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Peter Bunzl | The Children’s Book Review | February 12, 2019
Peter Bunzl, the Author of Cogheart, Shares Five of His Favorite Steampunk Stories
Cogheart, my debut novel, is an action-packed adventure story set in a steampunk Victorian Britain. It’s a mystery filled with murder, mayhem, airships, engines, clockwork machines, wise-cracking mechanical foxes, and dastardly deeds and derring-do. So, as you can imagine, I love a good middle-grade steampunk adventure.
But what EXACTLY is steampunk? I hear you ask. Well, hold my flying-goggles and I shall tell you. Steampunk is science-fiction fantasy with an old-fashioned Victorian twist. Technology-wise, there’s steam-vehicles, clockwork, airships and engines. Character-wise, there are professors, air-pirates, clockmakers, codebreakers, magicians, marksmen, and young heroes. In my story there are villainous hybrids who are half-man, half-machine too.
Now we’ve cleared that up, here are my five of my all-time favorite steampunk novels for kids and teens.
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book 1 (AKA Northern Lights)
Written by Philip Pullman
The Golden Compass is the first part of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. It’s about a girl called Lyra, who has a daemon called Pantalaimon. Pan is a fragment of Lyra’s soul in animal form, who can change shape to any creature under the sun. When Lyra’s friend Roger is kidnapped from Oxford, they set out on an airship adventure to find him that takes them to the frozen North and the island of Bolvangar. They meet: gyptians, fairies, explorers, witches, evil scientists and enormous armoured polar bears. It’s a fabulous adventure, beautifully written and a classic of the genre.
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | 1995 | ISBN-13: 978-0440418320
Written by Philip Reeve
A story of traction cities: armoured cities on wheels that move through the wastelands of the world eating each other up.
While investigating a mystery, our heroes Tom and Hester get pushed off the edge of the moving wheeled-city of London and end up in the desert. To make their way home, they must deal with traction pirates, assassin-robots, and a plot to blow up the world!
It’s a story filled to the brim with action, unique ideas and quirky characters, and also the first part in a long running series.
Ages 12-17 | Publisher: Scholastic Press | 2018 (Movie Tie-In) | ISBN-13: 978-1338303711
Written by Scott Westerfeld
Leviathan is set in a steampunk 1914 on the brink of the First World War.
It’s the Clankers, with their enormous steam-powered machines, versus the Darwinists, with their genetically engineered flying creatures!
Alex, a clanker prince, is running away from the men who killed his father, when he bumps into Derren, a girl who has disguised herself as a boy to join the Darwinist airforce. So begins their adventures together. Can they stop the looming World War?
It’s a war story unlike any other you’ve read—filled with spy missions, enormous battles between flying whales and walking tanks. And is also the first part of an excellent trilogy.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Simon Pulse | 2010 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-1416971740
Written by Sinead O’Hart
When Emmeline’s scientist parents disappear, she finds herself on the way to a safehouse in France with an orphan boy called Thing. But she’s kidnapped before she can arrive by the evil Dr Bauer, who hopes to summon a dangerous creature from beneath the frozen North pole…
A Lovecraftian monster and an action packed finale. Thing is my favourite character in this one: resourceful, mouthy and brave, he rescues Emmeline as many times as she saves him.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | August 22, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1101935033
Written by Vashti Hardy
Twins Arthur and Maudie receive word their father has died in an attempt to reach the South Polaris. A mysterious clue leads them to question this fact and they set out to discover the truth of what happened to his expedition.
Set on an alternative island-based earth filled with airships, this is fast paced and filled with broad, bubbly characters and bright, colourful world building, with lots of different sights to see. Arthur has a bionic arm that makes him unique from everyone else. The writing style is friendly and enjoyable and evokes the feel and tone of Aardman’s pirates, or a classic kids anime-manga adventure series.
Order a Copy Now: Amazon
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Scholastic | March 1, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1407181707
I hope you’ve enjoyed my steampunk selection. If you do you can always visit my website—peterbunzl.com—and let me know. Goodbye and keep reading!
Peter Bunzl grew up in London and lives there with his partner Michael. He is a BAFTA-award-winning animator, as well as a writer and filmmaker. To learn more, visit his website, peterbunzl.com. Twitter: @peterbunzl | Instagram: @peter_bunzl
Written by Peter Bunzl
Publisher’s Synopsis: Lily’s life is in mortal peril. Her father is missing and now silver-eyed men stalk her through the shadows. What could they want from her?
With her friends – Robert, the clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox – Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too soon Lily realizes that those she holds dear may be the very ones to break her heart…
Murder, mayhem and mystery meet in this gripping Victorian steampunk adventure story, featuring two friends, murder and mayhem, airships and automata, and an over-opinionated mechanical fox!
Praise for COGHEART:
“With great style and panache, the novel deftly winds through the intricacies of friendship and moral choice while maintaining a fun edge.” —Publishers Weekly
“An exciting, fast-paced adventure.” —Booklist
“Introduces dastardly villains, friendly mechanicals, and thrilling airship action. . . . with hair-raising and cinematic charm.” —Kirkus Reviews
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Jolly Fish Press | February 12, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1631632877
Peter Bunzl, author of Cogheart, curated the book list Five Stupendous Steampunk Stories. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Foxes, Middle Grade Books, Murder Books, Mystery, and Steampunk.
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