A Tuesday Ten: Off-world Adventure!

I’ve done a bunch of fantasy lists lately. Thought it was time to do one more devoted to science fiction.  These are all stories that take place with characters off in space or other planets.  They may start on Earth or return to Earth, but the adventures take place elsewhere!


Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall (Puffin, February 2015)

Off to Mars! Likely one of my favorite SF books for this year–this futuristic story takes us to a world where aliens have invaded earth and the human-alien war has been going on for some time.   The war is not going particularly well for the humans, and Alice Dare is one of a select group of children being evacuated to Mars where terraforming is only beginning to make Mars habitable.  But things on Mars aren’t all that rosy and when the instructors go missing, leaving only the robots in charge, things quickly go from bad to worse.  This is exciting adventure, humor and great alien-human science fiction.


Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry (HarperCollins, 2013)

 Beyond Mars! The first book in the author’s Jupiter Pirates series,  this story takes us out into colonies withing out own solar system.  Our family of privateers lives and works in the Jovian system, taking advantage of the hostilities between Earth and the Jovians to make a good living capturing unauthorized Earth vessels for ransom.  Lots of great piratical adventure and outer space fun to be had in these books.


Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause (Laurel Leaf Library, c1993)

Off to the planet Shoon!  Puck is on her way to stay with her parents on the Planet Shoon aboard a transport ship.  But mysteries and secrets abound aboard ship–stolen alien treasures, ghostly encounters and dangerous enemies all serve to make this a fine intergalactic adventure!


Space Case by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster, 2014)

Off to the Moon!  Our closest celestial body is the one we might develop colonies on first.  This near future story imagines just such a possibility.  Dashiell Gibson is one of the very first kids ever to live on the moon in their very first colony!  But living on the moon isn’t all it’s cracked up to be–the food isn’t great, quarters can get claustrophobic, and the social life is small.  But when one of the colonists is murdered, Dash is the only one who may be able to figure out the culprit!


The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos (Starscape, 2013)

Mason Stark is a cadet whose just supposed to be logging hours aboard the spaceship SS Egypt on a routine trip through space.  Now he’s neck deep in trouble!  The Tremist aliens have invaded and taken over the ship, killing or imprisoning all the adult crew.  Only Mason and a handful of cadets have managed to avoid being captured, and now they must find a way to stop the Tremist before they get ahold of the weapon aboard the SS Egypt that could change the war forever!  Military science fiction for the middle-grade set.



High Wizardry by Diane Duane (HMH Books for Young Readers, c1990)

Across the universe! The third book in the Young Wizards series takes the focus off Nita and Kit and tells the story of Nita’s younger sister, 10-year-old Dairine.  Like her big sister, Dairine’s destined to be a wizard–but her wizard Ordeal is going to be quite a doozy!  Transported off to a far away planet, Dairine’s about to witness a new form of life being created–but when the Lone Power shows up, will Dairine and her allies be able to defeat it?  I think it fair to include the occasional space traveling wizard in the mix here.  Diane Duane’s series is one I enjoy because it manages to meld fantasy and science fictional tropes comfortably together.


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1962)

Travel by Tesseract!  Like the previous title, this one is a blend of the fantastic with the science fictional.  This classic award winning book sends three children hurtling through the stars to a distant planet in order to find and free their father.  But to do so, they will have to battle the darkness and evil of IT and find a way to break free.  Wild space adventure via the abilities of three mysterious beings: Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Whatsit.


Journey to Terezor by Frank Asch (Random House, c1989)

Beamed up by aliens!  Sometimes I have to throw in the sillier stuff.  Matt and his family are kidnapped by aliens and brought to another planet where life isn’t exactly bad, but they are still prisoners.  When Matt decides to break out and find out the truth behind their capture, he goes on an adventure and through a transformation he never imagined!


My Trip to Alpha I by Alfred Slote (HarperCollins, c1978)

Travel by code!  Jack is visiting his aunt on the distant planet, Alpha I, helping her prepare to move back to Earth, but something doesn’t seem right with his aunt, or with things that are going on around Alpha I.  Slote had the interesting idea of people traveling electronically  to robotic bodies that they would inhabit at far distances.  It’s an interesting enough concept that I wanted to include it here on this list!


The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron (Little, Brown Books, c1953)

Off to the Mushroom Planet.  This lovely little classic has two boys: Chuck and David, who make their own spacecraft in order to travel to the planet Basidium  and save that world!  This is the first book in a six-book series, but I’m not sure you’ll find anything beside the first book in print!

So there’s my ten!  What are some of your own favorites?

A Tuesday Ten: Crossworld Fantasy

These stories I’m including are ones where the characters start out in the “real”  world and find themselves in another world altogether.  Rule for this list is that the books can’t be multiverse tales (books where there are more than two worlds brought in) I have a list of those already here.



