New Release Spotlight – July 9, 2024

This week’s Spotlight is heavier on YA and picture books. Middle grade titles were a bit skimpy this week, so I’ve added a fantasy book that I didn’t get to for last week’s Spotlight.

My top picks this week:

  • The Darkness Within Us by Tricia Levenseller (YA)
  • Clever Crow by Chris Butterworth (informational picture book)
  • I Am La Chiva!: The Colorful Bus of the Andes by Karol Hernández (picture book)


All three presentations are in Canva and editable! Just click below, then go to File-Make a Copy in your Canva account. If you do not have a Canva account, you can get a free educator account here (must be verified).

I will add titles to the Canva presentations throughout July 2024. By the end of July, each presentation will have around 20 titles on it. So great to play on a loop in the library!

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 #4175 – #4187 on The Ginormous Booklist.


YA Novel in Verse
Sunrise Nights (Jeff Zentner and Brittany Cavallaro)

The narratives in this YA romance alternate between two female and male love interests. Both face struggles in their personal lives, from a degenerative eye disease to parental separation and anxiety.

Co-authors Jeff Zentner and Brittany Cavallaro are both seasoned YA authors. Zentner is the author of multiple YA novels, including The Serpent King, Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee, and several others. Brittany Cavallaro is the author of the Charlotte Holmes series.

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Jeff Zentner and Brittany Cavallaro
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): romance, novel in verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Setting: summer arts camp at Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
  • Themes: summer camp, degenerative eye disease, anxiety, parental divorce, photography, dance, vision disorders, arts, art camp, alternating viewpoints
  • Protagonist: perspectives alternate between male and female love interests, both white
  • Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly, BCCB, and Booklist
  • Pages: 400


Jude loves photography, and he’s good at it, too. Between his parents’ divorce and his anxiety, being behind a camera is the only time his mind is quiet.

Florence is confronting the premature end of her dance career as a degenerative eye disease begins to steal her balance. She’s having a hard time letting go.

The two meet at Sunrise Night, their sleepaway art camp’s dusk-to-dawn closing celebration, and decide to take a chance on each other. Their one rule: No contact for a year after the sun has risen. Over the course of three Sunrise Nights, will Florence and Jude find a deeper connection and learn who they are—and who they could be together?

YA Thriller
How to Die Famous (Benjamin Dean)

Pair this one with Jeanette McCurdy's memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died. This is a mystery that centers on exploitation and abuse in the child acting industry in Hollywood.

Currently no starred reviews, but this murder mystery will be oh-so-easy to booktalk.

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Benjamin Dean
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): thriller, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Setting: Hollywood, California, USA
  • Themes: child actors, fame, celebrities, exploitation, suspicious deaths, death of a sibling (brother), detectives, toxicity of fame, pop culture references, abuse, racism, sexism, alternating perspectives
  • Protagonist: perspectives alternate between: teen male, actor, British, mixed race and teen female, actress, white
  • Starred reviews: no starred reviews
  • Pages: 384


Rising star Abel Miller has just landed a role in one of the hottest reboots on the Omni Channel, Sunset High.

It looks like he’ll be yet another budding celebrity plucked from obscurity, but he has a secret: his brother, Adam, a mere production associate, died during the filming of the last attempt at Sunset High, and no one knows how… or why.

Abel is going to find out.

But when he meets the other stars of the show — Lucky, Ryan, and Ella, along with creator Lake Carter — he realizes there’s even more darkness beneath the shimmer of fame.

They all have their own secrets to hide, and one of them is willing to kill to keep it that way.

YA Mythology
Rise (Freya Finch)

My 17-year old son is very into Norse mythology, so I've recommended Rise to him! This looks like a fun fantasy adventure full of Norse gods and goddesses, Valkyries, and sisterhood. Very cool!

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Freya Finch
  • Publication date: July 2, 2024
  • Genre(s): fantasy, mythology, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Setting: Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • Themes: Norse mythology, gods and goddesses, zombies, Ragnarök, war, sisters, Renaissance Faire, Valhalla, Loki
  • Protagonist: female, age 17, white, modern-day Valkyrie of Norse mythology
  • Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly
  • Pages: 384


For seventeen-year-old Bryn, being the youngest, messiest, most rebellious sister in a family of valkyries isn’t easy. Especially considering home is a Renaissance faire in Chicago full of costumed workers who see her as nothing more than a nuisance. When her mother disappears on a mission for Odin, Bryn begins having strange visions about the impending Ragnarök. Bryn senses their mother is in great danger, but her annoyingly perfect older sisters refuse to take her seriously. Their mother is, after all, captain of the valkyries.

