Anthology: 2016 Young Explorer’s Guide

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Reasons for Inclusion: Majority female protagonists, racially diverse, several disabled protagonists.

My Review:

(5/5 stars)

I previously hadn’t given much thought to the emerging genre of middle-grade science fiction. This collection changed that.

Young readers love adventure, and they need relatable heroes. Here, they get to see people their age making First Contacts, inventing machines, saving their families, teaming up with friends to overcome the limitations of authority. Their age doesn’t stop them- in fact, their youthful hope and determination is often what powers them. The heroes of these stories (racially diverse and mostly girls!) are programmers, engineers, and of course, explorers. Children have the ingenuity and determination that’s so important in science fiction worlds. They’re eager to explore new things and communicate with new people. Thrown into situations that would daunt adults, they persevere and save the day, calling on creativity and friendship to achieve their goals.

I want to travel back in time and give this book to myself as a kid. I would have loved (even more than I do now) reading about girls rescuing people from crashed ships and war zones, building steampunk elephants and horses, designing dancing wheelchairs, overcoming language barriers to make friends with aliens.

The diversity is impressive. The protagonists are Hispanic, Japanese, Indian, Malaysia, African. Three stories have (mobility) disabled heroes, and two have disabled secondary characters. One takes place in an all-female society.

These stories prove that whether you live on Mars or in Malaysia, in the future or the past, you can save the day.

The stories were nicely fast paced, plunging right into new worlds without waiting. But they tended towards abrupt endings. As soon as I really got into a story, it was over. I suppose that’s more of an unavoidable trait of short stories in general, and it didn’t really hurt the collection. Instead, the endings appeared to be a theme: these are the kids’ first adventures, from which they’ll move on into bright futures. 

(Review copy from Netgalley)

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