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Science Fiction for Children?

Science Fiction Fans

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Nov 24, 2014, 12:54am Top

My 8 y/o son is a big science fiction fan, as far as is possible for his age. He loves to talk about planets and aliens, and loves to hear me retell science fiction stores. Twice now I've listened to science fiction ebooks during long drives, when he's supposed to be sleeping, and he stayed up and listened.

So here's my question. What science fiction can you recommend for him—either for him to read, or for me to read to him?

Edited: Nov 24, 2014, 2:22am Top

Didn't Azimov and Clarke do some what would now be referred to as YA science fiction? A lot of what is available now would probably be over his head or just plain not suitable.

You could try him on Andre Norton - the Solar Queen series would be a good start, then the Murdock Jern series.

Was trying to remember the book I have stashed in the attic and not yet logged - Rocket from Infinity by Lester del Rey.

Nov 24, 2014, 2:20am Top

The first thing that springs to mind is Ender's game. I have to admit, though that I'm probably not the best person to estimate the age range of a book. But other books I can think of would be Chocky and The chrysalids by John Wyndham. I really liked Pathfinder, but that's probably a bit too complicated. Perhaps www:wake? I liked Songmaster and The crystal singer (adult protagonist, don't know if that's a problem). And of course, Dune!

Edited: Nov 24, 2014, 2:27am Top

Wyndham may be a bit dark for someone aged 8; remember he was writing Cold War post-apocalyptic fiction for the most part. It's why I hesitated about mentioning Wells.

You could try him on The Lost World, or Tarzan.

Nov 24, 2014, 2:41am Top

I don't think I'd recommend Ender's Game for an eight year old. I will try to go through some of my friends tomorrow, and come up with suggestions. I would think that we ought to be able to come up with things he'd find interesting from authors who are writing currently.

What non-sf books has he liked?

Edited: Nov 24, 2014, 3:13am Top

My sister's kids read Lemony Snickett and Harry Potter. They weren't much into SF, although I was quite surprised to find my eldest nephew had a collection of the Stainless Steel Rat series (this was about a year or so ago; he's now at university).

Lois McMaster Bujold might be another possibility - I'm thinking of the Vorkosigan series. You could try some Poul Anderson - some of the Polesotechnic League stories might go down well, especially the van Rijjin stories.

In all honesty, there's a reason some books are still read and enjoyed now even though they were written over 50 years ago. When I was cataloguing my collection earlier this year, I chucked out a lot of books written in the 80s and 90s because they had dated so badly (that and because I'd got a 1 or 2 books in a series from a remainders shop and never bothered looking out for the rest).

Given a lot of the themes touched on now in science fiction, I'd hesitate to recommend them as being suitable for an 8 year old. I would stick to stuff that could be categorised as thrilling wonder stories - basically stuff that riffs off the old pulps.

Nov 24, 2014, 4:02am Top

I wouldn't recommend Ender's Game to anyone. There's plenty of smart sf YA available, from Suzanne Collins to Philip Reeves. I wouldn't bother with any of the classics, no 8-year-old is going to understand the cultural references, and you really shouldn't be introducing a kid to the sensibilities embedded in them.

Nov 24, 2014, 4:28am Top

I remember very much enjoying the last legionary although I was probably a year or two older than eight.

Can't think of much else that was proper SF and not fantasy that I read at that age.

Nov 24, 2014, 4:47am Top

Wow eight already! difficult age

Fantasy Diana Wynne Jones of course , and Tanith Lee, Wrote the fun The Dragon's Hoard.

Eoin Colfer is popular.

Heinlein's Juveniles I enjoyed, Asimov's I found dry as dust. Both will have sadly dated science by now.
Andre Norton has fared better.
Harry Harrison's Stainless steel rat series. or his much more juvenile The Men from P.I.G. and R.O.B.O.T.
Philip Reeve is a bit more modern.
Ian McDonald's everness series.
Eoin Colfer
Kenneth Oppel

look to childrens short story collections I think.

Nov 24, 2014, 4:53am Top

OK some ideas.

The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher
Siberia by Ann Halam
Railsea by China Miéville

But I guess it is what attracts him to SF. There are no space-ships or laser fights in any of the above.

