A core aspect of being a geek is the love of books and fantasy, as well as reveling in other worlds and sharing those worlds with the people you love. Though we sadly only experience a small portion of the space-time continuum, reading allows us the ability to inhabit, briefly, someone else’s mind in a different place and time.
Many children’s books take place in the bland reality we all dutifully trudge through. However, some books bring the realm of fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction to young children. These are stories you can read your children at bedtime to inspire dreams of magic and monsters.
Her Majesty’s Explorer: A Steampunk Bedtime Story
Steampunk is a genre that evokes images of machinery, of Victorian living, of be-monocled explorers in majestic aircraft discovering a world glittering in every conceivable shade of brown. Oddly enough, there are few illustrated steampunk books.
Author Emilie P. Bush and illustrator William Kevin Petty have rectified that situation by creating a steampunk story for kids in which St. John Murphy Alexander explores the world for the queen and comes upon creatures and landscapes most extraordinary.
Star Wars ABC
Alphabet books are an important part of teaching children literacy skills, but they have one major failing: a lack of creativity when it comes to the letter X. Most books go with xylophone and x-ray. Admittedly, a xylophone is part of a child’s daily experience; however, it is not the context where an X is most likely to appear. In Star Wars ABC, X is for X-Wing. This is, of course, a spacecraft with crisscross wings. This is something that, once your kids are older and have subsumed Star Wars iconography into their mental framework, will be the best illustration of how X is used in English.
Star Wars ABC is an alphabet book that pulls from all six Star Wars movies as well as the Clone Wars TV program. This book can be a way of discussing the characters, plots, and images that exist in that world, all while helping your child learn the alphabet in a way she can relate to, since, after a while, apples, bananas, umbrellas, and zebras get a little tiresome.
Space Child’s Mother Goose
Space Child’s Mother Goose is a book of rhymes based on traditional nursery rhymes, but with a sciencey twist. Three jolly sailors are stuck in a Klein bottle, while a follower of Goddard reaches a supernova. One space child learns the songs of the stars, while another demolishes the theory that Jack built. The poems range in theme from science to sci-fi and are accompanied by black-and-white line drawing bird-like creature illustrations. The whole book has a feel of fantasy, but, rather than an inaccessible magical realm, it calls the grandness of the universe its home.
The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
Neil Gaiman is a fantasy author, graphic novelist, and winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards. Though he mostly writes for adults, he has branched out and written bedtime stories for children, including the brilliant The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. This story is surreptitiously dark and subversive. The premise is simple: a boy is envious of his friend’s two fish, so he offers a bargain. He’ll trade his dad for the fish. The dad, who sits reading his paper and only occasionally has a comment to add, is less amusing than two fish in a bowl, and is again traded for other, more desirable objects. The young boy and his sister find themselves running about town, undoing a series of trades in order to get their father back. The story is surreal, yet comes across as a perfectly normal tale. Illustrator Dave McKean adds a ghostly and magical quality to the book with his illustrations that are part painting, part collage.
The Robots Are Coming
The Robots Are Coming is a compilation of poems and images from the New Yorker cartoonist Andy Rash. Poems are about mummies, pirates, the Loch Ness Monster, and, of course, robots who love coffee.
Many readers of this site likely drink more coffee than water and have an affinity for robots, so you will see in this book the intersection of your favorite sci-fi and fantasy memes put forth in a funny, kid-friendly manner.
Our generation grew up with Goodnight Moon, a book about a bunny who says goodnight to the objects then common in a child’s life: a toy house, some mittens, a bowl full of mush. Goodnight iPad is a bedtime book about saying goodnight to the objects in a modern child’s daily existence. It encourages kids to put down their mobile devices, bid adieu to the internet, and get some rest. It is authored by the presumably pseudonymous Ann Droyd.
So, when easing your child into sleep with books, you can simultaneously expose your child into the realm of he geeky: robots, steampunk, space travel, and Star Wars.