Things only take a turn for the worse when a half human, half giant named Juniper crashes the party with a violent zombie in tow, confirming Bryn’s worst fears—her visions of Ragnarök are real.

If that wasn’t enough, the faire’s mysterious new addition, Wyatt the Black Knight, just so happens to have a ferocious secret that threatens everyone around him.

Determined to survive Ragnarök, Bryn, Juniper, and Wyatt team up to combat the horde of monsters that keeps appearing throughout the faire. But after Bryn ignores the call to deliver Wyatt to Odin’s eternal warriors in Valhalla, choosing to save his life instead, she starts to wonder if she’ll ever get this valkyrie thing right.

Whispers of divine interference—including sightings of the mischievous Loki—reach Bryn’s ears. Soon everyone at the faire becomes a suspect, leaving Bryn, her sisters, and their newfound friends the only ones who can stop the war to end all realms.

Whether she’s ready or not, Bryn is about to learn how the ties between fate and choice are as interwoven and unbreakable as the bonds between sisters.

YA Dystopia
Unbecoming (Seema Yasmin)

I have read several books about abortion and restrictive abortion laws, particularly in Texas. I will likely read this one also!

Pair it with Plan A by Deb Caletti, Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller, or Girls Like Us by Randi Pink. Or, for a history of abortion rights in the US, try Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights by Karen Blumenthal.

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Seema Yasmin
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): dystopia
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Setting: Texas, USA, near future
  • Themes: abortion, teen pregnancy, human rights, oppression, choice, compulsory sterilization in India in 1970s, body autonomy, best friends, overturning of Roe v. Wade
  • Protagonist: female, age 17, Muslim, Indian American; and female, Muslim, Palestinian American, pansexual
  • Starred reviews: Booklist
  • Pages: 352
  • Notes: Author Seema Yasmin is a medical doctor and journalist.


In a not-too-distant America, abortions are prosecuted and the right to choose is no longer an option. But best friends Laylah and Noor want to change the world. After graduating high school, they’ll become an OBGYN and a journalist, but in the meantime, they’re working on an illegal guide to abortion in Texas.

In response to the unfair laws, underground networks of clinics have sprung up, but the good fight has gotten even more precarious as it becomes harder to secure safe medication and supplies. Both Laylah and Noor are passionate about getting their guide completed so it can help those in need, but Laylah treats their project with an urgency Noor doesn’t understand—that may have something to do with the strange goings-on between their mosque and a local politician.

Fighting for what they believe in may involve even more obstacles than they bargained for, but the two best friends will continue as they always have: together.

YA Steampunk
A Magic Fierce and Bright (Hemant Nayak)

A YA dystopian steampunk novel set in India 400 years in the future? Yes, please!

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Hemant Nayak
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, dystopia
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Setting: India, 400 years into the future
  • Themes: magic, powers, missing girls, sisters, twins, found families, sentient objects, thieves, British Empire
  • Protagonist: teen female, Indian
  • Starred reviews: Booklist
  • Pages: 384


Adya wants nothing more than to be left alone. Content to be loyal to no one but herself in the isolated jungles of South India, she dreams only of finding her lost sister, Priya, and making enough money to take care of their family.

It’s too bad that her rare ability to wake electric machines—using the magic that wiped them out five centuries ago—also makes her a coveted political pawn. Everyone seems to believe that her technomancy can help them win the endless war for control over the magic’s supernatural source.

These senseless power struggles mean little to Adya. But when her enemies dangle news of her sister before her, she’s all too quick to leap at the chance to bring Priya home—even if it means teaming up with a rakish, disreputable thief in order to do it.

With the threat of invasion looming ever larger on the horizon, Adya must reconcile the kind of person she is with the kind of person she wants to be and untangle the web of intrigue, conspiracy, and deceit that threatens to take all of India down with it.

YA Romantasy
The Darkness Within Us (Tricia Levenseller)

That cover image reminds me of the potion from Death Becomes Her. But seriously, this sounds really good, especially for students who are into the Bridgerton series on Netflix.

This regency romance features a not-so-nice narrator who is smart and scheming for her aged husband to die and leave her his fortune. That happens, but unknown "heir" - a handsome one at that - comes into the picture.

