2023 Lists

The Golden Duck Notable Picture Books List

A Case of the Zaps by Alex Boniello and April Lavalle, Illustrated by James Kwan. Harry N. Abrams

Robo-kid Pi gets the “zaps” (worries) as he imagines what could go wrong on his upcoming school field trip. His Parental Units assure him that zaps are normal and manageable with the right tools! So Pi practices processing the zaps to help him with his field trip and beyond.

You’re Out of This World by Bay Clarkson, illustrated by Katie Cottle. Hazy Dell Press

Aliens love their children too! This is a bright, colorful exploration of a parent’s love for their child, using traditional alien and UFO mythology.

Rover and Speck: This Planet Rocks! by Jonathan Roth. Kids Can Press

Rover and Speck are a rover and drone on a mission to explore a new planet and signal back to their humans when they are done. They soon discover that they are not alone – there are giant living rocks here who like to rock out!

Oscar Goes to the Moon by Helen Tanner. Ninewise Publishing

Oscar is a bunny that wants to go places. He considers visiting animals all over the world but there are issues with each place. Finally, after looking at the full moon and finding a bunny there, he concocts a plan to get to the moon.

Stella, Star Explorer by Kelly Leigh Miller. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Stella builds a rocket ship, and she and her dog, Luna, blast off into space for a well-deserved change of scenery. But a chance encounter with a lost alien leads to a tour of the galaxy that helps Stella realize that maybe Earth isn’t such a bad place to live after all.

Captain Cat Goes to Mars by Emma J. Virjan. Simon Spotlight

Captain Cat and her friend Pilot Matt are ready for an adventure. They build a spaceship and fly to Mars. While on Mars, they meet some new alien friends and explore the red planet until it’s time to go back home.

The Eleanor Cameron Notable Middle Grade Books

A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga. Balzer + Bray

Resilience is a rover with a mission to explore Mars. He is excited but scared about the pressure he will face. Luckily, he trusts his engineers. Told partly from Resilience’s perspective as he develops emotions and partly through letters from the lead engineer’s daughter, this is a story of friendship and overcoming your fears.

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris. Katherine Tegen Books

Astronomers discover that rats are eating the moon, so they plan a secret mission to launch the first cat into space. On the mission our cat hero meets allies and enemies and faces dangerous situations. This graphic novel is based on Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris’ cartoon of the same name.

Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee. Rick Riordan Presents

Sebin, a young Juhwang Tiger Clan member, never imagined they’d be accepted to the Thousand Worlds Space Forces the same day his favorite uncle, a battle cruise captain, is accused of treason. The surprises continue on their first day when an explosion rocks the ship, forcing Sebin to choose between honoring family and duty to the Space Forces as a small group of cadets try to save the ship.

Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion by K. Tempest Bradford. Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Ruby is a bug loving aspiring scientist. When she finds a really weird looking bug and traps it in a jar, things start to get strange. She enlists her friends and family to help her figure out what is special about the bug and why the government wants to cover it up.

Trex by Christyne Morrell. Delacorte Press

Trex just wants to be a normal kid, but his electric charge prevents him from touching things. When he meets Millie, nicknamed the Mouse, he learns about the power of friendship, while struggling against bullies and an unnamed watcher. 

The Aquanaut by Dan Santat. Graphix

Sophia lives with her workaholic uncle in a marine reserve after her biologist father is lost. When a stranger in an old diving suit enters the park, Sophia soon discovers that the sea creatures are controlling the “aquanaut”. Together they work to protect the creatures of Aqualand while also reconnecting Sophia and her uncle in this vivid graphic novel. 

Player Vs Player: Ultimate Gaming Showdown by M.K. England. Random House Books For Young Readers

Hurricane Games, the creator of the most popular battle royale video game in the world, announces a tournament featuring epic prizes. Josh, Hannah, Larkin, and Wheatley form a team that they think is unstoppable. They are all great solo gamers, but the tournament is a whole different competition experience, and they’ll have to learn to work together while also overcoming their personal challenges if they want to prove they are the best in the game.

Tales of a Seventh-Grade Lizard Boy by Jonathan Hill. Walker Books US

Faced with the threat of diminishing resources, 12-year-old Booger Lizk’t and his lizard family are forced to flee their home of Elberon deep beneath the Earth’s surface to live above ground among humans. Booger tries to navigate his new life, new home, and new school, but even with a new name (Tommy Tomkins) and a human disguise, he struggles to fit in. Until he meets Dung Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant and fellow outsider, who finally sees Tommy for who he is inside. 