However a lot of what has been listed above (including all but The Tripods) are usually listed as YA. There is middle-grade SF (which is supposed to be aimed at 8-12 year olds) but I don't know much about what to recommend at that age level.

Nov 24, 2014, 5:01am Top

>9 SimonW11: and Tanith Lee,

Not all of Tanith Lee's books though.

Planesrunner (the first of the Everness series) by McDonald is another usually described as YA. Not sure how it would fare with an 8 year old.

Nov 24, 2014, 5:03am Top

I'd let him loose in a bookshop/library and let him pick up whatever tickles his fancy. There's no telling what he'd like. I was eight when I read and loved Nordhoff/Hall's Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy. I didn't understand half of what was going on with the adult stuff but I loved it with all my heart.

Nov 24, 2014, 5:05am Top

Smiles no not All Tanith Lee! seconding the John Christopher.

Nov 24, 2014, 5:24am Top

I absolutely devoured Nicholas Fisk's books when I was that age. I particularly remember A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair and Grinny, with honourable mentions for Trillions and Space Hostages. Whether they'll stand up to adult reading, I don't know but at L's age, I couldn't get enough of them.

Nov 24, 2014, 6:47am Top

Tim, I had the same problem when my girls were younger. I concluded there was a niche to be filled -- not enough good science fiction out there suitable for 8 year-old girls, IMO. Plenty of fantasy, not enough SF. Someone mentioned Asimov -- I tried that because I grew up on Asimov -- but he was dialogue-heavy and his fiction is rather dated. Best I could come up with was A Wrinkle in Time which admittedly is more fantasy than SF. Some Jules Verne may also work, such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I also tried Heinlein's Have Space Suit Will Travel.

Nov 24, 2014, 6:49am Top

Only you can save Mankind and its sequels

Truckers and its sequels

Nov 24, 2014, 8:11am Top

>7 iansales:

IMO, you should think about introducing children to differing sensibilities. That way you can discuss with them why they're wrong and why we do things differently now. To throw up your hands in horror and refusing to acknowledge them is not a good idea; at the very least you are introducing the facts in a controlled way.

I won't say that I had that kind of upbringing, but I went to a Catholic school, and my mother never discussed things with me, and my father was barely around. So no, I didn't have that controlled introduction but luckily because I was an avid reader from an early age I absorbed things via osmosis (and my reading wasn't by and large restricted to 'appropriate' books (age appropriate or otherwise)). I was also lucky that our then church had a good youth club where the priest would discuss things with us when we got older. (I remember the discussion on racial prejudice where I cracked everyone up when we broke for coffee and I asked 'Black or white?')

Nov 24, 2014, 8:49am Top

I enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time at about that age. I hate recommending something so old, but most of the stuff in this thread is even older, and I don't have any newer suggestions.

Nov 24, 2014, 9:15am Top

I have just backed an anthology on kickstarter which may be appropriate: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/815743020/young-explorers-adventure-guide-s...

Nov 24, 2014, 10:42am Top

It's probably OOP and hard to find (as well as being very dated!) but I loved The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet and wish there were more SF for elementary grade readers.

Nov 24, 2014, 10:48am Top

I think Ender's Game is Great. But I wouldn't let my eight year-old read it. It may be about a child, but it's not a book for children. Teens? Sure.

He's reading Wrinkle in Time now. It's great, of course.

Nov 24, 2014, 11:15am Top

>21 timspalding:

I read it recently and thought it was awful, quite aside from being Christian and anti-Soviet propaganda. Repellent characters (that know-it-all little kid in particular) antiquated characterisation and muddy plotting. More to the point perhaps, it's not sf.

But if that's okay, then, my niece really liked Un Lun Dun, fwiw.

Edited: Nov 24, 2014, 2:26pm Top

>1 timspalding:

You might find this list useful:

https://worldswithoutend.com/lists_BrinYA.asp *

>17 Maddz:

IMO, you should think about introducing children to differing sensibilities. That way you can discuss with them why they're wrong and why we do things differently now. To throw up your hands in horror and refusing to acknowledge them is not a good idea; at the very least you are introducing the facts in a controlled way.

I think that's an excellent point. An old friend was telling me how a couple of years ago his son (who was about 11 or 12 at the time) read H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu" (http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/cc.aspx) and that it gave them an excellent opportunity to discuss how attitudes about race have changed since the early 20th century. I myself find older books, films, etc., to be an excellent resource for discovering how views on various topics have evolved over the years.