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Tricia Levenseller
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): romance, fantasy, romantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: sisters, sibling rivalry, jealousy, enemies-to-lovers, wealth, privilege, royalty, royal heirs, inheritances, scheming narrators, regency
  • Protagonist: female, age 19, “dark beige” skin tone
  • Starred reviews: no starred reviews
  • Pages: 336
  • Notes: Companion to: The Shadows Between Us


Chrysantha Stathos has won.
By hiding her intelligence and ambition behind the mask of a beautiful air-headed girl, she has become a wealthy duchess. And, once her elderly husband dies, she will have all the freedom, money, and safety she’s ever wanted.

Or so she thought.
A man claiming to be the estranged grandson of Chrysantha’s lecherous late husband has turned up to steal her inheritance. To make matters worse, her little sister is going to be queen and is rubbing it in her face.

Chrysantha decides that the only thing to do is upstage Alessandra at her own wedding. And as for this grandson, he has to go. Never mind that he’s extremely handsome and secretive with mysterious powers…No, Chrysantha wants Eryx Demos dead, and in the end, a Stathos girl always gets what she wants.

MG Fantasy
Farrah Noorzad and the Ring of Fate (Deeba Zargarpur)

Anything with different world mythologies is a hit in my book! This one focuses on Persian mythology and jinns.

The premise starts out like many of this genre: a young protagonist finds out she is half-jinn and has powers she never realized she had. She also learns she has a half-brother. Together, they must free their dad from a prison the daughter accidentally trapped him in.

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Deeba Zargarpur
  • Publication date: July 2, 2024
  • Genre(s): fantasy, mythology, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Persian mythology, djinns, family history, half-siblings, secret siblings, family secrets, family heritage, magical objects, fathers and daughters, strong worldbuilding
  • Protagonist: female, age 12, Afghan American
  • Starred reviews: no starred reviews
  • Pages: 336


Farrah sees her father just one day every year—her birthday.

But this year, her wish to bring them closer goes wildly awry when Farrah discovers she is a half-jinn…and her father is one of the seven great jinn kings.

Her wish traps her father inside a legendary ring, and the other six jinn kings will follow unless Farrah can rectify her mistake.

Pursued by menacing shadow jinn, Farrah’s quest takes her to a floating mountain range.

Joined by Idris, the jinn boy whom she inadvertently freed from the ring, and her newly discovered half-brother, Yaseen, Farrah must find a way to navigate the mysteries and dangers of her new world in order to save her father and face the most devious jinn lord of all.

MG Supernatural
The 66th Rebirth of Frankie Caridi (Johnny Marciano)

This is the story of an 8th grade girl living in her charismatic younger brother's shadow. When she and her brother start attending a strange boarding school, they learn a lot about their family history and their own abilities.

This will appeal to fans of Rick Riordan, Derek Landy, and Holly Black.

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Johnny Marciano
  • Illustrator: Ashley Mackenzie
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, mythology
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Setting: Pythagorean Institute, a strange boarding school in Proserpina, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Themes: siblings, boarding schools, family secrets, powers, genetic abnormalities, superhuman strength, Roman mythology
  • Protagonist: female, age 13, white, 8th grader
  • Starred reviews: BCCB
  • Pages: 240


Frankie is used to living in her younger brother’s shadow. Lucie is outgoing, smart, kind, and has horns. Yes, horns.

Frankie’s life has always revolved around Lucie, so when she’s told she must attend a new boarding school because Lucie has been given a full scholarship, she knows she has no other choice.

But something about The Pythagorean Institute is off. The building looks like a prison, half of the students have horns like her brother, and the headmaster acts more like a cult leader than a principal.

Even weirder, however, are the dreams Frankie has been having since she moved into her dorm. Dreams that sometimes seem more like… memories.

Trapped in this new school with no way home, Frankie must get to the bottom of why the place unsettles her so much. But in learning about the Institute, Frankie learns more about herself–and her past–than she could ever have expected.

What she discovers brings her out of her brother’s shadow and gives her powers beyond belief, but the spotlight comes with its own set of troubles.

Picture Book
Sour Apple (Linda Liu)

A green apple with a brown spot is sad to be left behind after the apple harvest. Why wasn't he picked? What will become of him now?

Kids and adults will certainly identify with being picked last (or at least the fear of being picked last). I love how the end of this story ends with hope and something much better for our appley narrator.

A great choice for storytimes related to apples, harvesting, and autumn.

See it on Amazon


  • Author and Illustrator: Linda Liu
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 4
  • Setting: apple orchard at harvest time
  • Themes: being picked last, harvest, autumn, apples, fruit, personification, individuality, Snow White, allusions to apples in history and literature, apple-themed adages
  • Protagonist: green apple with a brown spot
  • Starred reviews: SLJ
  • Pages: 40


Ever been picked last? Well, this sour apple knows a thing or two about what it feels like to be forgotten. When apple season passes and he’s left on the cold, hard ground, he questions his place in the world.

