kiri has gone somewhere so far away that Ayla can only wait and wait in her birch, longing to be able to talk with Kiri again.

Then a mysterious, old-fashioned telephone appears one morning, nestled in the limbs of Ayla’s birch tree. Where did it come from? she wonders. And why are people showing up to use this phone to call their loved ones? Especially loved ones who have passed on.

All Ayla wants is for Kiri to come home. Until that day comes, she will keep Kiri’s things safe. She’ll keep her nightmares to herself.

And she will not make a call on that telephone.

Historical Fiction
The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown

Author: Elizabeth Laird

Publication Date: May 7, 2024

Genre: historical fiction

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Setting: post-WWII England, 1950s

Themes: polio, strict religious families, charity, Lucasites, postwar Europe, refugees, family, community

Protagonist: female, age 13, white, British

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 352


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Charity Brown’s life is about to change – her family have been left a huge, rambling house by a mysterious benefactor, and her parents want to move in and throw open its doors to the needy.

Only recently back from hospital after months of isolation with polio, Charity is over-protected and lonely as the only child still at home. Her family are very religious – her sisters are called Faith and Hope, and her brother Ted is studying to be a preacher – so she’s both excited and nervous at the thought of sharing her family and new home with strangers.

It’s a recipe for confusion, joy and endless misunderstandings, including with the new neighbours, an Austrian family with a daughter just Charity’s age…

Ecofiction
The Monarchs of Winghaven

Author: Naila Moreira

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction, ecofiction

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Setting: abandoned, overgrown lot in New England, USA

Themes: conservation, environment, nature, butterflies, gardens, nature photography, science, botany, STEM, bullying, making new friends, new kid in town, anger management

Protagonist: female, age 11, white

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly

Pages: 320


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Sammie, a budding naturalist, knows of a secret and wonderful place: Winghaven, an abandoned lot in the middle of the suburbs where wildlife flourishes.

She spends hours making notes and drawings in her meticulous field journal. When Bram, a new boy, turns up with his camera, Sammie worries he’ll give away her hidden haven—after all, the other boys at school bully her.

But Bram is a scientist like Sammie, and together they observe tiny pond creatures, a pileated woodpecker with a red crest like a pirate’s bandana, and thriving monarch butterflies whose habitats are becoming scarce.

When Sammie and Bram discover bright flagging tape encircling the trees, they learn Winghaven is in danger from a local developer—and it’s going to take courage, spirit, and science to save it.

This beautifully written story, full of details about the natural world, includes Sammie’s field illustrations as well as real-life notes on keeping a nature journal, studying monarchs, and bird-watching.

Magical Realism
The Things We Miss

Author: Leah Stecher

Publication Date: May 7, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction, magical realism

Recommended for: Grades 4-7

Setting: middle school in Southern California, USA

Themes: anxiety, hating school, skipping life's hard parts, middle school, fat shaming, mean girls, relative in chemotherapy, cancer, grandfathers

Protagonist: female, middle schooler, white, Jewish, overweight

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly

Pages: 288


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

J.P. Green has always felt out of step. She doesn’t wear the right clothes, she doesn’t say the right things, and her body…well, she’d rather not talk about it. And seventh grade is shaping up to be the worst year yet.

So when J.P. discovers a mysterious door in her neighbor’s treehouse, she doesn’t hesitate before walking through. The door sends her three days forward in time.

Suddenly, J.P. can skip all the worst parts of seventh grade: Fitness tests in P.E., oral book reports, awkward conversations with her mom…she can avoid them all and no one even knows she was gone.

But can you live a life without any of the bad parts? Are there experiences out there that you can’t miss?

This moving middle grade novel about mental health, body acceptance, and self-confidence asks what it truly means to show up for the people you love-and for yourself.

Picture Book Memoir
The Bicycle: How an Act of Kindness Changed a Young Refugee's Life

Author: Patricia McCormick and Mevan Babakar

Illustrator: Yas Imamura

Publication Date: May 7, 2024

Genre: picture book, memoir, narrative nonfiction

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4

Setting: begins in Kurdistan, a region in Iraq, but goes to Azerbaijan, Russia, and The Netherlands

Themes: refugees, acts of kindness, bicycles, war

Protagonist: author Mevan Babakar as a child; female, Kurdish

Starred reviews: Booklist

Pages: 40

Notes: Based on a real experience by author Mevan Babakar


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

For generations, Mevan and her family lived in their beloved Kurdistan.

But when they are forced to flee by the Iraqi government, Mevan must leave everything behind. Her family travels from country to country in search of safety; and with each stop, Mevan feels more and more alone. Until,,,a stranger’s gift changes everything.

Based on Mevan Babakar’s own childhood, this is a moving reminder of how powerful just one act of kindness can be.