ETA: *A version of this list with author David Brin's commentary can be found here: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2011/11/science-fiction-for-young-adults.html

Nov 24, 2014, 2:53pm Top

>23 artturnerjr:

There are several problems with using old shit as a "resource" to discuss sexism, racism et al. with children. The obvious first question is whether we are talking about literature that's (ALSO) going to give a child pleasure and enjoyment. I don't see when and how a kid is supposed to enjoy something, if it's constantly prompting lectures and discussions about discrimination--not a very pleasant topic. I think Tim was looking primarily for something to feed his son's enthusiasm rather than an opportunity for history lessons.

Another question is whether any child is equipped to understand such subtleties like the ingrained sexism and racism and how these are reflected in literature, with or without a parent constantly at hand.

Which brings me to what I see as the biggest danger of exposure to that literature: the sheer insidiousness of its attitudes. They are not, by and large (at least in literature one might even consider to give to a kid), expressed in easily condemnable overt sexist and racist rants or simple name-calling. Rather, it's the unspoken assumptions that are the problem: that white men lead and rule and matter and everyone else does not, or does so in some very minor, secondary, and subservient roles. And that's much harder to address because even when it's not actually said, it transpires from representation of characters and circumstances.

Nov 24, 2014, 3:00pm Top

I think Tim was looking primarily for something to feed his son's enthusiasm rather than an opportunity for history lessons.

Hey, I'm an ex-historian. So they go hand in hand. As for talking about these issues, we do it often. And if he soaks up some ideas, like—to cite another thread—that it's okay to speak of "boys and girls," well, I'm okay with that. I'm much less comfortable with people who create a little cocoon of "right" thinking for their child, with nothing older than the last socio-religio-sexual-political wiggle requires. That makes for brittle, self-righteous kid with no understanding of differences other than the ones on the approved list™. And it makes for crappy reading, since only a tiny percentage of kid lit was written in the last 2 years.

Edited: Nov 24, 2014, 3:20pm Top

>23 artturnerjr:

I looked at that list only up to Card, and have these comments:

1. Example of overt problems: Alfred Bester's books feature extravagant misogyny and sexist attitudes, including rape apologetics.

2. Example of hidden problems: Asimov's I, Robot. While one recurring important character is a woman, the vast majority of the characters in the stories are men--notably, only men are executives, leaders, "important people", physical scientists, mathematicians, astronauts, researchers. The woman is Dr. Susan Calvin, robopsychologist, a dry old spinster who was too bright and not pretty enough to snare a man (although she would have liked to, of course). In context, she is some kind of freak--there are no other women scientists, colleagues, students. Race gets no mention at all.

This kind of situation--when there are any intelligent women represented at all--is very common in classic sf. The message I got as a girl sf fan? Men (white of course) are the norm/best, but a very few, super-special girls (white of course) can be as important/good as men. Oh, and don't forget to have nice big tits and be cheerful, smiling and compliant, so the boys still think you're cool.

In retrospect, not an attitude I'd want to inflict on any child regardless of gender and race.

Nov 24, 2014, 3:21pm Top

>25 timspalding:

And if he soaks up some ideas, like—to cite another thread—that it's okay to speak of "boys and girls," well, I'm okay with that.

Forget I said anything.

Nov 24, 2014, 3:32pm Top

>24 LolaWalser:
>25 timspalding:

I think I'm with Tim on this one. Unless a child is more sheltered than is probably healthy for them, they are going to encounter racism, sexism, unfair social hierarchies, etc., in their lives anyway. Isn't it preferable to have discussions with their parents on these topics before they do so? (I wasn't trying to indicate that literature should necessarily be the primary means for discussing these topics (that would indeed be didactic and dull), or even that that's the primary purpose for literature - merely that it can be a nice ancillary benefit of reading fiction.)

Nov 24, 2014, 3:35pm Top

You know your child better than the rest of us, including what he's ready for, and what's too mature. I loved The Martian Child (for example), but I'd think that's on the boundary of what is or is not science fiction.

I started reading SF at around that age (but oh, so long ago), and I read only a few of the books aimed at the younger set. Other than Heinlein, they made me gag from boredom. SF is such a wide swath of possibilities. I'd say that Robert Forward has done some remarkable work, invested more in technical details rather than silly plot lines.

