New Release Round Up: March 22, 2022

It’s Tuesday again, and we have lots of ne releases to talk about, so let’s dive in!

As always, these titles will have inclusive characters (think racial and cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ representation, diverse family structures, disability representation, and more), and fall into a range of genres in both fiction and nonfiction categories.

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Picture Books

The Upside Down Hat by Stephen Barr, Illustrated by Gracey Zhang

The Little Prince meets Journey in this gorgeous, reassuring picture book fable about loss, perseverance, and finding what matters most.

What happens to a boy who has nothing but a hat?

Everything.

A boy wakes up one morning and finds that everything he owns has gone missing. With nothing but a simple green hat, the boy journeys through distant landscapes, searching high and low for the things he has lost. Along the way he discovers that perhaps everything he needs has been sitting on his head all along.

Stephen Barr makes his debut in this achingly poignant and deeply profound fable of one boy’s adventure to recover his life’s treasures. With vibrant illustrations by Gracey Zhang and a subtle message about hopeful perseverance, this book is an exquisite, emotional journey through loss, persistence, and discovering what’s truly essential.”

Not a Cat: A Memoir by Winter Miller, Illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff

A funny, expansive, affirming story with a powerful message of self-determination for young kids: No one can label us if we do not allow ourselves to be labeled. Our identities are ours to choose and to live.

Between his opening greeting and the bookend closing page on which he stalks away after taking no questions, Gato wants to make one thing perfectly clear: Although he has four legs, two ears, and a long, long tail, the word “cat” does not define him. His identity is his alone to describe and determine. With the help of Danica Novgorodoff’s laugh-out-loud illustrations, he takes us on a tour of his adventures, accomplishments, and daily activities that makes mincemeat of our first impressions. He wears a sweater and a leash, so is he a dog? He runs in pastures, so is he a horse? He likes flowers, so is he a bee? He swims, so is he a duck? He has flown in airplanes and ridden in subways, so is he a person? Maybe he’s all those things, but what he truly is, he wants us to know, is Gato.

To underline the story’s message of empowerment and self-identity, the back cover and backmatter include photos of the real Gato (Winter Miller’s cat) doing everything he claims and more. Signs on walls, headlines in newspapers, New Yorker cartoon homages, and sight gags on every page reward repeated readings and will make this book the first one that parents reach for at bedtime.”

Dress-Up Day by Blanca Gómez 

After missing her class costume party, a girl decides she doesn’t need an excuse to dress up in this charming, relatable school story

When a little girl is home sick for dress-up day at school, she decides there’s no need to miss out entirely: She’ll just wear her rabbit costume the next day!

But when the next day arrives and she’s the only one in costume, it doesn’t feel like such a great idea, after all. Can a little bit of confidence and an unexpected new friend turn a self-conscious moment into a wonderful one?

Funny, endearing, and relatable to any kid who’s ever felt insecure, Dress-Up Day is an ode to friendship, embracing individuality, and putting yourself out there no matter the occasion.”

All from a Walnut by Ammi-Joan Paquette, Illustrated by Felicita Sala

A moving, multigenerational story about love, family roots, and the cycle of life

When Emilia finds a walnut one morning, Grandpa tells her the story behind it: of his journey across the ocean to a new home, with only one small bag and a nut in his pocket.
   
“I planted my little tree in good brown soil, so it would grow strong here forever.”
“In this house? In 
this yard?”
“Shall we go see?”

   
Step by step, Grandpa teaches Emilia how to cultivate her own seed. But as her little nut grows, Grandpa begins to slow down—until one sad day, Emilia has to say goodbye. Emilia’s sapling looks as droopy as she feels . . . but she knows just what to do.

From acclaimed author and illustrator Ammi-Joan Paquette and Felicita Sala, this tender story is a poignant reminder that the best things grow with time—and that even when they are no longer here, the ones we love are always a part of us.”

The Garden We Share by Zoe Tucker, Illustrated by Swaney Julianna

To everything there is a season in this beautiful story about gardening, seasons, and treasured memories.

This inspiring picture book written by Zoë Tucker and illustrated by Julianna Swaney—the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines—celebrates the friendship between a young girl and an elderly woman as they plant seeds in a community garden alongside friends and neighbors, waiting for the seeds to flower. By mid-summer, the friends welcome a rainbow of color in the garden and picnics in the sun. At harvest, the young girl’s elderly friend is bed-ridden, but jubilant as they share baskets with red tomatoes and snap peas amid the sweet smell of lavender. When the last leaves fall, everything is different. But in the spring, hope arises anew.”

Nana the Great Comes to Visit by Lisa Tawn Bergren, Illustrated by David Hohn 

This joyous, energetic picture book from the bestselling author of the God Gave Us series celebrates the unique ways grandparents help children gain confidence.

It’s always a good time when Nana comes for a visit! Nana doesn’t mind making a mess while building forts. Nana plays checkers to win. Nana encourages climbing high, savoring dessert, and playing hopscotch. In short, everything’s more fun with Nana and her spunky outlook on life!

Nana the Great Comes to Visit celebrates the countless ways grownups help children learn to believe in themselves—and assures children that a grandparent’s love stays with them always.”

The Warrior’s Code: And How I Live It Every Day by Kate Hobbs, Illustrated by Savannah Allen 

Kai is a warrior!  And as a warrior, Kai has a code to live by and share with others.  This is the warrior’s code: to be peaceful, to be kind of heart, and to respect all living things.

