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We are now in the second month of 2024! I am still setting reading goals and making lists of books I want to read this year. My goal is to read at least 60 middle grade novels in 2024, and I’m off to a good start! I had a long list of February children’s book releases that I’ve read and loved and needed to narrow down for this list, so make sure to sign up for The Kids Are All Right newsletter, where I review even more new releases.
February is typically the coldest month of the year where I live in Tennessee, so it’s the perfect time to snuggle under blankets with a cup of tea and a good book. These ten February children’s book releases would make excellent winter companions for just such excursions.
In February picture book releases, I review brilliant books about language, imagination, friendship, bugs, and science. For February’s middle grade releases, I review two books about Pakistani American tweens, an Arabian Nights-inspired fantasy set in Egypt, a Sephardic Jewish historical fiction, and a contemporary novel about art and mental health. All of them are fantastic, and I hope you enjoy these new children’s book releases as much as I did.
February Children’s Book Releases: Picture Books
The Girl Who Loves Bugs by Lily Murray & Jenny Løvlie (February 6; Peachtree)
With lilting rhymes, Murray describes the young girl Evie and her zest for insects. Her two moms and sibling are grossed out by her interest, so Evie decides to take her bug friends inside so she can have as much time as she wants with them in the peace of her bedroom. The next day, however, is a family reunion, and the bugs escape from Evie’s room. When the bugs ruin lunch, Evie’s Gran comes to the rescue, and the two build a bug hotel outside. Murray based this exuberant insect celebration on entomologist Evelyn Cheesman. The illustrations are colorful and kid-friendly, and I love the queer representation with Evie’s two moms.
My Mother’s Tongues: A Weaving of Languages by Uma Menon & Rahele Jomepour Bell (February 23; Candlewick)
In this heartwarming picture book, a young girl describes the languages her family speaks. Her mother speaks Malayalam, the language of Kerala, where the girl’s mother lived until ten years ago and where the girl was born. Her mother also learned English in Kerala. The girl speaks Malayalam at home and English at school and with her friends. When she visits her family in Kerala, she learns that some can speak even more than two languages. Her mother teaches her that learning and practicing languages is good for the brain. The warm-toned illustrations emulate a woven tapestry, mirroring how the languages are woven together, and the smiling, loving family feels like a hug. This is a beautiful book about languages, immigration, and family.
I Lived Inside a Whale by Xin Li (February 20; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Emma’s home is filled with constant noise, both inside and outside. She longs for peace and quiet and feels inspired when she reads about blue whales. She creates a boat and whale and sails inside the whale’s mouth and into its stomach (her bedroom), where she can finally find a quiet space for her to read. But then Owen swims into the whale’s mouth and disturbs her silence. When the two make a deal, Emma realizes that she can be a storyteller, reader, and friend and that maybe the bustle of others isn’t always a bad thing. This whimsical picture book is full of imaginative illustrations that are so evocative of childhood.
Remembering Rosalind Franklin by Tanya Lee Stone & Gretchen Ellen Powers (February 20; Christy Ottaviano Books)
This infuriating picture book biography tells the story of Rosalind Franklin, a Jewish scientist in the 1950s who discovered the structure of DNA, though fellow male scientists would steal her work and later win a Nobel Prize for it. She would never know. Stone opens the book with an admission that Franklin’s story does not have a happy ending. Yet stories like hers are important to learn about because there are always many people who contribute to important work. Stone then describes Franklin’s childhood and how she became fascinated with photographs and working in the darkroom. She excelled at math and science, eventually going to college and working to create gas masks. She started working as a scientist at King’s College in X-ray crystallography and studying DNA. She often faced discrimination at King’s College for being a woman, though James Watson and Francis Crick took her advice and would eventually use her research to create a model of DNA. This is a beautifully illustrated picture book biography exploring science history and feminism.
February Children’s Book Releases: Middle Grade
Across So Many Seas by Ruth Behar (February 6; Nancy Paulsen Books)
This lovely historical fiction follows the lives of four Jewish 12-year-old girls in the same family across the centuries. It begins with the young poet Benvenida and her family’s expulsion from Spain in 1492 when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled all Jews from their kingdoms. The family finds refuge in Turkey, where we meet Reina in 1923. Her family forces her to move to Cuba, and then her daughter Alegra narrates her story in the 1960s as she volunteers as a literacy specialist and meets Fidel Castro. Each girl’s journey is so moving to read. Their stories are filled with terror and grief for lost homes and family. Each new country becomes home, loved and integrated into the family’s culture, only for them to be rejected from the country once more for being Jewish. This is essential reading for young historical fiction lovers and anyone looking for novels that center the Sephardic Jewish experience.
Lost Kites and Other Treasures by Cathy Carr (February 6; Amulet Books)
This quiet and beautiful middle grade novel follows 12-year-old Franny Petroski, whose mother left when she was four. Her grandmother, Nana, has raised her, and the two rent an apartment above a coffee shop. Franny loves making art with found objects, and their home is filled with her creations. When Nana breaks her leg taking out the trash, the two move to a one-story rental, and Franny’s uncle comes to live with them. Her uncle reveals things about Franny’s mother that she never knew, like how she was bipolar, and things become fraught at home. Meanwhile, she’s also having trouble with her friends at school. It’s a really lovely, character-driven novel.
Drawing Deena by Hena Khan (February 6; Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Deena’s stomach ties into knots whenever her parents fight, and she often wakes up in the morning queasy and unable to eat. She loves art and is trying to find her personal art style. Her friends encourage her, though she has trouble believing their compliments about her art. Meanwhile, she’s decided to help her mom with her Pakistani clothing boutique by creating a website, designing a logo, and starting a social media page. When she experiences her first panic attack at school, she learns she has anxiety. This is such a fantastic, realistic novel. I loved Deena’s supportive community of family and friends.
Daughters of the Lamp by Nedda Lewers (February 20; G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
This magical fantasy adventure infused with Egyptian fairytales is so much fun. Sahara Rashad is not the kind of kid you’d expect to get wrapped up in fantasy. She loves science and is always very logical. When she travels to Egypt to attend her uncle’s wedding, however, things begin happening that science just doesn’t explain. Events culminate in her late mother’s necklace glowing strangely and then suddenly disappearing. Sahara must find it. Entwined with her story is that of Morgana, Ali Baba’s servant in Baghdad in 985 CE. Fantasy readers will love this joyful romp.
The Partition Project by Saadia Faruqi (February 27; Quill Tree Books)
Maha Raheem, a Pakistani American tween who lives in Houston, wants to be a journalist when she grows up. She’s a little irritated when her grandmother, Dadi, moves in with the family from Pakistan and steals her bedroom. Maha now has to stay in the attic, and her busy physician parents have told her she has to ‘babysit’ Dadi after school. At school, Maha is initially excited about her media elective course, but when the teacher assigns a documentary project on the very first day of class, she’s disappointed. Documentaries feel more like stories than hard-hitting news. She has no idea what subject she wants to report on for the documentary, but as Dadi tells her about her childhood in Northern Pakistan and the partition, Maha realizes that sometimes stories and history are important news. Faruqi’s writing is sharp and funny, and I love Maha’s voice.
If you’re looking for more new children’s book releases beyond this list of February children’s book releases, check out my list of January new children’s book releases, December new children’s book releases, and November new children’s book releases.
You can find a full list of new releases in the magical New Release Index, carefully curated by your favorite Book Riot editors, organized by genre and release date.