Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Steampunk for Middle Grade (8-12) Readers

First of all, let's get this straight: what's steampunk?

I'd heard of steampunk, but I'd never read any. How about you?

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon
by S.S. Taylor
illustrated by Katherine Roy
McSweeny McMullens, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

I started reading THE EXPEDITIONERS by S.S. Taylor expecting, from the front cover, an old-time adventure story.

I really should have done a better job previewing. If I'd looked at the back cover, I would have noticed the airship. If I'd read the blurb on the jacket flap, I would have been better prepared for an alternative future, a place where "Computers have failed, electricity is extinct, and the race to discover new lands is underway!"

But sometimes you just have to test an author's ability to draw you into the world of the book and make you believe it is as real as the couch you are sitting on. And S.S. Taylor passed that test for me. By chapter 3, I was in a future where the idea that people of the past believed that there were just seven continents was laughable. A future where explorers continued to find new places and new species on earth. A future of shortages, lines in the market places, strangers with clockwork hands, and transportation by SteamDirigibles.

Kit, Zander and M.K. West, children of the late great explorer Alexander West find themselves in a race with government agents to follow clues their father left them about a lost canyon filled with gold treasure.

Not only do they find the canyon and gold, but also an entire race of people living in the lost canyon. People whose existence and whereabouts their father had kept secret so that their land and treasure would not be exploited.

The blend of futuristic science fiction with "low-tech" machines gives the reader a very fun sort of vertigo -- as if the directions of past and future got mixed up.

What are the chances, having read only one steampunk book, that the next book on my TBR is also described inside the front cover as, "Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure..."??

The Peculiar
by Stefan Bachmann
Greenwillow Books, 2012
recommended by Salli Oddi, owner of Cover to Cover


  1. And now I too know about Steampunk! Glad to see your review, Mary Lee. Fun to think about these new ideas, new to me at least!

  2. We picked up The Peculiars at the school book fair, who would knew it's part steampunk. Now I'm curious, will probably need to borrow it.

  3. Anonymous10:19 AM

    I love steampunk!


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