I'd still like to know which books it was you were listening to that your son found interesting, since it would help to narrow the field. One of the first SF books I read was this a collection entitled "The Other Side of the Moon," and it changed my life. Not so much the particular stores, but the worlds and ideas they opened up.


More information at ISFDB:


I'd honestly consider some collections first, if you think he'd be amenable.

I am off now, to try and find a copy of that book. Man, hanging out here is EXPENSIVE...but good.

Edited: Nov 24, 2014, 3:50pm Top

Partly why I didn't mention the Robot series, nor the EE Doc Smiths. I have issues with the way female characters are represented in the books - primarily it was the attitudes current when they were written, but you also have to remember that at the time 'girls didn't read SF'. The books girls were steered toward were more aimed at the domestic sphere.

Certainly when I was reading through the children's section of our branch library in the 60s and early 70s l found books aimed at boys more interesting than books aimed at girls. I grew up to be a scientist, never married or had children, but have had an interesting and fulfilling life despite being a 'shrivelled up spinster'. In all honesty, I've never missed domesticity - I'd have loathed being a mother (I much prefer being an auntie - I get to spoil my sister's kids outrageously and give them back when they're tired and sticky).

I wasn't advocating turning every book a child reads into a lecture opportunity, but to be mindful of the differing attitudes prevalent when the book was written and to be prepared to (gently) point this out, explaining why things aren't like this today. Heck, you could have a giggle over some of the SF inventions early writers thought would be in common use nowadays! I'm thinking of Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+ (mind you, the literary quality is poor!)

Nov 24, 2014, 3:54pm Top

I think that if you're going to use the "teachable moment" approach with sexist and racist material, you really need to balance it out with something that doesn't share those attitudes and in fact explicitly rejects them. Otherwise you'll get a dozen books saying "Only men can be scientists", and an earnest lecture that "People used to think that way, but we don't anymore", and one lecture isn't going to overcome a dozen books.

So, those of you who are suggesting a steady diet of Asimov and Xanth ("a woman can be smart or pretty but not both") and God-help-me-Lovecraft who was racist even by the standards of his time, how about some counterpoints. For eight-year-olds, remember, not twelve-year-olds.

Nov 24, 2014, 3:56pm Top

>28 artturnerjr:

Baen have a list of YA fiction, some of which include free reading guides: http://www.baen.com/ya_list.asp

Nov 24, 2014, 4:11pm Top

Further to my #31:

I'd love to make such suggestions if I knew of any, but eight is a tough age, most of the recommendations here are YA which is aimed at an older audience. There's a lot more fantasy out there for that age than science fiction, for whatever reason.

Edited: Dec 12, 2014, 3:27am Top

as a side note http://www.tor.com/stories/2014/05/the-litany-of-earth-ruthanna-emrys

Takes apart Lovecraft recommended for anyone.

Nov 24, 2014, 5:31pm Top

>33 lorax:

Yep 8 is a tough age. A few more years and a load of those YA books open up, but now it is pretty difficult to come up with good suggestions.

How about Larklight by Philip Reeve - which is steampunk.

Written a bit earlier, but I read Chocky and The Chrysalids when I was about that age. Both John Wyndham.

Nov 24, 2014, 5:47pm Top

I think >31 lorax: makes the most important point--balance. Compare and contrast. Be aware, because the kids aren't going to be!

>30 Maddz:

I grew up on literature "for boys" too, although not due to any kind of parental programme. It's just that I expressed certain tastes from an early age and my parents did the best they could to accommodate them; and all that stuff was--I realise only now--in more or less obvious ways meant for boys. But it really doesn't have to be.

(And whaddaya know, I grew up to be a scientist too, never had or wanted kids, and am clearly on the way to dry spinsterhood. There ought to be a club! ;))

Edited: Nov 24, 2014, 11:24pm Top

Lots of the suggestions sound too adult to me. It sounds like he's pretty bright, but still. I was reading lots of YA and some adult stuff at 10 or 11, but at 8 I was still solidly in children's lit.

I second the suggestions of Christopher's "Tripods" trilogy - also the YA stuff of Andre Norton and (sigh) Heinlein. I have somewhat of an aversion to him now, but his YA novels were magic to me as a kid, and don't seem to have damaged my politics too much. ;-)
Perhaps easier-to-read adult items like The Martian Chronicles, or even Out of the Silent Planet?

