By Noelle, Librarian Extraordinaire
One of the things that I am continually amazed about as a librarian is the number of very young children—4 and 5 year olds—who are mesmerized by Star Wars. Still. The first film arrived on the big screen in 1976, yet thirty-five years later, kids (and adults) are still clamoring for R2-D2, Luke and Leia, Darth Vader and Yoda. Most of the time these kids haven’t even seen the movies, yet they still are wanting to pore over the characters, ships and details.
And Star Wars isn’t the only enduring story. There is Star Trek, with a recent reboot. Transformers. Even superhero movies dabble in science fiction. What would IronMan do without all those computers and gadgetry?
What Makes Science Fiction Adventures So Appealing? And What The Heck Is It?
Science fiction is usually defined as a story where the setting or main propulsion of the plot rests upon something based heavily on futuristic imaginings or scientific theory. Not only does science fiction include aliens, spaceships or other planets; it can also simply be a story where time travel is the big plot device. And when you can travel through time or invent whole new planets and life forms, then throw in a huge dash of adventure, how can that NOT be a winning combination?
For kids, there is finally a growing field of science fiction to choose from when the list used to be woefully thin. As a scifi fan myself, here are twenty great stories for those kids whose tastes tend toward the future.
Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause
Puck befriends an alien on her way to meet her parents and gets involved in searching for a precious artifact. It is a mystery set on a spaceship. Also a Newbery Honor.
Atherton Series by Patrick Carman
Edgar thinks he lives an ordinary life until he finds a book that reveals terrifying secrets about the world he lives in and what may become of it. We aren’t on Earth any more! Start with The House of Power.
The City of Ember by Jeanne DePrau
The underground city of Ember is failing. Two 12 year olds are the only ones willing to attempt to save their city and navigate the Unknown Regions and find help. She continues the story with two more books, The People of Sparks and The Prophet of Yonwood, although they aren’t as good. Also made into a half-decent film.
Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
Sirius the Dog Star is sent to Earth to try and find the weapon of the stars and he has to take on the body of—you guessed it—a dog. Jones is better known for her wonderful fantasies, but this is a fun bit of scifi.
Dragonback Series by Timothy Zahn
Jack and the alien, Draycos, join forces to clear Jack’s name and find out who is behind the murderous attack on the K’da race. This is a great scifi adventure series—one of my favorites. Start with Dragon and Thief.
Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl
Star Trek fans know about the Prime Directive—no interference in the development of alien civilizations. This novel is right up that alley: young Elana becomes part of the team sent to stop one planet’s civilization from taking over another more primitive one. Truly wonderful story that earned a Newbery Honor, told from the point of view of both Elana and someone from the more primitive culture.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
When Jonah becomes the next “Receiver of the Memories,” he learns some unpleasant truths about his perfect society and realizes he must change it. This is a very clever story, where you only gradually become aware of what Jonah’s society has given up to have everything be perfect. A Newbery Award winner. She wrote some sequels: Gathering Blue and Messenger.
The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh
We have to leave the planet. Earthlings try and form a colony on a new, uninhabited planet, but there are surprises in store! A very short but involving story about what could happen if we had to leave our planet.
House of Stairs by William Sleator
Five orphan teens become part of a science experiment when they are imprisoned in a building with nothing but stairs. Psychological and creepy!
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Matt learns that he is really the clone of a 142 year old infamous Mexican, El Patron, existing to just be used for spare parts by the old man. Can he escape his destiny? Also a Newbery Honor and has won a boatload of other awards.
The Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve
In the future, cities are all on wheels and literally “eat” one another. The city of London has uncovered an ancient weapon to try and make itself unstoppable, but can our heroes stop the destruction? And will there be war between the traction cities and the stationary ones? A fantastic, dark series with fabulous characters and scope—a definite favorite of mine. Start with Mortal Engines. A prequel was written last year called Fever Crumb, but definitely read the others first
Larklight by Philip Reeve
Evelyn and Arthur are on the run across space from spider-like creatures who are attempting to destroy humankind by finding the key to Larklight. A great space romp! Followed up by Starcross and Mothstorm.
Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett
Pratchett is famed for his Discworld stories, but here he delves into something else. Johnny discovers the computer game he is playing is real to the aliens in the game, and that they are depending on him to save the day. Sort of an Ender’s Game for younger readers.
Shadow Children Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
It is the future and resources are a problem. Luke is one of the forbidden “third” children, doomed to pass his life in hiding so the Population Police don’t find him. When he discovers another third child living next door, can he risk a friendship? Can he risk a revolution? Start with Among the Hidden. This series is highly recommended if you have a reluctant reader—it is nearly impossible to not be sucked into the fast pace and endless paranoia.
Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard
Jack (the spacer) meets Kit (the orphaned “rat”) and ends up helping her to hide an illegal robot from falling into the wrong hands on a space station.
Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson
Silver discovers she is part of an ancient prophecy and must go both forwards and backwards in time on a quest to find the Timekeeper.
The Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher
This is an oldie but goodie. Will Parker escapes from being enslaved by the alien race of Tripods, and tries to join a rebel force in the mountains. Start with The White Mountains, although there is a prequel called When the Tripods Came.
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
After the Earth is invaded by aliens, Gratuity, her cat Pig, and a renegade Boov try to make it to Arizona to find her mother. This is a fun, tongue-in-cheek adventure.
Truesight Trilogy by David Stahler, Jr.
Jacob lives in Harmony, a town where blindness is a way of life. What will Jacob do when he suddenly begins to be able to see? Follow him on his journey when everything he knows changes. Set on other planets. Start with Truesight.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin must cross space and time to rescue Mr. Murray from the clutches of IT. A Newbery Award winner and total classic. Please read the others—A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters.
Were there more books I could have put on this list? Of course! This is certainly a growing field in children’s literature—happily so. If you want more suggestions, feel free to drop me a line! Until then, enjoy and happy reading!
May the Force be with you.
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|Noelle has been a children’s librarian for over 15 years. She’s also been a student teacher, worked as an online account manager, worked in a pet shop and as a supermarket checkout clerk, and as a dishwasher and fry cook. She is the proud mom of a beautiful daughter. You can read more of Noelle’s book reviews at Rave Reviews Log
Noelle can be reached at “Noelle @ DadDoes.Com”