Best Sci-Fi Books For Kids: Wordy Gifts For The Small Nerds In Your Life


Recently, I did a post on the NPR books blog about science fiction books for kids–about choosing the right ones, and the right age at which to launch them upon your defenseless children. I deliberately left out a lot of stuff that had a big impact on me (the Heinlein juveniles, most notably, and some stuff that’s just been recommended to death) and lost a bunch more to my own verbose enthusiasm for the topic–which led me to write a couple thousand words for an outlet that really kinda wanted something short, simple and pluggish.

Which is cool. I get what NPR was after, and I was more than happy to provide what service I could. The books that made the final cut were all awesome and noggin-rattling and included such gems as Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino (a favorite around our house) and Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator, which I’d somehow forgotten dealt rather heavily with some pretty out-there stuff–like space stations and alien invasions and other things that you’re missing out on if all you remember is Augustus Gloop getting sucked up in the giant pipe from the movie version of the first Charlie Bucket book.

Anyway, what with the holidays fast approaching and many of you out there in possession of small people of your very own, I figured it was worth reposting the link to the original piece here. And, as an added bonus, I’ve thrown in some of the books that ended up on the cutting room floor. Check ’em out after the jump.

To Be Read To (Or With) The Very Young

Most of my suggestions for the tiniest of future nerds made the cut, but the one that didn’t is a personal favorite: Curious George and the Rocket by H.A. Rey. When I was a very small boy, I demanded that this book be read to me about a thousand times and I still love it today. There’s just something about the harmlessness of a very curious monkey in a space suit that got me every time. The only Curious George book I recall liking more than this one was the one where George ate the puzzle piece and ended up in the hospital. And, as a child who was very fond of sticking things up his nose and eating what he oughtn’t, I probably considered that one more instructive than entertaining…

For The Young And Curious And Slightly Weird

So many great books out there for this age group. I went with some Stanislaw Lem, a little Madeline L’Engle, the aforementioned Charlie and the Totally Freaky Alien Invasion book. But one that killed me to cut was The White Mountains by John Christopher. This one is like a kid’s primer on dystopian literature and giant robot books—a must-read for those looking to spark a child’s revolutionary heart.

Too Young For This Stuff

In addition to believing strongly in the tonic powers of great sci-fi, I am also foursquare in favor of introducing kids to books that they are way too young for. Mostly because the idea of being “too young for” any book is total bullshit, and sometimes a book’s greatest impact comes when the brain it is impacting is operating right on the edge of comprehension. So with that in mind, I larded my list with Walter M. Miller, Ray Bradbury, Vonnegut, Douglas Adams and the original Logan’s Run–which was super cool as a movie, but even better, deeper and more affecting as a book.

In this category, the one book that got left out that I truly missed was Memoirs Found In A Bathtub. I get why it had to go. It’s not a terribly well-known book. It is deeply weird. No reasonable parent would ever hand over a brain-grenade like this to a kid that wasn’t in training to be the next Snowden or Assange. And finally, it was a second Stanislaw Lem book on a list that was already too long.

So why the double inclusion? Because Lem is a genius and everyone should be reading him all the time. But also, Memoirs was one of those books that truly popped my cork when it was first given to me (by a teacher, it should be noted) and fundamentally shook my understanding of the world. As a writer and a reader, it opened my eyes to the possibilities of form, and as a young nerd, it sent me hurtling down a path to strangeness and dangerous literature that I still walk today–albeit a bit more slowly than I once did.

Warp Your Kid’s Mind With Some Great Sci-Fi This Holiday Season [NPR Books Blog]


One thought on “Best Sci-Fi Books For Kids: Wordy Gifts For The Small Nerds In Your Life

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