A Tuesday Ten: A Science Fiction Pathway Part II (3-5 yrs.)

So, there are always lists out there detailing these or those must-read Science fiction books. Often SF and Fantasy are thrown in together without differentiation.  It’s inspired me to try a different kind of series of Tuesday Ten lists, one that takes readers on a trip from childhood to adult with Science Fiction stories recommended in each age bracket.  A potential pathway so to speak.  I’m going to limit each bracket to ten titles (which is a REAL challenge in some cases), and I’m going to try and put in a range of works, recent and past, that are still available for readers to find.  After all, the point of this list is to give you ideas of titles share with your kids or read yourselves!  There will be many more options in each age range, this is only the jumping off point after all!  Let’s blast off!

This week’s Ten is focusing on the next group in my age bracket, the 3-5 year-olds.  (You can check out the 0-3 years list here.)  Most of these youngsters are getting to be excellent listeners, eager to discuss stories and ideas and firmly have their own opinions regarding likes and dislikes.  These are usually the children who are assembling all the skills to learn to read, but many are not reading just yet.  They are willing to sit for longer stories and often have their favorites.  By the time they are this age they can begin to have discussions about space travel, inventions, science and superheroes.

Ages 3-5


Cosmo and the Robot by Brian Pinkney (Greenwillow, c2000)

This is one of the books on my list that is infuriatingly out of print.  But I’m including it because it is available used and it’s one of the few diverse reads I was able to include on the list.  Science fiction for kids really still struggles with diversity and picture books in the SF genre that feature African-American protagonists are rare indeed. Cosmo’s days on Mars are never dull–and when you’ve got a haywire robot to deal with–things can get crazy indeed!


Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat (Disney-Hyperion, 2010)

Our young female protagonist has created a monster.  Or more precisely, a giant robot that’s destroying the city.  This young mad scientist probably should have considered her options a tad more carefully when planning her science project . . .  The author and illustrator team went on to create a sequel story: Oh No! Not Again! (Or How I Built a Time Machine to Save History) (2012) .   Lots of fun and mayhem–along with science fictional tropes and invention.


Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt (Chronicle,  2015)

A steampunkish space-opera style Cinderella, where our protagonist is  loves getting her hands dirty and working with tools.  It isn’t the prince she longs for, it’s his ship, and a chance at a prime job working as his mechanic.  A nice twist on a traditional tale, and fun science fiction that’ll make your kids want their own steampunk style goggles!


It’s Only Stanley Jon Agee  (Dial, 2015)

Author Jon Agee has always been a bit bizarre.  This book is no different.  A family keeps waking up to odd noises and the strange antics of their pet beagle.  What he’s up to by the end will delight and surprise all readers.  Short and sweet, the humor in this book makes it just so much fun to read.  And may make the kids wonder about their own family pets . . .


Company’s Coming by Arthur Yorinks, illustrated by David Small (Disney-Hyperion, c1988)

Alas another out of print book that I hold a great deal of fondness for.  Arthur Yorinks has a handful of my favorite science fiction picture books, perhaps because he knows and loves the tropes so well, and then skewers them rather handily.  Shirley and Moe are just an ordinary couple living in Bellmore, Long Island when aliens land and announce “Greetings, we come in peace. Do you have a bathroom?”  An international incident, a wild and wacky build up and everything resolved by a nice spaghetti dinner.  Yorinks knows how to play it.  He has a follow up to this one: Company’s Going (2001) which continues the adventures of Moe and Shirley, this time in space.


Why? by Lindsay Camp and Tony Ross (Putnam Juvenile, c1998)

Lily drives everyone crazy with her insistent question “why?” all the time.  Until dangerous aliens invade earth, bent on taking over.  But fearless Lily just keeps asking them why until the aliens are forced to reconsider their plan and return home.  A delightful take  on the alien invasion trope with a mundane earthly answer!  It is out of print, but readily available used.


Superhero by Mark Tauss (Scholastic, 2005)

Yes, sadly also out of print, but it manages to include both an African American protagonist and a superhero storyline! Maleek is a small city boy by day, but a scientist and a superhero by night! It’s up to Maleek and his robot to save the day.  While superheroes can be a blurry line between SF and fantasy, when they tend to stress the science aspects and technology, I’ll always put them on the science fictional side.


Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrew Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts (Harry N. Abrams, c2013)

Rosie dreams of being an inventor, coming up with ideas for all sorts of gadgets and gizmos, but when she becomes determined to help her aunt realize her dream, she’ll have to learn that failure is a part of the craft of invention.  And that the only true failure is never to try at all.  While not strictly super science fictional, the theme of invention is an essential part of the genre.


Awesome Dawson by Chris Gall (Little, Brown Books, 2013)

Everything can be used again!  This eco-minded inventor believes whole-heartedly in the notions of reuse, repurpose and recycle.  But when he makes the ultimate cleaning robot, he may have gone just a tad too far . . . never mind! His solution to the mess is still bound to be awesome!


Astronaut Handbook by Meghan McCarthy (Knopf Books, c2008)

Do you have what it takes to become and astronaut?  By this age you’ll be starting to expose your kids to all sorts of nonfiction books as well as fiction, so it doesn’t hurt to add in a nonfiction book about astronauts to the list.  When I was a kid I gobbled up any kind of program or book about astronauts and space.  And it’s great to start talking to your kids about different jobs and roles people can have now as well as possibly in the future.

This is where the list is already getting hard, folks.  I have so many other books I’d pile on effortlessly in an eager effort to share–but I’m going to do my best to stick to the ten rule,  because this is just to get you started . . .

Check back next week for my pathway for 5-7 year olds!

Previous Science Fiction Pathway posts:

A Science Fiction Pathway Part I ( 0-3 years)


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on March 2, 2016, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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