• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Book Lists > Sciency Fiction — and a Giveaway
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    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
    NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
    NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

    July 2, 2013:
    Penguin & Random House Merger

    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


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Sciency Fiction — and a Giveaway

Book Lists, Giveaways

What’s that, Mr. Spell-Checker? You say I’ve misspelled science?

I’m afraid you’re mistaken, Mr. Spell-Checker. My letter choice was entirely intentional.

I’m on a crusade. A sciency fiction crusade.

Sciency fiction is not science fiction. Sciency fiction is not at all speculative. It is not set in the future. Sciency fiction depicts actual current (or current for the time if historical) science. Although the characters and situations can be fictional, the science is not.

I made up the term, I admit, and Google is on my spell-checker’s team, misdirecting my searches every time. I have an ally across the pond in Tom Webb, who independently proposed the term for grown-up books.

Who reads sciency fiction? Kurtis Scaletta does. Back in August of 2011, he wrote a post on this blog about science fiction.

“To me, science fiction is fiction infused with science. … I quite like fiction that conveys some understanding about the workings of the universe.”

Kurtis is a fiction lover to whom science is an added bonus. He gains an appreciation of science through novels.

Then there are those who start out loving science. You know the kids—obsessed with dinosaurs, or rocks, or rockets. They love nonfiction. They eat up books like Guinness World Records or Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Novels are not their thing, and they only read them when assigned in school–and then grudgingly.

One day, one of these kids—my son, actually–got a look at The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. It’s a novel set at Los Alamos during the development of the atomic bomb. The book is populated by scientists. Dewey, the young protagonist is smart and inquisitive, with a definite sciency sensibility. My son gobbled up this book and its sequel, White Sands, Red Menace, in five days. But he told me it got boring near the end. Why? Because the science aspect was downplayed and the focus was on Dewey’s emotional journey.

That observation was a revelation for me. While the emotional journey of the protagonist was compelling, it wasn’t enough for him. He needed more than emotion to hold his interest.  I stocked our bookshelves with more sciency novels, and then steampunk and science fiction and fantasy. Now he asks me to get novels for him from the library.

My son is a science lover who learned to appreciate narrative fiction through sciency fiction.

Good sciency fiction combines a compelling story with interesting science, and it can serve is a bridge between science and fiction. Got a student who only reads nonfiction about science? Got a student who doesn’t care for science class, but loves a good story?

Give them both some sciency fiction.

Where to start? Here’s a list.

Kurtis included some great titles in his post, including

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker by Cynthia DeFelice

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

He also included some more speculative titles in his list and mentions Isaac Asimov several times.

“The paragon for me will always be Isaac Asimov, a knowledgeable science-minded author. Asimov made his work true to science the way a historical novelist would be true to history… Science was my worst subject in school, but authors like Asimov made science lucid and compelling while telling a good story.”

Some people like their science real, so I’m limiting my list to those titles where the science is not speculative at all.

101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher by Lee Wardlaw

Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It by Sundee T. Frazier

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith

Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Erupts! By Frances O’Roark Dowell

Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head by Nancy Viau

Back in April, I wrote a post for this blog about sciency novels that address environmental sciences—Eco-fiction if you will. That list is here.

I like to call my debut novel, The Reinvention of Edison Thomas, sciency fiction. It just came out in paperback, and to celebrate, I’m giving away the remainder of my Advance Reader Copies in one big giveaway. If you would like your school or library to have a teaching set of up to 15 ARCs, leave the name of the library or school in the comments, along with the title of your favorite sciency novel (it can be one I’ve listed, or something else) and the number of copies you’ll need. Enter by 11:59 CDT Saturday October 27. Winner will be announced October 28.


Jacqueline Houtman spent 27 years in school so she could be a scientist. Now she’s a freelance science writer and middle-grade novelist–living proof that biology (or chemistry or physics) is not destiny. Find out more at www.jhoutman.com.



