Middle-grade books set in New York City, or really all things set in NYC tend to be the perfect dreamy indulgence. It seems that everyone on television wants to move to New York. That’s why we can’t get enough of media set there.
Sofia Acosta Makes a Scene follows fifth grader Sofia Acosta who feels like the black sheep of her ballet-loving family. Her parents were professional dancers who emigrated from Cuba to the United States. Her sister, Regina is a ballet prodigy whose eyes are set on the American Ballet Theater (ABT) and even their little brother Manuel is an excellent ballet dancer. Sofia, though? She can’t stop stepping on people’s toes when she dances. What she loves the most is sewing the costumes for the dancers and hanging out with her best friend Tricia. But when a family friend visiting from Cuba hints at staying in the US long-term to dance for the ABT, Tricia’s response hints at prejudice that Sofia never saw coming. Will Sofia stand up for what’s right?
Four girls from different backgrounds are selected to become “The Flyers” for Spread Your Wings Magazine. Elena is a shy Latina who lives in her best friend’s shadow and is uncomfortable about the pubescent changes in her body. Harlow is a Japanese-American wannabe journalist, Cailin, a young influencer, and Whitney, a Black fashionista who secretly has panic attacks. The girls spend a week in New York City together than bonds them as friends and gives them the courage to find their voices.
Big Apple Diaries is Alyssa Bermudez’s graphic memoir detailing her life experiences in New York City between the 7th and 8th grades. Her middle school years also coincide with the attack on 9/11 and the book documents the impact on her and her circle. Prior to that, though, Alyssa is an average tween who attends a Catholic co-ed school, likes doodling, and has a crush on a schoolmate named Alejandro. Her parents are also divorced, so she spends time between each of their apartments in New York.
Curtis Pith is a huge fan of the cooking show, Super Chef, and not just because he loves cooking. He has a huge secret: the host of the show, Lucas Taylor is his father. So when Taylor announces a final season of the show, but for kids, Curtis knows he has to apply. Once he’s accepted and meets the four other kids, it’s straight to work. Between contests, homesickness, and figuring out how to keep his secret while observing Lucas Taylor’s changing behavior, Curtis has his hands full. But will he be The Last Super Chef?
Simone Thibodeau is in her senior year of high school and is ready for some freedom from her strict Haitian parents (especially her mother). She’s been dreaming of her perfect prom experience with long-time crush, Gavin as her prom date, but the dream is threatened when her mom arranges a prom date (just as they did for Simone’s older sister) for her. But Simone isn’t backing down easily this time. She joins forces with two other daughters of protective immigrant parents: Amita and Kira. Together, they make a bucket list of sorts, including items like “spend a day in NYC” and “go to the club.” The girls are determined to take charge of their lives.
All You Knead Is Love follows 12-year-old Alba whose mother forces her to move from NYC to Barcelona, Spain where her grandmother lives. Alba is gender non-conforming, which means that she doesn’t like the typical “girly” dresses or frilly tops her parents often want her to wear. She’s happiest in her jeans and t-shirts. Alba’s father is physically abusive, especially towards her mother, and generally treats Alba with disregard.
Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger’s mom says he’s “charming as a verb” — and she’s right! Henri’s parents are Haitian immigrants. While his dad is their building’s Super, his mom is studying to become a firefighter. He’s popular at his high school and runs a successful dog walking business. The thing is: he tells customers that there’s an entire network of dogwalkers, of which he’s just one. When his neighbor and fellow high schooler Corrine’s mother hires him to walk their dog, Corrine quickly uncovers his sham of a company.
Georgia’s father was a renowned fine artist in New York before he died from cancer while only in his fifties. It’s been two years since he died, and her mom seems to be absorbed in managing his estate and trying to keep the family afloat financially. Georgia is still deeply grieving and dealing with several complicated feelings about her father, the world’s view of him, and her friendship with her oldest and best friend, Theo, who was also close to her dad.