January 2nd is National Science Fiction Day, and we wanted to celebrate by giving you a list of science fiction children’s books to try! Oftentimes, science fiction is a genre that intimidates people with its imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, and even extraterrestrial life. It’s a genre that can be difficult to define, with its wide range of concepts and themes. However, we’ve picked a few children’s books that we think would be a great start in dipping your toes into the science fiction genre if you’ve been too intimidated, or, if you’re a science fiction lover, here’s some to add to your list!
Oh no! How My Science Project Destroyed the World. 2010 (Picture Book).
It’s a terrible thing when a giant robot starts destroying your city; it’s even worse when it’s your fault. This picture book opens up in the middle of the action, as our heroine faces the retreating back of a mechanical robot on the rampage — a robot she built. We soon learn that after winning the science fair with her giant robot, our main character watches as her robot gets loose in the city and creates havoc, making her question all of the features that she should have included and ones that she definitely shouldn’t have — like that laser eye. Now it’s up to her to stop it.
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The Fourteenth Goldfish. 2014 (Middle Grade).
Ellie is an eleven-year-old who is not a fan of change; she’s missing fifth grade, her old best friend, and even her dearly departed goldfish. But then a strange boy shows up one day — a bossy, cranky boy that oddly looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Now this bossy, cranky boy who’s just like her grandpa has to attend middle school with Ellie. This middle grade novel slips in a lot of information about important scientists and life-changing scientific discoveries alongside light and funny interactions and moments.
Kaufman, Amie and Jay Kristoff
Gemina. 2016 (Teen).
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life, but nobody said it might actually kill her. Hanna is the pampered daughter of the station caption; Nik is the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. While the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring station, an elite intergalactic strike team invades the station, throwing the two together to defend their home. Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival amidst alien predators and a malfunctioning wormhole — the fate of everyone on their space station (and possibly the known universe) is in their hands. This second book in a series (the first being Illuminae) is told through a dossier of hacked documents, including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, video transcripts, pictures, and more.
Cinder. 2012 (Teen).
This futuristic Cinderella retelling takes place in New Beijing, a city that’s crowded by humans, androids, and a deadly plague ravaging the population. Cinder is a gifted mechanic — and a cyborg. As a cyborg, Cinder doesn’t have the same rights as a normal person, and her stepmother goes out of her way to remind Cinder of this whenever she can — even while Cinder tries to hide her cyborg status from the world. But her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, and she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle. Cinder is the first book in a Disney series, The Lunar Chronicles, of retellings of familiar stories set in a science fiction world.
The Starspun Web. 2019 (Middle Grade).
Tess has lived at Miss Ackerbee’s orphanage all her life, with her friends and pet tarantula, Violet. But one day, a mysterious man named Mr. Cleat shows up and whisks Tess away to live with him. Before Tess leaves, Miss Ackerbee gives her a strange lens and makes an even stranger admission: that Tess can travel to parallel worlds and has been able to do so since she was found as a baby. Now Tess must learn to navigate her newfound abilities alongside her new life with Mr. Cleat and his nefarious housekeeper, all while trying to keep her abilities secret and making sure the lens doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Skyward. 2018 (Teen).
Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly under attack by mysterious alien starfighters. The population is hidden under the earth, the only ones visiting the surface being pilots trained to fight against the aliens attacking them. Spensa, a teenage girl whose father once was a pilot, wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps and be accepted into flight school. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes her dream might be possible — assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school where everyone seems to hate her because of what her father did, and persuade the strange ship to help her because this ship appears to have a soul.
Scythe. 2016 (Teen).
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. No death. Humanity has conquered all those things. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life — and they are commanded to do so in order to keep the size of the population under control. All manners of life are now controlled by the Thunderhead, a conscious Artificial Intelligence that handles all food and wealth distribution, medical care, and anything else required for living on Earth. Citra and Rowan are chosen to be apprentices to scythes — a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking a life, knowing that the consequence could mean losing their own.
The Sand Warrior. 2017 (Middle Grade Graphic Novel).
Star Wars meets Avatar: The Last Airbender in this science fiction graphic novel, where the Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. Three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves than meets the eye: Oona Lee, the clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine; An Tzu, a boy from the poorest slums, has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations; and Jax Amboy is the star athlete who is beloved by the entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends? These three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest across the universe.
Illustrated by: Meg Hunt
Interstellar Cinderella. 2015 (Picture Book)
Cinderella’s passion is working on spaceships and fixing things. She doesn’t want to marry the prince — she wants to be his mechanic. Living with her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, she acts as the household mechanic, with her best friend being a robot mouse. When everyone is invited to the Prince’s Royal Space Parade, Cinderella’s stepmother forbids her to go. With a little help from her fairy godrobot, Cinderella is going to the parade — but when the Prince’s ship has mechanical trouble, Cinderella will have to zoom to the rescue. After leaving her screwdriver, the Prince frantically searches for the great mechanic, and he sets up a test to see who can fix his rocket.
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Van Camp, Katie
Illustrated by: Lincoln Agnew
Harry and Horsie. 2009 (Picture Book).
With the moon shining through the window onto his new Super Duper Bubble Blooper, Harry finds it hard to sleep. He instead decides to sneak out of bed with his best friend, Horsie, and play with the toy, firing the bubble gun around his room. Before long, bubbles of all sizes are filling Harry’s room, but those bubbles then start to swallow up all Harry’s toys, floating them out the window towards space! The bubbles take his toy train, his cars, his planes, his shoes; but then the bubbles take Horsie, and Harry doesn’t hesitate in jumping on his toy rocket ship and racing to rescue his best friend.