The Area 51 Files by Julie Buxbaum, illustrated by Lavanya Naidu. Delacorte Press

Orphaned Sky Patel-Baum meets her uncle for the first time when she is dropped off to live with him in Area 51, where he lives in great secrecy. The Area 51 secrets reveal themselves at a fast, furious and hilarious pace as aliens multiply. When Sky and her uncle are accused of crimes against aliens they only have her new neighbor Elvis and her pet hedgehog to defend them. 

Let the Monster Out by Chad Lucas. Harry N. Abrams

Bones Malone is new in town, and the baseball team is the only place he feels normal. Kyle Specks feels like he never fits in. They both start having shared dreams, and notice the grown ups have all started spacing out. Bones and Kyle, with the help of the other kids in town, try to figure out what is going on and how they can save everyone.

Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont by Nick Brooks. Union Square Kids

Ethan is a sixth grade inventor who is bullied when his best friend deserts him. When he and a new friend discover an alien in an abandoned factory, his world gets even more complicated. When his best buddy returns to help, Ethan, Juan Carlos, and Kareem set out to save the alien despite bullying peers and questionable police.

The Hal Clement Notable Young Adult Books List

Alone Out Here by Riley Redgate. Disney-Hyperion

A super volcano will destroy the world within the next three years, so all the countries rush to build spaceships large enough to evacuate as many people as possible. When an explosion happens during a visit to a spaceyard, the teen children of the global superpowers assume the worst, run to the ship, and take off. What happens when these teens find that their spaceship is wholly unprepared for long term space travel? 

Cake Eater by Allyson Dahlin. HarperTeen*

A futuristic retelling of the end of French monarchy has trendy Marie as a social influencer posting about high fashion who is selected to enhance Louis’ bubble. Her life of likes and followers becomes more nuanced when she learns more about Louis. But can their fragile new bond survive, much less help her country, destroyed by wealth inequality, and a world decimated by climate change? 

Pixels of You by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota, illustrated by J.R. Doyle. Harry N. Abrams

In this graphic novel, Indira was in a tragic accident and has been cybernetically augmented. She meets Fawn, one of the first ever human presenting AI, at the gallery where they both have an internship. They start out as rivals, but as they learn and work together, they grow closer. 

Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker. Flatiron Books

In this futuristic retelling of Romeo and Juliet, Ellis is a time traveler on a mission when he meets Juliet amidst the tragedy, and together they change the whole love story as time travel pods drop them into the past and the future.

Tasting Light: Ten Science Fiction Stories to Rewire Your Perceptions edited by A. R. Capetta and Wade Roush. MITeen Press

Ten young adult authors craft science fiction stories that imagine what the world will become in the future. These stories cover AI, modifications, space travel and more, and the characters are as diverse as the topics.

Spin Me Right Round by Davis Valdes. Bloomsbury YA

Luis Gonzalez just wants to go to prom with his boyfriend and win prom king, but his conservative private boarding school won’t allow it. An accidental hit on the head knocks Luis back in time to 1985, where he ends up in high school with his teenage parents and a lot of homophobia. Luis is soon in over his head trying to solve the problems of the past, untangle the mess he’s in, and somehow get back home to his own time. 

The Upper World by Femi Fadugba. HarperTeen

Time travel is impossible, unless you get the math just right. Rhia is trying to get through her next few soccer games to make the touring team. She just needs to get through her tutoring sessions with Dr. Esso (who has his own secrets) to keep her grades up. Each of them can help the other, but the stakes are higher than they realize.

Across a Field of Starlight by Blue Delliquanti. Random House Graphic

In this inclusive graphic novel Fassen and Lu started an unlikely friendship when, as children, Lu helps Fassen after they crash land on her planet. Although contact is forbidden between them, they develop a secret communication method and their friendship continues across the galaxy until an accident reunites them and changes everything.

Buckhead by Shobo Coker, illustrated by George Kambadais. Boom! Box

Toba just moved to the sleepy town of Buckhead. It’s awkward enough to be the new kid at school, but he also just moved from another  country. Toba makes friends with other kids and they discover a video game in a hidden closet at school. Toba wants to discover why the game that looks oddly similar to the ancient Benin ruins his parents were investigating right before they moved.

At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp. Sourcebooks Fire

When a disease starts spreading outside the walls of Hope Juvenile Treatment Center, the guards stop coming to work and leave the teens to fend for themselves. Alliances and enemies are made as supplies dwindle and the disease spreads.


*Please note some of these books are published by HarperCollins. The HarperCollins Union has been on strike since November 10, 2022, to get a fair contract for their workers. Visit the HarperCollins Union linktree to learn more.