I don't know the newer ones as well, but Daniel Pinkwater, Bruce Coville (the My Teacher is an Alien guy), and William Sleator (the Interstellar Pig guy) all have written fun children's SF. Also Neil Gaiman, though he's best known for fantasy -but then, you should have him try some fantasy too.

Nov 25, 2014, 2:19am Top

It's all very well using old sf, but it means an informed adult needs to be constantly on hand to point out all the sexism and racism, etc. I devoured sf as a kid, and my reading was not at all policed. I had to figure this stuff out for myself, and it wasn't until many years later that I learned how bad some of it is. Unless you're prepared to turn every book into a lesson - and that's going to impact their enjoyment - I'd avoid anything over 20 years old.

Nov 25, 2014, 3:36am Top

How about some Malorie Blackman for non-reactionary SF for kids? I haven't read her (my daughter is too old) but I heard good things about her.

Edited: Nov 25, 2014, 2:59pm Top

nods I was thinking her noughts and crosses series was a bit depressing for an eight year old but she has written plenty aimed at a younger audience.

Edited: Nov 25, 2014, 9:28am Top

Unless you're prepared to turn every book into a lesson - and that's going to impact their enjoyment - I'd avoid anything over 20 years old.

Yeah, that's exactly the attitude I disagree with. Most good children's literature was not written in the last 20 years, so if you do this, you're sacrificing quality. It also cuts you off from enjoying with your kid anything you enjoyed yourself, which is absolutely central to building a reading family.

1. Example of overt problems: Alfred Bester's books feature extravagant misogyny and sexist attitudes, including rape apologetics.

No question. I wouldn't give his books a young kid. I think he's great. (I've retold the first chapter to my son; it's a great premise.) But he's definitely not for kids, on that level or others.

So, those of you who are suggesting a steady diet of Asimov and Xanth ("a woman can be smart or pretty but not both") and God-help-me-Lovecraft who was racist even by the standards of his time, how about some counterpoints. For eight-year-olds, remember, not twelve-year-olds.

I think Lovecraft great—the name of this website is a sort of sub-Lovecraftian joke. But you really can't appreciate Lovecraft until you have enough sense to stand apart from it, and its author. Fortunately, you don't need to have a lot of literary sophistication to realize the author's a seriously neurotic and misanthropic bird; it's not subtle.

Also, giving an eight year old Lovecraft would be straight-up child abuse. They'd lose their shit!

There's a lot more fantasy out there for that age than science fiction, for whatever reason.

Yeah, exactly. And we read it. We're still reading fairy tales—we're been reading a lot from Leaves from the Garden of Eden, a collection of Medieval Jewish ones. The best science fiction is mind-expanding in much the same way, I think.

therwise you'll get a dozen books saying "Only men can be scientists", and an earnest lecture that "People used to think that way, but we don't anymore", and one lecture isn't going to overcome a dozen books.

Well, I think you do more than lecture. We practice close reading of the text, not post-text generalities. I'm only half-kidding.

Incidentally, does this also mean I should shield him from other spheres, like politics? If it was all about "soaking it up," he'd believe that women couldn't be politicians. On the contrary, however, Liam's only real solid political opinion is that it's not fair that there hasn't been a woman president.

Nov 25, 2014, 9:55am Top

I have a real knee-jerk reaction to excessive political correctness and non-stop object lessons to enable the younger generation to 'cope' with all the terribly damaging attitudes in fiction (I say 'terribly damaging' with my tongue firmly in my cheek so it sounds more like 'tewwibbly dawaging'). I grew up on a steady diet of Xanth and I loved the stories and yeah, when I read it as an adult I can see the sexism ... still think the stories are fun though. Surprisingly though, I grew to be a research scientist with a PhD and a penchant for looking nice on occasion ... the horror ... even in the lab. I adored The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and yet, surprisingly I've managed to reach adulthood as a die-hard athiest ... something that was really quite entrenched in my psyche by the age of about 9 when I refused to enter a bible reading competition at school, despite the threat of a lack of ice skating trip (I know, my life was brutal, I don't know how I survived it intact). Children can read stories for fun. Adults can too. A child's world-view comes from so much more than the stories they read as children. I don't, for one moment, believe that I ever saw these stories as any more than just great tales - the allegory, the sexism etc., that was something that I noticed as an adult. I don't believe they subconsciously influenced me either - certainly not in a way that would ever have competed with the extremely strong examples of exactly the opposite way of thinking that I had from the 'real' people in my life. I read The Outsiders and wanted to run away with SodaPop and yet, I have no gang affiliations nowadays. As a society, we spend so long nowadays overanalysing everything that we do ourselves a disservice.

