The genre of steampunk, a type of science fiction, is making its way into books for children and young adults. Steampunk features a return to an historical time period with steam engines, clockwork gears, and gadgets and without the technological advances of today.
“Steampunk ABC” by Lisa Falkenstern, 2014, Amazon Publishing, ages 6 and older.
An alphabet picture book format is used to present basic elements of steampunk to readers of all ages. Two mouse characters, dressed in Victorian clothing demonstrate a gadget for each letter of the alphabet, including a gear, a periscope, and a rivet. Those new to steampunk will find the clever illustrations a helpful introduction to elements that usually appear in steampunk novels.
“Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times” by Emma Trevayne, 2014, Simon & Schuster, 307 pages, ages 8-12.
In this fantasy story, the city of London exists in two parallel worlds. In the London of 1899, trolleys, carriages, gas lamps, and a majestic clock tower are the sights. On a visit to Londinium, one would see metal faeries, fearsome clockwork dragons, smoke and soot, and the clock tower, with a few changes. For young Jack Foster the clock tower serves as a door to between both cities, and his travels teach Jack that adventure, danger, friends and foes exist in both cities.
“The Dark Unwinding” by Sharon Cameron, 2012, Scholastic Press, 318 pages, ages 12 and up.
Mr. Tully is an inventor and toymaker of great ingenuity, but his odd behavior causes the family to question his sanity. Katharine Tulman is sent by her aunt to determine if his lunacy has caused a squandering of the family fortune. Katharine wants to do her aunt’s bidding, to ensure her own future, but she comes to realize that her uncle’s tinkering is more than just fun and games, and his unusual antics elicit angst among some and deep caring among others. Katharine must decide where her allegiances lie before time runs out.
“Alistair Grim’s Odditorium” by Gregory Funaro, Illustrated by Vivienne To, 2015, Disney, 419 pages, ages 10 and up.
An Odditoria is a creature or thing that functions with magic, and in this world of clocks, mechanical bats, and the Black Fairy, magic is a necessity for all, except a boy named Grubb. Suddenly catapulted from a life as a chimney sweep to an apprentice for the odd Mr. Grim, Grubb must call upon all of his cleverness, both mentally and physically, to fight off the evil that threatens his new friends. This is a story of adventure and loyalty set in a crazy magical world that will cause readers to continually wonder what oddity will occur next.
“The Expeditioners” by S. S. Taylor, Illustrated by Katharine Roy, 2012, McSweeney’s McMullens, 375 pages, ages 10 and up.
In the future, life will return to what it once was, steam and clockwork engines – no computers, no gas powered cars or planes, and no electricity. Kit, his brother Zander, and their sister M.K. strive to survive in this future, even though both of their parents, known as rebels against the government, are gone. The torn half of a map left by their father provides the children with the motivation to seek answers, which leads to dangerous adventures and the discovery of treasures.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler