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

Ground Zero

Written by Alan Katz

“In time for the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, master storyteller Alan Gratz (Refugee) delivers a pulse-pounding and unforgettable take on history and hope, revenge and fear — and the stunning links between the past and present. September 11, 2001, New York City: Brandon is visiting his dad at work, on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Out of nowhere, an airplane slams into the tower, creating a fiery nightmare of terror and confusion. And Brandon is in the middle of it all. Can he survive — and escape? September 11, 2019, Afghanistan: Reshmina has grown up in the shadow of war, but she dreams of peace and progress. When a battle erupts in her village, Reshmina stumbles upon a wounded American soldier named Taz. Should she help Taz — and put herself and her family in mortal danger? Two kids. One devastating day. Nothing will ever be the same.” – Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. (publisher)

Lucy Lopez, Coding Star

Written by Claudia Mills

“Talented Lucy Lopez finds her passion when she joins an after-school coding camp, but can her older sister come to terms with their shared hobby? Third-grader Lucy Lopez and her older sister Elena created the Let’s Have Fun Club, where they designed their own badges to put in a handbook and make up lists of things they have to do to earn each one. But now Elena is spending most of her time coding on the computer and Lucy feels left out. She decides to join the after-school coding camp in the hopes that Elena will want to add it to their Let’s Have Fun Club activities and it can be something they can do together. But when Lucy proves to be a natural, Elena is none too happy–why does Lucy have to do everything she does Parents and kids on the hunt for a fun and informative book about coding need look no further Perfect for fans of Judy MoodyIvy and Bean, and Clementine, the After-School Superstars series of chapter books features recurring characters, and each book highlights one activity they do at their after-school program. With large black-and-white illustrations, each book includes a bonus activity related to that book’s plot.” – Holiday House (publisher)

Stick with Me

Written by Jennifer Blecher

“An ice skater without a rink. An artist without a place to draw. Two misfit girls who become unlikely friends over the course of an unusual week. Readers of Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Rebecca Stead, and Lisa Graff will adore Stick with Me. Izzy’s best friend seems to be ditching her for the Queen of Mean, Daphne Toll. Izzy wants to fit in and have some real friends, but all she really has are her drawings. And then her family rents out their house during winter break for some extra cash–and that family’s daughter is sleeping in Izzy’s room and attending the same camp! Wren is focused on perfecting her ice-skating routine after tanking at sectionals last year. But when her sister qualifies for a life-changing treatment for her epilepsy, Wren is carted off to stay in a rented home near Boston. It doesn’t help that she’s forced to attend the local theater camp, where it seems like the mean girls have it out for her. Will Izzy and Wren’s shared status as targets of Phoebe and Daphne bring them closer? Or will middle school drama prevent them from ever becoming friends? Jennifer Blecher, the author of the acclaimed Out of Place, writes with a pitch-perfect ear for tween girls about the ups and downs of middle school friendships. Told from dual perspectives, Stick with Me is a story about fitting in and figuring yourself out.” – Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (publisher)

Cathedral of Bones

Written by A. J. Steiger

“A stunningly imagined world, page-turning thrills, and a pair of unlikely heroes on an epic quest make this unique and immersive dark fantasy–from acclaimed author A. J. Steiger–perfect for fans of Holly Black and Kelly Barnhill. Simon Frost lives in a curious place, where magic is used by the very best Animists to do wondrous things–like call upon imps, wraiths, and all manner of monsters to right wrongs, deliver justice, and accomplish feats no human could achieve. Simon Frost is not one of those Animists, though he’s been trying to become one for years. When a plea arrives from a distant hamlet, preyed upon by an abominable monster, Simon sees the opportunity to finally prove his worth. But upon arriving in the tiny village, Simon finds not just a monster but a key to his past–and a pathway into an unbelievable future.” – Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (publisher)

This is Your Time

Written by Ruby Bridges

“Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges–who, at the age of six, was the first black child to integrate into an all-white elementary school in New Orleans–inspires readers and calls for action in this moving letter. Her elegant, memorable gift book is especially uplifting in the wake of Kamala Harris making US history as the first female, first Black, and first South Asian vice president-elect. Written as a letter from civil rights activist and icon Ruby Bridges to the reader, This Is Your Time is both a recounting of Ruby’s experience as a child who had to be escorted to class by federal marshals when she was chosen to be one of the first black students to integrate into New Orleans’ all-white public school system and an appeal to generations to come to effect change. This beautifully designed volume features photographs from the 1960s and from today, as well as stunning jacket art from The Problem We All Live With, the 1964 painting by Norman Rockwell depicting Ruby’s walk to school. Ruby’s honest and impassioned words, imbued with love and grace, serve as a moving reminder that “what can inspire tomorrow often lies in our past.” This Is Your Time will electrify people of all ages as the struggle for liberty and justice for all continues and the powerful legacy of Ruby Bridges endures.” – Delacorte (publisher)