I'm happy for my daughter to read the sci-fi books I loved. I feel no need to 'explain' their attitudes to her. I have the confidence that the parenting we give her in other aspects of her life, the examples she is set and the modes of behaviour she is surrounded with will enable her to put the attitudes in context at an age when she understands what that context is.

Nov 25, 2014, 10:44am Top

>42 klarusu: Bravo!

I've been flabbergasted over some of the posts in this thread. It's a request for book recommendations... for an eight year old. This is not a post in Pro and Con. Take your politics over there. Sheesh.

When I'm home and can check my database I'll see what I can come up with. Maybe The Little Prince?

Nov 25, 2014, 10:50am Top

Janet Kagan's book Mirabile is a set of linked short stories set on an alien planet colonized by generation ship. Each imported Earth-species has had several species' worth of dna encoded in its own dna (to guard against accidental loss of biodiversity), but when things go wrong, this leads to wildly fantastic combinations -- Kangaroo Rex, the Loch Moose monster, plants that produce wasps, etc. Each of the stories presents an ecological problem to be solved by the main ecologist character and a gaggle of her (grand)children and friends (and their children). Jo Walton's written a good review at Tor.

I've never read her novel Hellspark, but I've heard many good things about it.

Nov 25, 2014, 10:53am Top

So now saying "Maybe you should have some books with female scientists as well as all the ones with only male scientists" is political? Because anyone other than a straight white man is a political statement rather than a person?

Well, I don't have any additional recommendations other than the one I've already made (which it turns out Liam was already reading), so there's little point in staying here.

Nov 25, 2014, 10:56am Top

>42 klarusu:

It all depends - a number of people have reported being squicked by the heavy-handed Christian allegory in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when they read it aged 8. Even people who read it quite some time ago.

Sensitivity on these issues obviously differs.

One of my main issues with old SF is how well it has aged. The world has moved on a lot from the 30s and 40s. In a way fantasy has a much easier time of it - it doesn't often try to depict the world today or the future as SF does. Same with a lot of that classic children's literature - which is often set in a world that never was, or is so stylised that it is obvious that it takes place in the past.

Edited: Nov 25, 2014, 10:58am Top

Tim, if you want to read to him, How about The Planet Strappers by Raymond Z. Gallun. Check it out (copyright has expired so it's up free on Project Gutenberg) I felt it was very positive about young people getting into space. Written in 1961, but doesn't feel as dated to me as some other material. The young folks get their mission to space together in a hobby shop :-)


Nov 25, 2014, 11:07am Top

Nov 25, 2014, 11:28am Top

>45 lorax: There's a big difference between the perfectly appropriate, "Maybe you should have some books with female scientists as well as all the ones with only male scientists?" and the soap box "old sci fi is shit" ranting going on.

Nov 25, 2014, 11:50am Top

>46 andyl: I still enjoy old sci-fi though. I'm particularly thinking here about things like The Deep Range or James White's Sector General books - maybe aged but still very entertaining. I can see how some things would age less well though.

Edited: Nov 25, 2014, 11:59am Top

I can't get over the idea that children shouldn't be exposed to anything older than 20 years. We can hardly draw the line at science fiction.Peter Pan? The Velveteen Rabbit? Goodnight moon? Grandmother bunny? Where is the grandfather!

Nov 25, 2014, 12:03pm Top

>50 klarusu:

In some ways Sector General is great (inventive with great puzzles), but again it is very old-fashioned in certain ways. Nurses are invariably female and are too single minded to take the 'tape' that trains doctors.

Nov 25, 2014, 12:11pm Top

I didn't start reading SF until I was 10 or 11 and, I'm ashamed to say, was then more interested in high adventure than socio-political or gender based discourse. When I was 8 my favorite book, which I re-read until it fell apart, was Swiss Family Robinson, I also loved Edith Nesbit and any of the Swallows and Amazon books by Arthur Ransom. Tove Jansson 's Moomin novels were also favorites.

