Out of This World Stories: Books For National Science Fiction Day
In honor of famed science fiction author Isaac Asimov’s birthday, January 2nd is unofficially National Science Fiction Day. As I don’t often have the patience for 400+ paged fiction youth or adult), science fiction novels can be daunting. However, in the interest of diverse reading, I make it a habit to pick up a science fiction novel every now and then. In addition to classics such as A Wrinkle in Time, The Giver, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, here are my favorite children’s science fiction novels that aren’t enormous doorstoppers!
You may be familiar with the Kelly astronaut siblings (the only siblings to have both traveled in space, although not in the same mission). Because they are identical twins, NASA conducted studies on both Mark and Scott during and after Scott’s year-long work on the International Space Station in order to study the physical differences caused by living in space for an extended period of time. Both brothers have retired from NASA, with Mark starting a new career as a children’s author with the launch of the Astrotwins series. Based loosely on the brothers’ childhood, “Astrotwins” follows two brothers who build a rocket, which leads to all sorts of amazing adventures! Facts about space and space life are intertwined into this fun story that will appeal to reluctant readers.
Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist is a super funny series about a young scientist who constantly runs into troubles with her experiments (such as a monster popping out of the school lunchroom garbage can). I recommend this series all the time to both boys and girls, avid and reluctant readers all!
When patrons ask for beginning chapter books, I always recommend Galaxy Zack. With short chapters and illustrations sprinkled throughout the story, this series about a boy who moves to Planet Nebulon charmingly deals with everyday issues such as moving to a new place, making friends, etc., in an outer space setting.
I adore the HiLo graphic novel series, and can’t wait to read more adventures of Hilo and his friends. HiLo is hilarious, touching (it might just be me, but there are some elements that remind me of E.T.), and offers much needed diversity in children’s science fiction stories. This OUTSTANDING (as HiLo would say) series about a blonde-haired alien who falls to Earth is one of my favorite graphic novel series of all time.
Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast features a young boy and his eccentric grandmother, who operates a very unusual bed-and-breakfast for a rather eccentric clientele. Not only is this quite funny, but it’s also a good pick for those not quite ready for YA science fiction, which tends to be rather heavy.
Science fiction stories often deal with societal questions and issues; YA science fiction is no exception:
Set in 2050 Los Angeles, Bluescreen features non-stop action in a virtual reality setting; it also includes a diverse set of characters, which is very welcome in YA science fiction.
Looking for an insanely fun and addicting read? Marissa Meyer’s enormously popular Lunar Chronicles is for you! This science fiction series with a fairy tale twist is super smart and clever(check out Meyer’s latest, Heartless, if you’re already a fan).
Noggin images a world in which cryonic freezing is a reality, through the experiences of a teenage boy who is brought back to life five years (with a different body other than his head) after his death. The emotional consequences are sky-high; this is a mature and thoughtful read. There are moments of levity that break the somber tension, but overall, this is a read that will linger with you for a long time.
Like many people traveling this holiday season, I took two books with me to occupy my time waiting at airports and during the actual plane trips; as my first flight was delayed three hours, I had plenty of time to delve into George Lucas: A Life. As a fan of both Star Wars and biographer Brian Jay Jones’s remarkable Jim Henson biography, I had eagerly anticipated this ever since it was announced. Science fiction movies in the 1970s were thought to be a dead medium, which is why the enormous success of Star Wars was unprecedented (Lucas had no champions for his movie and was so discouraged by the constant problems faced on the set that he thought it would be a failure as well). This is an even-handed look at a very private man who tends to be unemotional on the surface and whose major scandals involved tinkering with the original series and an over-reliance on special effects in the prequel series (so not so much drama in his life, especially since he seems to be very content with life post Star-Wars; this could have made for an unmemorable read if written by lesser-skilled hands).
If science fact rather than fiction is more appealing, don’t miss Hidden Figures (I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m planning to do so before I see the movie next weekend). This account of African-American women who worked as human computers at NASA during the early days of the space program is inspiring, compelling and eye-opening. This is also Virginia history, as the women worked at Langley Research Center in Hampton (author Margot Lee Shetterly is also a Hampton native). We also have the young readers’ edition available.
I recently blogged about some of my favorite 2016 children’s books on the ALSC blog; check out the comments from other ALSC members as well!
Looking for more program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers? Make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library