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.
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:
So the winners for the 2015 Cybils were announced yesterday. A big thanks to all the second round judges making the tough decisions from such awesome shortlists!
In the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category, the winner for 2015 is
The Fog Diver by Joel Ross (HarperCollins, May 2015)
A snippet from the Cybils website:
“The Fog Diver is a fun, exciting adventure set in a dystopian future where remnants of humanity live on the highest mountaintops and in airships above a deadly fog of microscopic robots covering the planet. The nannites were created to clean up Earth’s pollution, but got out of control and the fog they created killed billions of humans. A boy named Chess is lowered into the fog each day by his crewmates on a salvage ship flying above the clouds to scavenge on the earth’s surface. He is the best fog diver there is—the fog mysteriously energizes him. The secrets behind his fog-diving ability put a target on his back and will impact the survival of his family, and the fate of humankind.”
So glad to part of the judging process this year! I think I’d have been delighted with whatever title won from the shortlist we selected, but it’s awesome to see this high adventure blend of SF and Fantasy win for the year. If you haven’t read this one yet, I hope you’ll give it try!
Thanks again to the whole team for another fantastic Cybils year! Happy reading and blogging for the year ahead!
So here’s at least one more 2015 list–books taking place in alternate histories! This is where the story takes place in a world that is almost our own, but events are changed, maybe magic is added and everything is just a bit different from our reality.
A Riddle in Ruby by Kent Davis (Greenwillow, September 2015)
In an alternate steampunk history full of strange mechanical creatures, mysterious magic and warring factions young Ruby finds her life turned upside down when it turns out that everyone is suddenly hunting for her. Adventure, amazing world-building and great fun.
The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud (Disney-Hyperion, September 2015)
Book three in the Lockwood & Co. series, this paranormal alternate history sets us in a Britain where progress has come to a halt due to some kind of paranormal event that has left hauntings and the undead of every kind lurking in the night. An alternate history ghostbusters with plenty of dark deeds, paranormal baddies in this creepy thriller/mystery. I haven’t gotten to read this one yet, but look forward to doing so. (Love the cover.)
The Buccaneer’s Code by Caroline Carlson (HarperCollins, September 2015)
Another Book 3, this one in The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series. Young Hilary Westfield lives in a version of Britain where the world has all sorts of small magics alongside everyday life. Now the Enchantress is enlisting Hilary to help her in a final battle against Captain Blacktooth for the Presidency of the League.
My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson (Aladdin, Expected Publication November 2015)
Gracie Lockwood lives in a world where dragon migration is a normal thing, where merfolk hunt the shoreline and dark clouds come for people when they’re about to die. Gracie’s father believes there’s a world out there much like their own, but without the monsters and magic, and without the foreboding dark clouds. So when starts appearing on the horizon, the family goes on an epic trip across the country to and to the edges of the world itself to try and find a way to that other world . . .
Second Guard by J. D. Vaughn (Disney-Hyperion, April 2015)
Admittedly, this takes place in the fictional kingdom of Tequende, where the rulers are part of a matriarchal line and all second children must serve the Kingdom for a set number of years, either as servants or as fighters. But there’s evidence that outside this kingdom lies somewhere in Europe, with other, more familiar countries nestled around it. While that doesn’t come up much in the story, it still counts as alternate history in my book!
School for Sidekicks by Kelly Mccullough (Feiwel & Friends, August 2015)
Evan Quick has always dreamed of being a superhero, just like the real superheroes that live in his world. But when his dreams come true he finds out that maybe being a superhero isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Especially when you’re stuck as a sidekick. An alternate time-travel history full of superheroes that’s lots of fun to read, although I’ll be waiting to find out more in the sequel!
Lilliput by Sam Gayton, illustrated by Alice Ratterree (Peachtree Publishers, August 2015)
In this version of Victorian London, Gulliver is a real person. He has stolen a Lilliputian child away from her home as physical proof of his discoveries. That child is young Lily, and she refuses to stay caged. A mixture of Swift and steampunk along with some very real London backdrops help to make this a solidly engaging adventure!
The Courage of Cat Campbell by Natasha Lowe (Simon & Schuster, January 2015)
A companion volume to the author’s previous title: The Power of Poppy Pendle, this story follows the exploits of Poppy’s daughter, Cat. Unlike her magic-averse mother who only ever wanted to bake, Cat yearns to be magical and go to a magic school. But can she convince her mother to let her pursue her dreams? In this alternate history magic academy’s are a regular part of society and being a powerful magic user is considered to be quite the thing.
Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage (Shadow Mountain, September 2015)
Trenton Colman lives in the city of Cove, a city inside a mountain where the inhabitants are forbidden to tinker and invent new things. The citizens are supposed to stick to the ways and machines handed down from the Founders, but Trenton can’t help tinkering. Mysterious clues around the city lead Trenton into deeper forbidden territory, but he’s too caught up to stop now. Especially when what he’s uncovering may lead him to clues about the truth of Cove itself. This steampunk fantasy is definitely an alternate history, but I can’t really reveal how without giving the story away–so you’ll just have to find out for yourself!
The Ire of Ironclaw by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by James Hamilton (Clarion Books, July 2015)
The second book in the Gadgets and Gears steampunk series. Boy inventor Wally and his daring dog Noodles are off on another adventure. This time they’ll be aboard a dirigible with the famous Nikola Tesla facing all sorts of wild events and dangers to finally confront old enemies once again. This turn of the century alternate history series is great fun, especially since our first person narrator is Noodles himself.
So there’s my ten! Any more to add? Please comment with the titles!