An empowering “code of conduct” book that teaches kids age 4-8 that bravery and courage mean treating others with kindness, standing up for what’s right, and demonstrating peace and self-respect. 

Inspired by the classic spiritual text, Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior, this uplifting story for children will build self-esteem, cultivate kindness, and instill values of compassion, nonviolence, and honoring.  Written by a 7th degree Kajukenbo black belt, The Warrior’s Code distills the ethics of traditional martial arts into a simple and clear message that kids can memorize, embody, and understand.  Kids who follow the code of the warrior can become more mindful, resilient, and confident.”

Middle Grade

Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence by Sonja Thomas

From the Desk of Zoe Washington meets Ways to Make Sunshine in this heartfelt middle grade novel about a determined young girl who must rely on her ingenuity and scientific know-how to save her beloved cat.

Twelve-year-old Mira’s summer is looking pretty bleak. Her best friend Thomas just moved a billion and one miles away from Florida to Washington, DC. Her dad is job searching and he’s been super down lately. Her phone screen cracked after a home science experiment gone wrong. And of all people who could have moved into Thomas’s old house down the street, Mira gets stuck with Tamika Smith, her know-it-all nemesis who’s kept Mira in second place at the school science fair four years running.

Mira’s beloved cat, Sir Fig Newton, has been the most stable thing in her life lately, but now he seems off, too. With her phone gone and no internet over the weekend at her strict Gran’s house, Mira must research Fig’s symptoms the old-fashioned way: at the library. She determines that he has “the silent cat killer” diabetes. A visit to the vet confirms her diagnosis, but that one appointment stretched family funds to the limit—they’ll never be able to afford cat insulin shots.

When Mira’s parents tell her they may have to give Fig up to people who can afford his treatment, Mira insists she can earn the $2,000 needed within a month. Armed with ingenuity, determination, and one surprising ally, can Mira save her best (four-legged) friend before it’s too late?”

Troublemaker by John Cho

Troublemaker follows the events of the LA Riots through the eyes of 12-year-old Jordan as he navigates school and family. This book will highlight the unique Korean American perspective.

12-year-old Jordan feels like he can’t live up to the example his older sister set, or his parent’s expectations. When he returns home from school one day hoping to hide his suspension, Los Angeles has reached a turning point. In the wake of the acquittal of the police officers filmed beating Rodney King, as well as the shooting of a young black teen, Latasha Harlins by a Korean store owner, the country is at the precipice of confronting its racist past and present. 

As tensions escalate, Jordan’s father leaves to check on the family store, spurring Jordan and his friends to embark on a dangerous journey to come to his aide, and come to terms with the racism within and affecting their community.”

Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass

Rain Reign meets Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World in this heartfelt novel about a neurodivergent thirteen-year-old navigating changing friendships, a school trip, and expanding horizons.

Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track.

Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.

Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.”

Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II by Lia Levi, Illustrated by Jess Mason

In this award-winning memoir translated from Italian to English, a Jewish girl grows up during a difficult time of racial discrimination and war, and discovers light in unexpected places. This classic, powerful story from Lia Levi is adapted for young readers, with beautiful black-and-white illustrations, a family photo album, and a powerful author’s note to readers.

1938, Italy. Six-year-old Lia loves to build sandcastles at the beach and her biggest problem is her shyness and quiet, birdlike voice—until prime minister Mussolini joins forces with Hitler in World War II, and everything changes.

Now there are laws saying Jewish children can’t go to school, Jews can’t work, or go on vacation. It’s difficult for Lia to understand why this is happening to her family. When her father loses his job, they must give up their home and move from city to city.

As war comes closer, it becomes too dangerous to stay together, and Lia and her sisters are sent to hide at a convent. Will she ever be “just a girl” again?

The memoir is full of poignant moments of friendship and loss, dreaded tests at school, told in Lia’s captivating voice, as she grows into a young teen. Just a Girl is an important addition to the WWII Jewish canon.”

Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis by Susan Hood & Greg Dawson

The moving true story of how young Ukrainian Jewish piano prodigies Zhanna (alias “Anna”) and her sister Frina outplayed their pursuers while hiding in plain sight during the Holocaust. A middle grade nonfiction novel-in-verse by award-winning author Susan Hood with Greg Dawson (Zhanna’s son).

She wouldn’t be Zhanna. She’d use an alias. A for Anna. A for alive.

When the Germans invade Ukraine, Zhanna, a young Jewish girl, must leave behind her friends, her freedom, and her promising musical future at the world’s top conservatory. With no time to say goodbye, Zhanna, her sister Frina, and their entire family are removed from their home by the Nazis and forced on a long, cold, death march. When a guard turns a blind eye, Zhanna flees with nothing more than her musical talent, her beloved sheet music, and her father’s final plea: “I don’t care what you do. Just live.” 

This incredible true story in-verse about sisterhood, survival, and music is perfect for fans of Lifeboat 12, Inside Out and Back Again, and Alan Gratz.

Includes extensive back matter with original letters and photographs, additional information, and materials for further reading.”

That’s all I have for today. I hope you all enjoyed reading about these new releases, and hopefully you found one or two to add to your young reader’s shelves!

Which titles have you been looking forward to the most? Be sure to share in the comments below!

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