Blogger Public Awareness Committee

Fantasy and Sci-Fi Children’s Novels from Diverse Perspectives

In light of the pandemic my library system had to adapt our Summer Reading Program, which means the kids are not able to pick out their own prize books.  I’ve created a short survey to see what kind of book they would like to receive and I am happy to report that a vast majority are asking for fantasy and sci-fi chapter books.  While I am limited to what is in our stock pile when awarding prize books, I am starting to explore what I can offer these fans of made up worlds and futures that features people from diverse backgrounds as main characters.  I started going through the last five years of Notable Book Award recipients and have compiled a small list of middle to upper elementary titles I want to start putting into heavy rotation for my recommendations once I can see kids face to face again in the library. All descriptions are pulled from the Notable lists.

The Beast Player. By Nahoko Uehashi. Illus. by Yuta Onoda. Tr. by Cathy Hirano. Holt/Godwin.  
In this complex fantasy, a young girl is caught (pitted?) between the welfare of animals with whom she can communicate and a warring kingdom that only she can save. (Batchelder Honor Book)

The Forgotten Girl. By India Hill Brown. Scholastic.
Two classmates discover an abandoned grave, launching a ghost story that brings the history of segregation to life.

Lalani of the Distant Sea. By Erin Entrada Kelly. Illus. by Lian Cho. Greenwillow.
A young girl sets out to save her island of Sanlagita, which is struggling with drought and sickness.

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe. By Carlos Hernandez. Disney/Hyperion. 
Sci-fi adventure and Cuban culture blend as Sal Vidón and his friend Gabi travel to parallel universes and try to survive middle school. (Belpré Author Award Book)

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. By Kwame Mbalia. Disney/Hyperion.
While visiting his grandparents in Alabama, Tristan enters into a parallel universe populated by characters from African and African American traditional stories. 

Aru Shah and the End of Time. By Roshani Chokshi. Disney/Hyperion.
In this story inspired by the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata, Aru Shah discovers she must enter the Kingdom of Death to save the world.

Dragons in a Bag. By Zetta Elliott. Illus. by Geneva B. Random.
When nine-year-old Jaxon is left in the care of an eccentric old witch, he begins training as her new apprentice by leaving Brooklyn to return three dragons to a magical world.

Children of Blood and Bone. By Tomi Adeyemi. Holt.  
In an adventure infused with West African mythology, Zélie’s magic reawakens and she battles to restore magic to the oppressed kingdom of Orïsha.

Hurricane Child. By Kheryn Callender. Scholastic. 
As a hurricane approaches her Caribbean island home, 12-year-old Caroline desperately searches for her mother in this story of abandonment, mysterious spirits, and a first crush.

Wishtree. By Katherine Applegate. Illus. by Charles Santoso. Feiwel and Friends. Red, a quiet wishing tree, is the recipient of neighborhood hopes and dreams. When an immigrant family is harassed in the community, Red is motivated to act.

When the Sea Turned to Silver. By Grace Lin. Illus. by the author. Little, Brown. Chinese folklore intertwines with Pinmei and Yishan’s perilous journey to save Pinmei’s storyteller grandmother from the clutches of the evil Tiger Emperor.

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. By Cathy Camper. Illus. by Raul the Third. Chronicle. The Lowriders journey to the center of the earth to retrieve their beloved cat, Genie, in this energetic graphic novel.  (Belpré Illustrator Medal Book)

Echo. By Pam Muñoz Ryan. Scholastic. This original fairytale intertwines with historical fiction to explore music and its power to save, heal, and set free. (Newbery Honor Book)

The Smoking Mirror. By David Bowles. IFWG. In an action-packed, fantasy novel, that combines Aztec and Mayan mythology with life in contemporary South Texas and Mexico, 12-year-old twins descend into the Land of the Dead to find their mother. (Belpré Author Honor Book)

This post addresses the ALSC Core Competencies of: I. Commitment to Client Group, II. Reference and User Services, and IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials.

Melissa Sokol is a Children’s Services Librarian for Dayton Metro Library.  She is writing this post on behalf of the Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee and you can reach her at

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