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Children’s Science Fiction at School Library Journal!

Every so often I love the chance to toot my own horn.  And this is one such chance where I’m positively giddy about it.  Getting the chance to write this article and select titles to go with it was a lot of work, but it was work in a genre I love and care about, so all the work was well worth it.  Please check out the article if so inclined!

Great Science Fiction for Middle Graders | Focus On

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A Tuesday Ten: Hispanic/Latino Speculative Fiction for Kids

When we talk about diversity in speculative fiction, it can be hard to find examples.  I found this to be particularly true in the case of the representation of Latino/Hispanic characters in children’s Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Even with two picture books on the list, I was having great difficulty coming up with ten titles.  And to be honest, without the three significant titles from 2015 added in, the list just wasn’t able to be pulled together without pulling in a lot more picture books of myth and fairy tale. Not that myth and fairy tales are impossible to use, but it felt disheartening to offer so little in the way of middle grade novels.

 

1.

So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane (Harcourt, c2003)

Sometimes it’s easy to miss books right under your nose.  This has been one of my favorite books for well over three decades now, and it only occurred to me on rereading the books in this series, that I’ve known a Hispanic speculative fiction protagonist for all that time.  Kit Rodriguez is a 12-year-old boy who discovers the same book Nita does, a mysterious tome entitled “So You Want To Be a Wizard”.  The two of them begin to work together to figure out their powers, along with the rules of the wizarding world.  They both get sucked into a urban fantasy battle of good vs. evil before all is said and done.  This is only the first book in the continuing Young Wizards series.  And Kit tends to share equal time as the main character in these stories.  Given that I can’t find any other middle grade representatives in speculative fiction earlier than this,  the author may have broken new ground by making Kit’s background Hispanic.

2.

Dona Flores by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colon (Knopf Books for Young Readers, c2005)

One of my picture book additions to the list–this tale is lovely enough that I’m very happy to include it here.  We often hear tales of Paul Bunyan and similar super-sized men in tall tales, but it’s rare we get a glimpse of giant women.  Here Pat Mora and illustrator Raul Colon transform the story of Dona Flor, a giant woman who lives in the puebla with lots of families and loves her neighbors.  When danger threatens the people of the puebla in the form of a nasty puma, Dona Flor is the one who will deal with the puma and protect her friends and neighbors.

 

3.

Starfields by Carolyn Marsden (Candlewick Press, c2011)

I’m not familiar with this book, but it came up on a search and fits the parameters.  Rosalba is a 9 year old girl growing up in rural Mexico, learning old Mayan traditions.  When a girl from the city shares with her the story of the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world, it prompts Rosalba into seeking to know more.  Through her dreams she travels back in time to meet a Mayan boy of ancient times and learn how she might make her voice be heard in the world today.

4.

House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (Atheneum, c2004)

Science fiction featuring cloning, a Hispanic protagonist and a multiple award-winner and nominee? All in one middle-grade book?  Yep. Nancy Farmer’s book is a stand-out in so many ways–and it’s the reason I imagine that it winds up on Summer Reading assignment lists every year.  Matteo wasn’t born, he was grown from harvested DNA, a clone whose purpose is to extend the life of others.  Growing up in the country of Opium ruled by El Patron, Matteo only slowly discovers the truth of his identity in this dystopian future.  We don’t often see a future-world based in the area of Mexico, and Farmer’s vision of a possible future is a fascinating one.

5.

Elena’s Serenade by Cambell Geeslin, illustrated by Ana Juan (Atheneum, 2004)

My second picture book offering.  Elena wants to be a glassblower, but only men can be glassblowers.  Rather than be deterred,  Elena journeys to the fabled town of Monterray on a fantastic journey all her own to prove that girls can do anything they set their mind to!  Elena disguises herself as a man in order to get into a contest to prove herself and  then creates some glassblowing magic that is purely her own.

 

6.

Ambassador by William Alexander (Margaret K. McElderry, 2014)

If Nancy Farmer’s book is the first I can find where a science fiction story has a Hispanic protagonist, then this is the second such story.  Gabe Fuentes has been chosen from all the people on Earth to become Earth’s ambassador to the galaxy.  But being that ambassador is hardly fun and games–someone is trying to kill Gabe before he even gets a chance to understand what’s going on, and while he’s busy trying to meet and understand other aliens from far off worlds, his own parents are in danger of being deported!   This first book in the series leaves a lot of the story unfinished, but the second book will hopefully clear some of that up!  Nomad is due to hit the shelves in September 2015.

 

7.

