Ms. Nyman’s Top Middle Grade Picks for February 2021

Pity Party

Written by Kathleen Lane

“Welcome to Pity Party, where the social anxieties that plague us all are twisted into funny, deeply resonant, and ultimately reassuring psychological thrills.

There’s a story about a mood ring that tells the absolute truth. One about social media followers who literally follow you around. And one about a kid whose wish for a new, improved self is answered when a mysterious box arrives in the mail. There’s also a personality test, a fortune teller, a letter from the Department of Insecurity, and an interactive Choose Your Own Catastrophe.” – Little, Brown and Company (publisher)

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford

“From a creative team with multiple Caldecott Honors comes this vibrant portrait of Aretha Franklin that pays her the R-E-S-P-E-C-T this Queen of Soul deserves. Aretha Franklin was born to sing. The daughter of a pastor and a gospel singer, her musical talent was clear from her earliest days in her father’s Detroit church where her soaring voice spanned more than three octaves. Her string of hit songs earned her the title “the Queen of Soul”; multiple Grammy Awards, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But Aretha didn’t just raise her voice in song, she also spoke out against injustice and fought for civil rights. This authoritative, rhythmic picture book biography will captivate young readers with Aretha’s inspiring story.” – Atheneum Books for Young Readers (publisher)

The World Between Blinks

Written by Amie Kaufman & Ryan Graudin

“Bestselling authors Amie Kaufman and Ryan Graudin invite readers into a wondrous world where lost things are found, and where two cousins must come face-to-face with the impossible…This first book in an exciting, fast-paced fantasy adventure series–featuring fun, interesting facts about history–is perfect for fans of Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s The Missing series!” – Quill Tree Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (publisher)

Before the Ever After

Written by Jacqueline Woodson

“National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson’s stirring novel-in-verse explores how a family moves forward when their glory days have passed and the cost of professional sports on Black bodies.” – Nancy Paulsen Books (publisher)

Sugar in Milk

Written by Thrity Umrigar

“A young immigrant girl joins her aunt and uncle in a new country that is unfamiliar to her. She struggles with loneliness, with a fierce longing for the culture and familiarity of home, until one day, her aunt takes her on a walk. As the duo strolls through their city park, the girl’s aunt begins to tell her an old myth, and a story within the story begins…The folktale depicted in this book was a part of author Thrity Umrigar’s Zoroastrian upbringing as a Parsi child in India, but resonates for children of all backgrounds, especially those coming to a new homeland.” – RP Kids (publisher)

I Talk Like a River

Written by Jordan Scott

“When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him. Poet Jordan Scott writes movingly in this powerful and ultimately uplifting book, based on his own experience, and masterfully illustrated by Greenaway Medalist Sydney Smith. A book for any child who feels lost, lonely, or unable to fit in.” – Holiday House (publisher)

Outside In

Written by Deborah Underwood

“Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors.
Rhythmic, powerful language shows us how our world is made, the many ways Outside comes in to help and heal us, and reminds us that we are all part of a much greater universe. Emotive illustrations evoke the beauty, simplicity, and wonder that awaits us all . . .outside.” – Houghton Mufflin Harcourt (publisher)

Me & Mama

Written by Cozbi A. Cabrera

“With lyrical prose and a tender touch, Mama and Me is an ode to the strength of the bond between a mother and a daughter as they spend a rainy day together.” – Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (publisher)

When You Trap a Tiger

Written by Tae Keller

“An uplifting story of a girl discovering a secret family history when she makes a deal with a magical tiger from her grandmother’s stories, the Korean version of “Once upon a time…” Tae Keller, the award-winning author of The Science of Breakable Things, shares a sparkling tale about the power of stories and the magic of family. Think Walk Two Moons meets Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.” – Random House (publisher)

When Stars are Scattered

Written by Victoria Jamieson

“Heartbreak and hope exist together in this remarkable graphic novel about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a Somali refugee to the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl. Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.” – Dial Books for Young Readers (publisher)

Fighting Words

Written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

“Heartbreak and hope exist together in this remarkable graphic novel about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a Somali refugee to the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl. Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.” – Dial Books for Young Readers (publisher)