The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (Collier Books, c1950)

Probably one of the most famous MG crossworld fantasies.  How many kids have investigated their closets and wardrobes in hopes that they, too might have a secret passage into the magical land of Narnia. Four children from real world Britain enter a world of talking animals, magic and evil witches.



Button Hill by Michael Bradford (Orca Books, Expected Publication April 2015)

Dekker and his sister Riley have to spend the summer with their Aunt Primrose on Button Hill.  But what Dekker thinks will be a rotten summer of boredom quickly becomes something else again when he messes with a clock he’s been told not to touch and sets things in motion that leave his sister stuck in the world of the Nightside.  The real world is the Dayside, and Button Hill is one of the places where the two worlds touch and things . . . and people can cross over.  But getting his sister back from the Nightside won’t be so easy . . .



Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (Evertype, c1865)

Another classic of this type.  Down a rabbit hole goes Alice, after a white cross world trekking rabbit. Instead of dirt and roots, Alice finds an extraordinary madcap world called Wonderland.  Full of unforgettable characters and scenes, this book is a perfect example of what I’m aiming for on this list.


Un Lun Dun by China Mieville (Del Ray, c2007)

China Mieville’s (I think) only middle grade novel.  This odd story takes place in real and an alternate London with two girls discovering an entrance to the bizarre alternate, Un Lun Dun.  Mieville plays with the typical chosen one trope here by having the real chosen one fall to the villains early on–now only her best friend–the not-so-chosen-one, is left to help save the day.


Seven Wild Sisters by Charles De Lint, illustrated by Charles Vess (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014)

The world of Faerie is likely the most commonly used form of crossworld adventure.  Humans venture into the world via a number of (usually natural) boundaries, often at fairy invitation.  In this story, seven sisters all become involved in a fairy war and must help untangle things in order to go home again.  As in most cases with the world of Faerie, humans are at risk going there, and getting home again with their wits intact is part of the challenge!


Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne (Simon & Schuster, 2014)

Ten-year-old Jack Foster is bored with his humdrum life–he wants excitement, adventure and attention!  But when he finds a secret path to Londinium, a clock-work world that mirrors his own London, Jack will soon find more excitement, adventure and attention than he can handle!


Behind the Bookcase by Mark Steensland, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Delacorte, 2012)

Sarah is spending the summer at her late Grandma Winnie’s house.  And she finds a note left behind by her grandma saying: Strange things are happening behind the bookcase.   By investigating, Sarah discovers that the bookcase hides the entrance to the land of Scotopia, the land where the shadows come from.   A cat named Balthazat is her guide in this dangerous world  where Sarah will have to face her fears.  Guides to these crossworlds can be quite important players–and I think cats are one of the most common sort of creatures used as a guide.


Dark Lord by Jamie Thomson (Walker Children’s, 2012)

Okay, this one plays a little fast and loose with the rule.  A Dark Lord, leader of many minions and Legions of Doom, has been defeated by a good wizard and been thrust away from his world to that of Earth.  Worse than that, he’s now a tween boy in an ordinary town that has no idea of his former malevolent abilities.  “Dirk Lloyd” as he comes to be called, works feverishly at finding a way home while navigating the horrors of middle school.  Technically Dirk is from another world and comes to ours, but there is crossover in both direction within the book–so I think it counts!


Coraline by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean (HarperCollins, c2002)

Like crossworlders everywhere, it starts with a bored kid who gets curious and finds a door . . .  Coraline just doesn’t have much to do in her world with her inattentive parents and odd boarders.  So when she finds a door that leads to another world, she goes through–and finds a distorted mirror world, a world much like her own, but chillingly different.   This is no happy fairy story!  Unless Coraline keeps her wits about her, she may never get back to her world again!



Changeling by Delia Sherman (Viking Juvenile, 2006)

Neef is a changeling.  A human girl brought over to the alternate fairy world version of NYC as a babe.  She was raised in New York In-Between all her life, while her fairy counterpart has lived in the human NYC.  When Neef breaks fairy laws, her life is forfeit unless she’s able to fulfill a quest  and gain 3 special items.  Neef is accompanied on her mission by her fairy counterpart and the two girls must use their skills to win the quest before time runs out!  I love alternate world fantasy like this where the author makes use of the existing world  but twists it so that things are just a bit more fantastical!

So there are my ten!  What cross world books can you think of?

Comments Welcome!

Flashback Fridays: Hark! Hark! The Dogs do bark! . . .

Apologies for the delay in posts.  I was away and didn’t have the digital access I’d planned to have.  I’ll be catching up on posts in the next few days.

You’re a dalmatian couple living in Britain with your humans.  The proud parents of an entire passel of puppies, life is good until all your pups are kidnapped.  But when you’re a devoted dog with connections, you will not stop until  your puppies are found!