As his introspection branches out into different ideas of what could have been if he was chosen, he learns some core truths about what it means to be alive.

Picture Book Biography
Bridges Instead of Walls: The Story of Mavis Staples (Mavis Staples and Carole Boston Weatherford)

This is an excellent choice for music classes looking to introduce students to some of the most influential musicians in the last 100 years.

Pair this picture book biography with Jonah Winter's Elvis is King, Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci Todd, or Respect: Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford.

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
  • Illustrator: Steffi Walthall
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 1-4
  • Setting: Chicago, Illinois, USA and other areas of the USA
  • Themes: singers, music, prejudice, racism, overcoming adversity, gospel music, Martin Luther King Jr., Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
  • Protagonist: Mavis Staples, an African American female singer and activist
  • Starred reviews: Booklist
  • Pages: 48


At 85, Mavis Staples is still singing in front of large audiences and sharing her message of love, faith, and justice.

She’s been performing since age eight as part of her family’s gospel group The Staple Singers, and has become one of America’s most admired musicians, with multiple Grammys, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

But Mavis has been more than a thrilling singer; she has also stood alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., at numerous Civil Rights protests where her voice was a rallying cry to the country.

Now she and acclaimed author Carole Boston Weatherford bring her story and her inspiring message to young people in this poetic audiobook.

Informational Picture Book
Clever Crow (Chris Butterworth)

Students will have a new appreciation of crows with this gorgeous picture book! It focuses on crow intelligence, use of tools, and playfulness.

This title is on my Sibert Medal (given for informational books for children) watch list for 2025. It's got unique illustrations and interesting facts presented in a fun, kid-friendly way.

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Chris Butterworth
  • Illustrator: Olivia Lomenech Gill
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): informational picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: crows, birds, ornithology, animal intelligence, animals that use tools
  • Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly
  • Pages: 32


Crows may not have flashy feathers, beautiful songs, or fancy flying skills, but if a crow looks at you with its small, round eye, you can be sure that it’s thinking, as these birds have very big brains. Did you know that crows will use a stick to poke into a crevice to tease out tasty bugs? Or that they like to play like kids by tumbling down a snowy roof? Or that they remember where they hide their food—but sometimes only pretend to bury a treat to fool other birds? Original and accessible, with Chris Butterworth’s welcoming text and gorgeous, expressive artwork from Olivia Lomenech Gill, Clever Crow is sure to generate newfound respect for these unassuming creatures that young readers come across every day.

Picture Book
I Am La Chiva!: The Colorful Bus of the Andes (Karol Hernández)

Super-colorful and detailed illustrations give readers plenty to look at in this adorable picture book set rural Colombia.

Great for transportation units, or units about international communities.

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Karol Hernández
  • Illustrator: Lorena Alvarez Gómez
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2
  • Setting: rural areas of the Andes Mountains of Colombia
  • Themes: Colombian culture, buses, things that go, transportation, Spanish language
  • Protagonist: adults and children living in a Colombian community
  • Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and SLJ
  • Pages: 40


This joyful and rhyming picture book written by a debut author and illustrated by the beloved creator of Nightlights and Hicotea, follows the iconic bus, or chiva, as it navigates the rugged Andes mountains, celebrating the rich culture and landscape of Colombia that was so beautifully showcased in Disney’s Encanto.

Informational Picture Book
Sleepy: Surprising Ways Animals Snooze (Jennifer Ward)

This title does not technically meet my criteria of two positive professional reviews. It only has one Kirkus (starred) review at this time. But I've included it on this week's Spotlight because it's from Caldecott honor winning illustrator Robin Page (What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?).

See it on Amazon


  • Author: Jennifer Ward
  • Illustrator: Robin Page
  • Publication date: July 9, 2024
  • Genre(s): informational picture book, poetry
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Setting: various animal habitats
  • Themes: animals, habitats, sleep, nature, life science, zoology, poetry, hibernation, bedtime
  • Starred reviews: Kirkus
  • Pages: 32


Just like people, all animals need sleep, but not all animals sleep in the same way.

When dolphins sleep, half their brain stays awake. Snakes sleep with their eyes open. Giraffes sleep in five-minute intervals, while koalas sleep for twenty-two hours a day!

From grizzly bears to hummingbirds, there are creatures of all sizes and habitats to wish a good night in this cozy and compelling book.




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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