Eight might be too young for the YA works of Ursula Le Guin but at some point I think he would enjoy Orsinian Tales, The Earthsea Cycle, and Annals of the Western Shore. A must read, but probably not until age 12, would be Pullman's His Dark Materials featuring one of the strongest heroines in all of YA literature.

Even though we read to our son from a very early age he didn't like to read on his own until he was about 8. He came across Lloyd Alexander's Time Cat, read it in a day, proceeded through the rest of LLoyd Alexanders books and has been reading ever since. Nowadays he's more into Elizabeth Bishop and Keats.

Nov 25, 2014, 12:13pm Top

>51 timspalding:

Tim that is being a tad disingenuous - and it doesn't help your case. No one has said that. Ian said 20 year old with respect to SF. There are particular reasons why old SF is problematic - even for kids.

I have some sympathies with Ian's point (but 20 years is a bit too recent in my view), but the older the SF, the more you have to carefully consider whether it is worth suggesting to the new reader (whether that is a child, YA or adult).

Nov 25, 2014, 12:28pm Top

Fair enough, although I think the point is general—how do we respond to social changes and older literature for kids?

Nov 25, 2014, 12:50pm Top

>55 timspalding:

It isn't just the social changes - with people who aren't cis straight white males having important roles - it is technological change as well.

Why do people use slide-rules and not computers, why isn't there TV but there is radio, why are people suffering with measles even though humans have spread throughout the solar system (no vaccine), why is life like early 20th century American life? Where is rock (or what passes for it) music, where is the net, the mobile phones, where is the slang? Why are the teens and young people so respectful?

None of that is a problem with stuff set obviously a long time ago (well, before the 70s), but for books which are supposed to be set in the future. Well it just doesn't fly.

Nov 25, 2014, 12:53pm Top

Why do people use slide-rules and not computers, why isn't there TV but there is radio, why are people suffering with measles even though humans have spread throughout the solar system (no vaccine), why is life like early 20th century American life? Where is rock (or what passes for it) music, where is the net, the mobile phones, where is the slang? Why are the teens and young people so respectful?

My kid loves fairy tales. He believes in Santa. Slide rules aren't an issue.

Nov 25, 2014, 12:53pm Top

>56 andyl: Ha, that is one of the things I love about old SF. A book set in the future (1999) without cell phones, internet, computers and with the USSR. To me that indicates a line of reasoning taken from the starting point of the time of the writer, drawn forward 40+ years. I don't enjoy it any less than SF written now.

Nov 25, 2014, 12:54pm Top

>57 timspalding: They are just as much fantasy ;) I have only seen one when going through my dad's old stuff in the attic. No idea how to use one, never learned, never had to.

Nov 25, 2014, 12:55pm Top

BTW, I have How to survive a robot uprising by Daniel H. Wilson. Haven't read it yet, but is marketed towards kids (by Bloomsbury i believe).

And I also love to read the Doctor Who novels. No idea how it reads if you don't know DW, but they contain time travel, aliens and humor. And I would say they are for 8-10 year-olds.

Nov 25, 2014, 1:15pm Top

I agree that setting an arbitrary date on how far back you can go to find good science fiction is kind of ridiculous. I think science fiction, particularly older science fiction, often reflects collective societal fears of the time. Nuclear war, overpopulation, genetic manipulation. It's often a window into history. My parents weren't readers but they did read to me and I was allowed to read whatever I wanted. A friend of mine's mother had a rule that as long as she could understand what the words meant, she could read it and my friend turned out pretty well. I think kids are too often underestimated.

My first thought for an 8 year old was something like the Pern books by Anne McCaffrey. There's a little bit of sex in some of the first books like Dragonflight, but maybe the Harper Hall Trilogy would be a good entry point.

Edited: Nov 25, 2014, 2:55pm Top

My daughter is 9, and she likes science. I think she'd be interested in some good contemporary sf in the YA vein (she's socially and lexically precocious), but honestly I'm stumped for her too. Other than Hunger Games-style dystopian business (which she already knows about and likes fine), l can't seem to find any genuinely speculative fiction to parallel the adult sf I've been reading. My problem with the older stuff (that I read when I was a kid) is not just the representations of social roles, but the washed-up or nonexistent science. There's plenty of good fantasy out there for all age levels, no shortage at all.