Do you remember:

The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Anne Smith, illustrated by Janet Grahame Johnstone and Anna Grahame Johnstone (Heinnman, c1956)

I’m sure many of you are familiar with some form of this dog story.  After all, Disney has not only created an animated version of the whole thing, but a live-action version. But the original version of this tale was created by the author Dodie Smith.  While the book and the original animated movie share a goodly number of details, there’s a good deal more in the book that isn’t included in the movie.

If, by chance you aren’t familiar, the story covers the life and adventures of a family of dalmatians.  Pongo and Missis are a dalmatian couple (who stay with their humans, Mr. and Mrs. Dearly) and are proud parents of a number of puppies.  The entire human, dog household couldn’t be happier. But the malevolent Cruella de Vil looms on the horizon.  A fur-hungry woman with a husband in the fur trade, she’s just as evil and cruel as her name suggests.  And when she sees the dalmatians, she gets spots before her eyes. Dalmatian spots–on gloves and coats and hats.  Cruella’s plan now includes kidnapping large numbers of dalmatian puppies to raise for fur. Not satisfied with gaining puppies in a legal manor, she insists on dognapping our Missis and Pongo’s  puppies as well.  Now the parents have to go in search of their kids, and rescue them from a dark fate.

Now, the book has some fabulous details that I really enjoy reading . . . but it is also rather sexist.  Poor Missis, is just Missis Pongo–she doesn’t even really get her own full name.  In the animated Disney movie her name is Perdita–but that’s because the movie went with the idea of combining the two female dog characters in this story into one. In the book, Missis isn’t able to care for all her new pups, and their humans rather fortuitously happen upon a homeless liver-spotted dalmatian whose own pups have been stolen(hmm I wonder who stole them? . . .).  Perdita joins the family to serve as a wet-nurse.  When the couple takes off across England to rescue their pups, Perdita stays behind to comfort the humans. On their adventures across country, Pongo is the decision maker and the one with the quick intelligence, Missis is portrayed as less capable–though still clever in her way.  Perhaps the scene that always bothered me the most is where a small scottie dog is trying to teach Missis how to understand right and left and directions.   She’s rather bad at it, and if memory serves, this is mostly blamed on her being female.

Still,  the story caught my imagination as a child.  The great thing about this book is that these dogs go off wandering around the English countryside, and encounter other dogs and humans while on their mission.  They eventually find the place where their children have been imprisoned. (Thanks to the Starlight Barking, a network of dogs and other animals that use their voices and report as a sort of auditory message relay system.)  But there’s not just their own children, of course–there are over ninety pups of various ages in this place.  And the dalmatian couple decide to rescue them all.

The results of this are epic–from book or movie stand point. (One hundred dogs moving in stealth across the countryside?) But I have to say that I love the revenge scene in the book–one that isn’t used for the movie.  The pups are all covered in black soot and heading back home when they encounter Cruella’s home.  With the help of the woman’s sorely abused cat (who’s furious at Cruella drowning her kittens), the dogs get inside and tear apart all her coats and furs of any sort.  The cat even joins in the destruction (specifically of the ermine sheets) before joining the pups in heading for the Dearlys.  They even manage to nab the “simple white fur” Cruella is wearing.  Because the dogs are still black from the soot, they are practically invisible and all Cruella and her husband see is the stole running off on its own.  The husband imagines it must be some ghostly ancestor of Cruella’s family.  It turns out later that Cruella’s husband had not paid for most of the furs at the home and it puts them in severe debt.  I believe the black side of Cruella’s hair turns green, or something like that.  It’s a great little bit of revenge that I’m sorry was missing from the movie.

That said, the depiction of Cruella as a villain in the movie and the iconic song to go with her, is absolutely delightful.  Disney manages to nail the villain quite well.

Did you know that this book had a loosely connected sequel?  Not that the sequel is particularly good, mind you–which is part of the reason you won’t usually find it or hear of it  without looking for further books by Dodie Smith.

The Starlight Barking (1967)

 This sequel takes us to a time when the dalmatian pups are grown and a mysterious force puts all the humans to sleep, leaving the dogs awake to deal with an alien arrival . . .  It’s all rather bizarre and a huge departure from the original story line.  While I’m often a fan of science fictional elements in a story, what drove the original tale was a sense of adventure and talking animals–it benefited from being an accessible story with easy to cheer on heroes and nasty villains.  This is something else again.  No harm in reading it of course, but may be hard to find.

Dodie Smith published one other book that’s linked to the Dalmatian stories, but I don’t think an actual companion book.  The Midnight Kittens (1978) this story concerns three kittens and a touch of magic, but doesn’t seem to actually involve dalmatians in any way.

Still, when it comes to dog fantasy, this classic story remains one of the top on the list.  If you’ve never read the original, it’s worth taking the time to do so!

What dog stories are among your favorites?  Comments welcome!


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