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Children's Fiction Science Fiction


by (author) Philippa Dowding

Cormorant Books
Initial publish date
Apr 2018
Science Fiction, Dystopian
Recommended Age
10 to 13
Recommended Grade
5 to 8
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2018
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2018
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Download Discussion Guide

Where to buy it


"I'm Mann, just Mann."

The world is slowly recovering after environmental collapse, and the children of the automated, domed city of Oculum have begun to awaken. Miranda, William and the 998 other children wake to tend the fruit trees and gardens behind the thick, opaque walls of their world. Some speak quietly of Outside, which is forbidden. Until William finds a door ...

The children outside the dome of Oculum — Mann, Cranker and others raised by Grannie — live amongst the rubble of the old destroyed city. They live with hunger, hard work, and stories about a time before the fall, of buggies without horses, light without fire ... and magical fruit called "peaches." But it must be lies, until one day Mann and Cranker get close enough to the ancient dome to find ... a door....

About the author

Philippa Dowding is a children’s author, poet, musician and copywriter. She has won many industry awards and has had poetry and short fiction published in journals across North America. Her children’s books have been nominated for numerous literary awards in Canada and abroad, including the SYRCA Diamond Willow, OLA Silver Birch, OLA Red Maple, Hackmatack and White Raven awards. In 2017, Myles and the Monster Outside was an OLA Silver Birch Express Honour Book and her 2021 novel, Firefly, won a Governor General’s Literary Award in the Children’s Literature – Text category. Philippa Dowding currently lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Philippa Dowding's profile page


  • Nominated, Forest of Reading - Silver Birch Fiction
  • Short-listed, SYRCA Diamond Willow

Editorial Reviews

"This is a thoughtful, environmental re-working of The Tempest and Brave New World intended to challenge today's youth"

Resource Links

"Similar to The Giver in quality, content, appeal, and originality, Oculum really is children’s literature. It’s written beautifully, simply, and thoughtfully, and covers subject matter that is not common enough in Middle Grade. Every scene can be pictured in vivid detail, and readers of any age will be desperate to learn more about this strange world."

The Sound

"Oculum is a gripping, dystopian page-turner that leaves you on the edge of your seat, hanging on to every word."

Well-written and an imaginative description of a future world struggling to survive, Oculum ends on a positive note, and the book should appeal to both boys and girls in search of adventure.

CM Magazine

[Oculum's] rich world-building and determined characters give it an originality that sets it apart from similar stories.

Quill & Quire

User Reviews


Miranda 1 and William 1, are the eldest of one thousand children growing up in a dome full of fruit trees, clean air, and zero death, unaware that life is going on outside the dome, and that maybe they should be a part of making it better, until one of them discovers a door.

Meanwhile, on the outside, environmental damage and sickness reigns, Mannfred, and his makeshift family have never tasted fruit and they’re all too familiar with death, but new life, a move that draws them to the curiosity that is the dome, bring more hope than they’ve ever known before.

With the short length of this novel there isn’t a ton of world-building, so I was left with some questions like, for instance, why girls are so scarce on the outside and how the littluns end up with the Grannies, I get that the parents must have passed on or something, but it just seemed curious that a sort of traveling salesman drops babies off with the Grannies, and I was left wanting to know more.

However, enough is explained about the state of things inside and outside of the dome that you’ll have a firm grasp of what’s going on, even if it isn’t overly detailed with information. It’s probably just as well since often a lot of detail can end up feeling unnecessary and bog things down and this has a really strong pace to it, a sense of urgency nicely balanced with getting a solid sense of who the characters are and what they’re feeling.

I loved that all the characters were intelligent in their own way (including Cranker), they tugged at me emotionally, I wanted everything to work out for them, it wasn’t just the humans, either, the one-eyed dog, and the Mothers (robots) easily found a place in my heart, too.

I received this book through a giveaway.

Other titles by Philippa Dowding

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