Poetry
A Planet Is a Poem

Author: Amanda West Lewis

Illustrator: Oliver Averill

Publication Date: May 7, 2024

Genre: poetry, informational picture book

Recommended for: Grades 2-5

Setting: various places in the solar system

Themes: space, planets, Kuiper Belt, solar system, Oort Cloud, sun, different poetry forms, metaphor, imagery

Starred reviews: SLJ

Pages: 40

Notes: Includes 14 poems in various forms, such as Shakespearean sonnet, villanelle, sestina, concrete poem, prose poem; Also has full-page gatefolds and flaps.


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

From a ballad of Earth and an ode to the sun to a villanelle for Venus and a sestina for Saturn, here are 14 original poems about planets and other bodies in our solar system.

Each poem is written in a different poetic form that’s been chosen to reflect the object’s unique characteristics, and each is bursting with intriguing details sure to capture readers’ imaginations.

Why is Mars known as the Red Planet?

How many moons does Jupiter have?

And what exactly is the Kuiper Belt?

Budding astronomers, young and old, can find the answers to these questions and many more in this innovative, enchanting book.

Picture Book
Finding Things

Author: Kevin Henkes

Illustrator: Laura Dronzek

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: picture book

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3

Setting: neighborhood

Themes: dogs, exploring the world around you, play, unclaimed property, found objects, pet adoption, observation, noticing things, kittens

Protagonist: adult and light-skinned child walking a dog

Starred reviews: Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, SLJ

Pages: 32


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

If you were on a walk and found a ball, you could take it home and play with it. You are likely to find many other wonderful things as you explore the world—maybe even a new friend—and that makes you very lucky.

Award-winning creators Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek’s collaborations are always exceptional; full of vivid and deceptively simple observations of the world around us. Finding Things features a succinct text and exquisite, emotionally rich illustrations, and it encourages readers to be creative and to find purpose and connections in what surrounds them.

Picture Book
Heatwave

Author: Lauren Redniss

Illustrator: Lauren Redniss

Publication Date: May 21, 2024

Genre: picture book

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3

Setting: a very hot day

Themes: summer, heat, heatwaves, unique use of color, rain, weather, relief, beaches, global warming, climate change

Protagonist: child and adult caregiver; skin tones are the same colors as the pages (red or blue)

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 40

Notes: Caldecott 2025 contender?

See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Sweltering. Sweating. It’s 100 degrees… even in the shade.
Games are canceled, temperatures reach record highs. The sun is hot.

Finally, a wind picks up. One rain drop. Then another. A downpour. The sun sets and the moon rises, Relief at last.

Heatwave is a book that vividly evokes a universal feeling–when the air is so hot and heavy you can barely move, when the sun is so bright your eyes play tricks on you. Renowned artist, writer and MacArthur genuis grant recipient, Lauren Redniss’s choice to use just two vibrant and contrasting colors in her artwork and spare text makes for a bold and intere

Informational Picture Book
I Was: The Stories of Animal Skulls

Author: Katherine Hocker

Illustrator: Natasha Donovan

Publication Date: May 7, 2024

Genre: informational picture book

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5

Setting: nature walk in a forest

Themes: animal skulls, human skulls, anatomy, nature, life and death, STEM, science, biology, parts of a skull

Protagonist: group of children on a nature walk; one child is alluded to as Native American

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 40

Notes: Includes six once-living animals: lynx, hummingbird, deer, beaver, wolf, owl and compares them to a human skull

See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Strong, smooth domes, skulls are more than remnants of creatures that used to be. They are artifacts that allow us to travel back through time.

Every ridge, hollow, and crevice of a skull reveals something about an animal’s habitat, food source, and skill set.

By observing the characteristics of six different animal skulls, readers can learn about the lives once led by a lynx, a deer, a beaver, a hummingbird, a wolf, and an owl.

Katherine Hocker’s lyrical text and Natasha Donovan’s fluid artwork, paired with sound scientific data and back matter resources, will ignite a child’s native curiosity and encourage mindful observation of the wonders hidden in nature—and ourselves.

Picture Book
More Dung!: A Beetle Tale

Author: Frank Weber

Illustrator: Frank Weber

Publication Date: May 14, 2024

Genre: picture book, folklore, humor

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5

Setting: dung beetle's home on a riverbank and a cow's barn

Themes: greed, poop, dung beetles, too much of a good thing, gratitude

Protagonist: small brown dung beetle with large eyes

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 48


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

The dung beetle thinks he has everything he needs: the warmth of the sun, a gurgling river, and as much dung as he could ever want.

But when a leopard tells him of a farm with even MORE dung, the beetle’s world suddenly looks small. And so he sets off to the farm, accruing more and more dung, building a veritable DUNG EMPIRE!

But a tower of dung comes with a tower of risk, and soon our insect hero finds himself buried in his greed. (Yes, he’s buried in poop.)

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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