Science teaching has changed a lot since my day. We didn’t really get to do much until ‘big school’ while these days even my 5 year old gets to do playground ‘experiments’ squirting various substances out of squeezy detergent bottles. Science clubs and camps abound, pre-teens are practically welded to technology that would have been science-fictional only a couple of decades ago and so it’s not surprising that there’s a publishing buzz around sci-fi for what’s known as ‘middle-grade’ readers in the trade (roughly 9-12, though some of these would be enjoyed by young teens).
Science is fun, kids. And don’t let the grown-ups tell you otherwise.
Here’s my selection-I’m no purist so many of these are speculative with sci-fi elements mixed with fantasy. Aliens are optional.
A Wrinkle in Time: Classic speculative fiction which combines musings on the fourth-dimension with religion, coming-of-age, talking stars (real ones, not celebrities) and has remained in print for over fifty years. There is even a new graphic-novel version. Anyone who hasn’t read this just get off this blog RIGHT NOW and order a copy.
Others I enjoyed back in the day: The Ogre Downstairs, Hexwood and A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne-Jones (OK more fantasy than sci-fi but she made me buy a chemistry set-read TOD to find out why I never became a chemist) and naturally the increasingly weird AWIT sequels (there are three).
Now (drumroll) the new kids on the block all of which have been read and enjoyed both by myself and my (admittedly geeky) nine year old:
Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall
War on earth waged by invisible aliens, a girl protagonist and a genius best friend who is also a girl of colour all of which is taken as entirely by the by as it should be. And Mars the Red Planet. Oh, and a chirpy robot goldfish tutor who flies. More fun than should be allowed.
Phoenix by SF Said
A mystical, fantastical, heart-breaking tale of adventures in space. The illustrations by Dave Mckean are astounding and an integral part of the text.
How to be Invisible by Tim Lott
Sweet, fantastical-leaning sci-fi with the main character’s geeky particle physics fascination countering the more ‘magical’ bent of the story-line.
And there’s more!
The Water Castle Megan Frazer Blakemore (Tuck Everlasting updated and it’s SO GOOD) The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages (The Manhattan Project for kids-haven’t read but comes highly recommended) Itch and Itch Rocks by Simon Mayo (wasn’t bowled over but my nine-year old science nerd loved). Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials isn’t sci-fi as such but was eloquent on dark matter and its possibilities (incidentally a female scientist, Vera Rubin was one of the first to confirm its existence, see here ) and I’m still WAITING for someone to write this book.
And if you still don’t understand what a tesseract is here’s Carl Sagan explaining it, just for you
So fire up those Bunsen Burners kids. A world of science-y adventures awaits…
Please do comment with your suggestions!