The Magic Fish

Written by Trung Le Nguyen

“Tiến loves his family and his friends…but Tiến has a secret he’s been keeping from them, and it might change everything. An amazing YA graphic novel that deals with the complexity of family and how stories can bring us together. Real life isn’t a fairytale. But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through? Is there a way to tell them he’s gay? A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected. The Magic Fish tackles tough subjects in a way that accessible with readers of all ages, and teaches us that no matter what–we can all have our own happy endings.” – RH Graphic (publisher)

Saucy

Written by Cynthia Kadohata

“From Newbery Medalist and National Book Award-winning author Cynthia Kadohata comes an irrepressible and heartwarming story about a girl and her ever-growing pig, Saucy–perfect for fans of The One and Only Ivan and Flora & Ulysses! Being a quadruplet can make it hard to stand out from the crowd. Becca’s three brothers all have something that makes them…them. Jake has his music and dancing, Jammer plays hockey, and K.C. thinks they’re all living in a simulation and doesn’t see the point of doing much of anything. Becca is the only one with nothing to make her special. But when she finds a tiny, sick piglet on the side of the road, Becca knows this is it. This is her thing. She names the piglet Saucy and between her own pleading and Saucy’s sweet, pink face, Becca convinces her family to take her in. Soon, Saucy is as big a part of the family as anyone else–and getting bigger. With each pound Saucy gains, the more capable she becomes of destroying the house and landing Becca in trouble. Some tough decisions need to be made about Becca’s pet, and her search for solutions brings to light exactly where Saucy came from. Turns out, there are a lot more scared piglets out there, and saving them may take Becca and her brothers finally doing something together.” – Atheneum Books for Young Readers (publisher)

Life in the Balance

Written by Jen Petro-Roy

“Veronica struggles to balance softball, friends, and family turmoil in this new honest and heartfelt middle grade novel by Jen Petro-Roy,Life in the Balance. Veronica Conway has been looking forward to trying out for the All-Star softball team for years. She’s practically been playing the game since she was a baby. She should have this tryout on lock. Except right before tryouts, Veronica’s mom announces that she’s entering rehab for alcoholism, and her dad tells her that they may not be able to afford the fees needed to be on the team. Veronica decides to enter the town talent show in an effort to make her own money, but along the way discovers a new hobby that leads her to doubt her feelings for the game she thought she loved so much. Is her mom the only one learning balance, or can Veronica find a way to discover what she really wants to do with her life?” – Feiwel & Friends (publisher)

Amari and the Night Brothers

Written by B. B. Alston

“Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black in this exhilarating debut middle grade fantasy, the first in a trilogy filled with #blackgirlmagic. Perfect for fans of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, the Percy Jackson series, and Nevermoor. Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good. So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton–if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real. Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny–especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.” – Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (publisher)

Red Stars: The Case of Victor and Nadya’s Notebooks

Written by Davide Morosinotto

“This middle grade mystery adventure, told in a unique format including diary entries, maps and photos, takes readers along on the harrowing journeys of two twelve-year-old siblings, separated just before the Nazi siege of their city and each desperate to reunite with one another. Twins Viktor and Nadya are twelve years old when Hitler’s Germany declares war on the Soviet Union. With little notice, the city’s children are evacuated on trains that are meant to take them to safety. Shockingly, Viktor and Nadya are separated, and disaster befalls them both. As the terrible conflict rages, each embarks on a desperate race across snow and ice, struggling through the destruction in an effort to be reunited. Their chances are slim, but they never lose hope. In an original format–using the kids’ diary entries, with historical photos, maps, and drawings throughout, this fictionalized account of the Nazi siege of Leningrad during the Second World War, this heart-stopping story of danger, courage and bravery emphasizes the power of truth and what it means to be a hero.” – Delacorte Press (publisher)

Ten Little Dumplings

Written by Larissa Fan

“If one son is lucky, then ten must be great luck indeed! But where does that leave an only daughter? Based on a true family story, this inspiring picture book about a different perspective tells the tale of a girl determined to be seen, who finds her own voice and makes her own luck. In the city of Tainan, there lives a very special family — special because they have ten sons who do everything together. Their parents call them their ten little dumplings, as both sons and dumplings are auspicious. But if you look closely, you’ll see that someone else is there, listening, studying, learning and discovering her own talent — a sister. As this little girl grows up in the shadow of her brothers, her determination and persistence help her to create her own path in the world . . . and becomes the wisdom she passes on to her own daughter, her own little dumpling. Based on a short film made by the author, inspired by her father’s family in Taiwan, Ten Little Dumplings looks at some unhappy truths about the place of girls in our world in an accessible, inspiring and hopeful way.” – Tundra Books (publisher)

The Boy Whose Head was Filled with Stars: A Life of Edwin Hubble

Written by Isabelle Marinov

“This is the story of Edwin Hubble, a boy fascinated by the stars who surmounted many hurdles to follow his dreams of becoming an astronomer. Using the insights of great mathematicians and endlessly observing the sky, he succeeded in confirming two things that altered human life forever: that there are more galaxies than our own, and that the universe is always expanding. Hubble’s message to us is to find peace in the vastness of the mystery surrounding us, and to be curious. “We do now know why we are born into the world,” he said, “but we can try to find out what sort of world it is.” – Enchanted Lion Books (publisher)