  1. Elaine  •  Oct 22, 2012 @9:27 am

    Sciency fiction is fabulous, and so is The Reinvention of Edison Thomas! That’s my official pick, but I also love Carl Hiassen’s middle grade books. My kids’ school is Iron Springs Elementary and they’d love any copies you could give them. Thanks, Jacqueline!

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @Elaine: Awww, thanks! I love Carl Hiassen’s books too, and I listed them in the Eco-Fiction post.

  2. Jill  •  Oct 22, 2012 @2:32 pm

    Great post. The book sounds and looks interesting. Thanks for offering the giveaway and congrats to the author.
    I need to go check out your website now :)

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @Jill, Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Lisa Rogers  •  Oct 22, 2012 @6:53 pm

    Thanks, Jacqueline, for your thoughtful post. Our district’s libraries have a renewed focus on science this year, and I’ll be using your book list with my students. Besides the great books you’ve listed, I like Linda Sue Park’s Project Mulberry. Our school is John D. Hardy Elementary in Wellesley, MA.

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @Lisa Rogers, Project Mulberry. That’s a good one.

  4. Megan Earley  •  Oct 22, 2012 @7:03 pm

    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is one of my favorites! Thanks!
    Roosevelt Middle School, Monticello, IN

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @Megan Earley” Mine too. And I hear there is a sequel in the works.

  5. PragmaticMom  •  Oct 22, 2012 @8:23 pm

    YES! The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (black matter). Love science-y fiction!

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @PragmaticMom, I haven’t read The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. I’ll have to check it out.

  6. D.Lee Sebree  •  Oct 22, 2012 @10:01 pm

    I loved When You Reach Me, on its own merit as well as its references to A Wrinle in Time. Fever 1793 for its engrossing blend of historical and sciency fiction. Oh, how ’bout Catalyst, also by Laurie Halse Anderson. Anything with her name on it goes on my TBR list. My school pick: Yuma Lutheran School – small budget and an awesome VOLUNTEER librarian!

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @D.Lee Sebree, Catalyst. I’ll have to take a look at that one.

  7. Heidi Grange  •  Oct 22, 2012 @11:22 pm

    I loved Fever 1793.

    Summit Elementary Library
    # However many are available. :)

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @Heidi Grange, As a microbiologist, I find books about epidemics fascinating.

  8. Stacey  •  Oct 22, 2012 @11:46 pm

    I just read Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead and I liked the science related to taste buds. Also, A Wrinkle in TIme would be my classic favorite–I learned about tessarae. I teach at Mountainview International School in Salatiga Indonesia (although I can use a state side address) and would love 13 copies.

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @Stacey, I haven’t read that one yet. *adds to TBR list*

  9. Margaret  •  Oct 23, 2012 @6:25 am

    I really enjoyed the Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, too. Please include North Hill Elementary in Rochester Hills, MI in the giveaway.

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @Margaret, Ah! Historical Sciency Fiction!

  10. Portia Pennington  •  Oct 23, 2012 @7:46 am

    My all-time favorite (and a favorite of so many): A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle! And a shout out for Plano Elementary School in Bowling Green, KY!

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @Portia Pennington, A classic!

  11. Jen Simoneau  •  Oct 23, 2012 @11:52 am

    I love “sciency” as a genre! It’s hard to search for fiction with science because there is so much “science fiction”.

    I enjoyed Every Soul a Star and my middle school readers love Carl Hiaasen’s books: Hoot, Scat, and his newest, Chomp.

    Mrs Simoneau at Ponaganset Middle School Library Media Center

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @Jen Simoneau, Don’t forget Flush!

  12. Karla Duff  •  Oct 27, 2012 @9:16 am

    HOOT is a favorite in my classroom. UNWIND is science fiction with a lot of believable “what ifs”. ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER with the researched supernova volcano eruption is a dystopia series I can’t stop thinking about since it is set in my backyard. The new INFINITY RING series has many possibilities.
    Thank you for adding our classroom to your contest! @teacher6th

    Jacqueline Houtman Reply:

    @Karla Duff, I’ve heard great things about ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER. Mike Mullin is going to be at my local Barnes and Noble this week, so I can get an autographed copy!