31 Days, 31 Lists: 2022 Science Fiction Books
Poor old, science fiction. Publishers are convinced it doesn’t sell. As a result, the number of books for kids that come out with that designation seems to shrink every year. I try to locate them. Honest I do! But if you find this year’s list a bit on the paltry side, know that I’m doing what I can to seek them in every nook and cranny. I love this much maligned genre, and I am determined to give it the attention it so richly deserves.
Want to read other science fiction lists that ALSO deserve love? Then check these out:
2022 Science Fiction Books
City Under the City by Dan Yaccarino
Bix lives in a city where robotic Eyes take care of everyone’s needs. But when she discovers an ancient city under the ground, she finds a love of books and reading she never had before. Now time for a revolution! Behold, the science fiction picture book. That rarest of rare beasts. Just anecdotally, when I happened to mention this book to a parent friend of mine she virtually grabbed my lapels and demanded I hand over a copy whenever I had a physical copy in hand. Why? Because this is just your average post-apocalyptic future in which a child finds the remains of an old world even as she discovers the beauty of choosing books for yourself. We see a lot of titles that are anti-screen but this is a much subtler and, quite frankly, more fun take on it all.
Field Trip to Volcano Island by John Hare
The third in the John Hare science fiction picture book series. I’ve read Field Trip to the Moon and Field Trip to the Ocean Deep before and I liked them fairly well. But out of all the books that Hare has done, I think that this one might be my favorite. Why? Honestly, I think he gets a lot more emotional heft and heart out of this story. In this tale a group of kids are wearing their protective hazmat suits and visiting an actual active volcano. One kid, however, is quite taken with the flowers that manage to grow in these harsh conditions. When the child accidentally stumbles on a family of, for lack of a better word, lava monsters, he’s touched by their sadness over being unable to hold the flowers. The solution is as clever as it is touching. Maybe it’s just that Hare does a more touching lava monster than he does an alien, but I really felt this one. A lovely little title without a word on the page.
Molly On the Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal, ill. Diana Mayo
Molly, her mom, and her baby brother Luke have moved to the moon. Each kid can only bring one toy each. So what happens when Luke starts playing with Molly’s toy? A lovely tale of empathy. Not a book that, upon first glance, I’d pay all that much attention to. It took a friend pointing it out to me for me to see what was really going on. And what’s going on could easily be a metaphor for any child living in a difficult situation. Kowal does this magnificent job of taking an extraordinary situation (living on the moon) and then applying these emotions that every kid can understand (when your little sibling plays with YOUR stuff). It’s only now, as I write this, that I realize that this is a COVID book. The kids are trapped indoors and that leads to inevitable frayed nerves. Brilliant. This is a tale of empathy, honestly told, beautifully rendered. Worth considering.
The Prisoner of Shiverstone by Linette Moore
11-year-old Helga has suddenly appeared on the mysterious Utley Island. She claims to have been separated from her parents, but is there more to her story? What is it she’s really looking for? As I often say, I admire comics that take big swings and tell their stories in unique ways. This book most certainly fit the bill. I like how long it takes for you to figure out what our heroine, Helga, is up to. You don’t even know if she’s a good guy or bad guy for much of the book. It also slowly introduces information about this world (a world where all the mad scientists were rounded up and put on one island and now anyone who shows any aptitude or love for science is viewed with suspicion) but in a comprehensible way. One thing I’m increasingly impressed with is how well certain comic authors are at making panel by panel moments logical and something you can follow. Another plus: Cool things go boom! There’s something to be said for that.
Red Scare by Liam Francis Walsh
What if the solution to all your problems just magically presented itself? It’s 1953 and Peggy is still recovering from polio. And when she finds an unearthly substance that even the government wants, she’ll do anything to keep it safe. Gorgeous. Walsh has really leaned into some of the more noir aspects of the 1950s. Since the creator lives in Switzerland, it’s not surprising that this book would have as many Tin-Tin influences as it does. And boy does it lean into those sweet 50s tropes. Polio, Commies, nasty American agents, and even some science fiction (though I was mighty surprised when that element came up in what I thought was a straightforward bit of historical fiction). What this really reminded me of a lot was Eugene Yelchin’s Spy Runner. This is definitely for older readers since kids get punched, kicked, and shot in the course of things, but it all turns out all right in the end. A fascinating action piece.
A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga
As I’ve probably mentioned four or five times in the course of today’s list, science fiction is a hard sell to publishers. Pervasive throughout the industry is a vague sense that kids don’t read it. Star Wars doesn’t count, of course, because “the Force” is so fantasy-ish. And the success of various superheroes? Same problem. Even so, let’s put our hands together for those middle grade fiction creators willing to give it a whirl. Of course, when it comes to Jasmine Warga’s A Rover’s Story, one question comes to mind: IS this science fiction? And the answer is, “Yes, but.” Yes, but it’s awfully realistic. I mean, we have placed rovers on Mars before. Even so, it’s doubtful they’ve had such rich inner lives as Resilience, the star of this particular book. Like an even more self-aware variation on Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot (to which this would be an excellent companion), Resilience (who is based on the real rover Perseverance) goes through various trials and tribulations with fellow robotical companions in tow. It’s a quick read and a fun one, though I was quite impressed by the degree to which Warga works in loss. Not everyone survives this book, and I appreciated that detail. Just makes it a little bit more real.
Your Pal Fred by Michael Rex
Yes. I’m aware that this is the third time I’ve mentioned this book in my posts. So far it’s shown up on the Funny list and the Comics and Graphic novels list. Why do I keep bringing it up over and over again? Because it’s stellar example of post-apocalyptic adorableness! Meet Fred. He wants to be your friend, even if you happen to be a killer robot, a warlord, or entirely covered in spikes. Resist his charm if you dare! Kind of what you’d get if you drop a lovable schmuck in the middle of Mad Max: Fury Road. Fred’s just sweet and there isn’t a drop of real violence in this whole book. Put another way, Fred’s like a little android Ted Lasso, merrily skipping through a hellscape, trying to stop war and violence, and handing out cheery stickers along the way. Niceness is seeing a real uptick in adult programming (how else to explain Our Flag Means Death?) so it makes sense that we’d see a little of that on the children’s side as well. Color me a Fred fan.
Want to see other lists? Stay tuned for the rest this month!
December 1 – Great Board Books
December 2 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 3 – Simple Picture Book Texts
December 4 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Funny Picture Books
December 7 – CaldeNotts
December 8 – Picture Book Reprints
December 9 – Math Books for Kids
December 10 – Gross Books
December 11 – Books with a Message
December 12 – Fabulous Photography
December 13 – Translated Picture Books
December 14 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales
December 15 – Wordless Picture Books
December 16 – Poetry Books
December 17 – Unconventional Children’s Books
December 18 – Easy Books & Early Chapter Books
December 19 – Comics & Graphic Novels
December 20 – Older Funny Books
December 21 – Science Fiction Books
December 22 – Fantasy Books
December 23 – Informational Fiction
December 24 – American History
December 25 – Science & Nature Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Books for Older Readers
December 29 – Best Audiobooks for Kids
December 30 – Middle Grade Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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