Ms. Nyman’s Top Middle Grade Books for April 2021

The Elephant in the Room

Written by Holly Goldberg Sloan

“From the New York Times bestselling author of Counting by 7s comes a heartfelt story about “the importance of compassion and bravery when facing life’s challenges” (Kirkus) for fans of The One and Only Ivan and Front Desk. It’s been almost a year since Sila’s mother traveled halfway around the world to Turkey, hoping to secure the immigration paperwork that would allow her to return to her family in the United States. The long separation is almost impossible for Sila to withstand. But things change when Sila accompanies her father (who is a mechanic) outside their Oregon town to fix a truck. There, behind an enormous stone wall, she meets a grandfatherly man who only months before won the state lottery. Their new alliance leads to the rescue of a circus elephant named Veda, and then to a friendship with an unusual boy named Mateo, proving that comfort and hope come in the most unlikely of places. A moving story of family separation and the importance of the connection between animals and humans, this novel has the enormous heart and uplifting humor that readers have come to expect from the beloved author of Counting by 7s.
– Dial Books for Young Readers (publisher)

The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst

Written by Jaclyn Moriarty

“Esther is a middle child, in her own mind a pale reflection of siblings who are bright, shining stars. Her mother doesn’t show the slightest bit of interest, no matter what Esther does. Still, she’s content to go back to school, do her best, hang out with her friends, and let others take care of things. But her best friends aren’t AT school when she gets there. Why didn’t they tell her they wouldn’t be coming back? Why were they silent all summer? But stuff like that happens. And it’s bad luck that her new teacher makes Esther the butt of all kinds of jokes. Mrs. Pollock is rumored to be an ogre–and maybe she IS one. Could be. Then things go from unfortunate to outright dangerous. The mountains surrounding the school–usually sparkling with glaciers and lakes, alive with Faeries, and sheltering a quaint town with really great bakeries–are now crowded with Shadow Mages, casting a noticeable pall, and clearly–to Esther–signifying something very dark and threatening. As the people she might have depended on to help are either strangely absent or in hiding, it’s left to ordinary, middle-child Esther (“just Esther”) to act. But she’ll have to burst out of the box of mediocrity she’s been but in, and do something absolutely extraordinary.”
– Levine Querido (publisher)

Cat Kid Comic Club

Written by Dav Pilkey

“Welcome to the Cat Kid Comic Club, where Li’l Petey (LP), Flippy, and Molly introduce 21 funny and talented baby frogs to the art of comic making. Readers of all ages will unleash their own creativity as they open the door to visual comic book storytelling with the help of Dav Pilkey and his heartfelt, humorous, and amazing cast of characters.” – Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic (publisher)

The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy

Written by Mary Winn Heider

“A tuba player without a tuba and his jellyfish-imitating sister cope with their father’s disappearance in this hilarious and moving novel by the author of The Mortification of Fovea Munson. When Lenny Volpe, former quarterback of the worst professional football team in the nation, leaves his family and disappears, the Chicago Horribles win their first game in a long time. Fans are thrilled. The world seems to go back to normal. Except for the Volpe kids. Winston throws himself into playing the tuba, and Louise starts secret experiments to find a cure for brain injuries, and they’re each fine, just fine, coping in their own way. That is, until the investigation of some eccentric teacher behavior and the discovery of a real live bear paraded as the Horribles’ new mascot make it clear that things are very much Not Fine. The siblings may just need each other, after all.”
– Little, Brown and Company (publisher)

In Honor of Ms. Nyman’s Upcoming Retirement: Ms. Nyman’s Favorite Middle Grade Books

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup

Written by Sharon Creech

“With the help of her wise old grandmother, twelve-year-old Rosie manages to work out some problems in her relationship with her best friend, Bailey, the boy next door.” – Joanna Cotler Books (publisher)

The Year of Miss Agnes

Written by Kirkpatrick Hill

“A Smithsonian Notable Book for Children A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year &;Genius.&; &;The New York Times Book Review A beautiful repackage marking the twentieth anniversary of the beloved, award-winning novel that celebrates teachers and learning. Ten-year-old Frederika (Fred for short) doesn’t have much faith that the new teacher in town will last very long. After all, they never do. Most teachers who come to their one-room schoolhouse in remote Alaska leave at the first smell of fish, claiming that life there is just too hard. But Miss Agnes is different: she doesn’t get frustrated with her students, and finds new ways to teach them to read and write. She even takes a special interest in Fred&;s sister, Bokko, who has never come to school before because she is deaf. For the first time, Fred, Bokko, and their classmates begin to enjoy their lessons&;but will Miss Agnes be like all the rest and leave as quickly as she came?” – Margaret K. McElderry (publisher)

Half and Half

Written by Lensey Manioka

“Fiona Cheng is half and half: Her father is Chinese and her mother is Scottish. Fiona looks more like her father than her mother, so people always expect her to be more interested in her Chinese half than her Scottish half. Lately even Fiona’s confused about who she really is.” – Dell Yearling (publisher)

Project Mulberry

Written by Linda Sue Park

“Julia Song and her friend Patrick would love to win a blue ribbon, maybe even two, at the state fair. This time, though, they’re having trouble coming up with just the right plan. Then Julia’s mother offers a suggestion: They can raise silkworms, as she did when she was a girl in Korea. Patrick thinks it’s a great idea. But for Julia, a simple summer project turns out to be much more complicated than she thought.” – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (publisher)

Esperanza Rising

Written by Pam Muñoz Ryan

“Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.” – Scholastic (publisher)