MiNRS by Kevin Sylvester  (Margaret K. McElderry Books, Expected Publication September 2015)

So one of the books from this year that I’m very excited about is this science fiction adventure.  In this story, raiders have come to the planetoid  Persus and the only ones left alive are a handful of kids hiding out underground, desperate to stay alive.  Christopher Nichols is attempting to lead this motley crew, but feels in over his head.  His best friend, Elena Rosales is strong and intelligent-she’s passionate  and sometimes hot-headed in her motivations.  Elena comes across as a vivid human being with a large part to play in the struggle for survival and need to strike back at the raiders.

 

8.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath (Knopf Books for Young Readers, May 2015)

Another marvelous offering from this year!  An epistolary novel about a young girl who has to move out to a farm with her parents.  At first Sophie Brown feels entirely out of her element, coming from the busy city of LA to this place.  But the farm appears to have some very unusual chickens . . . chickens with strange powers.  And it’ll take just the kind of girl Sophie happens to be to learn all she needs to know to care for them properly and keep them safe!

 

9.

Hunters of Chaos by Crystal Velasquez (Aladdin, June 2015)

Ana is going to a Southwestern boarding school where all is not as it seems.  Along with three other girls, Ana’s special heritage means she’s inherited powers that will allow her to shapeshift into a cat form!  Ana and her new friends will need these powers to combat and stop the chaos spirits that have been released and prevent those who would reconvene the Brotherhood of Chaos!  I haven’t read this one just yet, but hope to get my hands on it soon!

 

10.

Wizards at War by Diane Duane (HMH, 2005)

I told you it was difficult to put this list together, right?  I know I’m including Diane Duane twice here, but I think at least in this case, it’s a fair inclusion.  Because while we’ve known Kit for all of the Young Wizards series, we haven’t learned as much about his sister in the earlier books.  As the series progresses though, we see more of Carmela Rodriguez.  She’s a few years older than Kit, and despite not being a Wizard, she’s completely at ease with Kit’s powers, is learning the Speech herself and becoming quite a force to be reckoned with in her own right.  I sort of love this gal simply for being a sort of non-magical “hell I’ll do it anyway” kind of person.  In this particular book, she becomes key to freeing the entire wizarding party at a crucial moment. Go Carmela!

11.

The Spider Ring by Andrew Harwell (Scholastic, January 2015)

A latecomer to the list!  Thanks to Katy K. for mentioning and Andrew Harwell for confirming! Maria inherits a strange spider-shaped ring from her grandmother . . . a ring with mysterious powers and control over spiders.  But there are darker forces after those powers  . . . can she keep the ring safe and out of the wrong hands?

And yes, yes,  there is one more to add! (An I cannot tell you how delightful it is to be able to do this–if you add in William Alexander’s sequel Nomad, that’s five MG books with Latino characters in just this year!  Go writers!)

12.

Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Scholastic, Expected Publication, September 2015)

Cassie Arroyo descends from an ancient bloodline–something she’s only just discovered.  People are trying to kill those with her bloodline over a legendary artifact called the Spear of Destiny.  The Spear has the power to change the future, but only in the hands of someone descended from that ancient line.  Now Cassie and her friends are frantically deciphering clues in a wild race to find the Spear and save the world!  Thanks to Kelly Jones for helping me confirm this title fit the list!

 

A few links I came across in my searches:

Latinos in Kidlit

This is a great resource for Latino/Latina books in Picture Book, MG and YA–up to date and very helpful!:  http://latinosinkidlit.com/about/

Latinopia : Latino Science Fiction Convention–This is adult SF but still very interesting!

Taken from the website: On April 30, 2014 the first conference on Latino Science Fiction was convened at the University of California at Riverside. The event, organized by Sherryl Vint with the cooperation of Dr. Melissa Conway of the Eaton Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection at UC Riverside, brought together five Latino science fiction authors. They discussed the future of Latino science fiction and how it differs from that written by non-Latinos. This is the first of several Latinopia videos on the conference.

http://latinopia.com/latino-literature/latinopia-word-latino-science-fiction-1/

 

If you can suggest titles to build into this list please add them in the comments!

Tooting my Own Horn: I’m in Publishers Weekly!

Last Saturday I took part in a panel on children’s science fiction  at the New York Public Library.  The awesome Betsy Bird asked yours truly to talk about the history and current state of the genre for kids and I was delighted with the opportunity.  Joining me were Jason Fry, author of the Jupiter Pirates series and many tie-in Star Wars books, and  Andrew Harwell, an author and editor at HarperCollins. Just so happens the whole discussion was written up by Publishers Weekly.  While I’m excited to have a few moments of fame, I’m more enthused by the hope that this will continue a discussion about science fiction for kids.  We need to keep this ball rolling, folks!

Here’s  a link to the article!