The mention of Ian McDonald certainly piqued my interest; I wasn't aware that he had juvenile-targeted output, and I'm a fan of his Martian books and his "New World Order" sequence.

Nov 25, 2014, 3:38pm Top

I got the impression Spacejackers by
Huw Powell is fun.

Nov 25, 2014, 6:19pm Top

>63 paradoxosalpha:

The Everness books will definitely work - McDonald sees them as slightly younger than YA. The writing isn't as complex as McDonald's adult books. A possible slight issue is the bits in the real world might be a bit English. A possible plus is your daughter will learn some Polari (outmoded gay/theatre slang - no one really uses it these days).

I would also recommend Ann Halam's (the YA pen-name of Gwyneth Jones) work. Smart resourceful girls as characters, science is generally OK. Siberia and Taylor Five are OK.

Nov 25, 2014, 6:26pm Top

As a kid, I loved The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key and Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey.

My kids loved all the Star War series. I think the Young Jedi books are written for your son's age - I know my daughter went back and read them at an age where I thought they might be too young for her ... but she loved them anyway.

Nov 25, 2014, 6:26pm Top

>66 andyl:


Nov 25, 2014, 6:49pm Top

As a kid I read and enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle and The Giver by Lois Lowry. I'm sure there were others that's lost in my memory.

Nov 25, 2014, 8:31pm Top

Eight's a tough age for appropriateness. Some of the books I remember reading that haven't been previously mentioned are as follows (realizing that a number of them were outdated when I read them though I didn't realize it and the rest have become outdated in the intervening years.)

Tom Swift series
Lucky Starr series
Mike Mars series
Danny Dunn series
The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree, The Spaceship Returns to the Apple Tree
Star Dog
Sir MacHinery
The nine books of James Blish's adaptations of the Star Trek series
The twelve? books of Alan Dean Foster's adaptations of the Star Trek cartoon series
The novel form of Star Wars

Nov 25, 2014, 8:36pm Top

Quoted for truth:

"I wouldn't bother with any of the classics, no 8-year-old is going to understand the cultural references"

I note there's been some discussion on the issue of whether 'we' should be giving these books to children to read or not, but on a certain level it rather misses the point. Which is, they're likely not going to be interested in it in the first place!

I speak from experience. I work in a public library, I get to see what lots of children read, and don't read. Many of my colleagues have children in the 8-18 range, I get to see what they read/don't read also (it broke my heart when one, ~12, discovering comics and with an interest in war, rejected Charlie's War for being too old fashioned). And for the most part, they want to read the new, exciting stuff, and what their friends are reading.

Granted, there are perennial favourites, like Andre Norton and Madeleine L'Engle, and there's no harm in offering that option, but don't be surprised if the kid turns their nose up and says no.

Now, caveats aside, here's what I can suggest by way of (reasonably) current SF that's suitable for an eight year-old:

1. Let him loose in a bookshop/library and see what catches his eye. I'm a great believer in self-discovery. But granted, that relies on the books being out there. So, if they aren't:

2. Going by the age, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Astrosaurs books by Steve Cole. Reading-level wise, maybe he'll be past that. But no harm in flagging the series and letting the two of you judge.

3. James Patterson has 'witten' a number of middle grade SF books. I can't speak for the quality of them, but they are there. Along similar 'there but can't speak to quality' lines, Susanne Collins, James Dashner, Eo-

4. Eoin Colfer, actually, he seems a pretty decent writer. Full disclosure, the one book I've read of his was non-SF but I enjoyed it (Half Moon Investigations), and I know people speak highly of the Artemis Fowl books.

5. Animorphs. I thought their time had passed a few years back, but recently they seem to be a thing again.

6. Which also brings me to the Fighting Fantasy books, which seem to keep coming back too, and some of them are SF-themed - like Appointment with FEAR. I ate these up when I was around that age.

7. Moving on, Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre have recently created a book called Cakes in Space, which could well fit the bill.

8. Reeve has also written a series starting with Larklight, which is perfect for the age given; or, if a more advanced reader, there's his Mortal Engines quartet - a steampunk YA version of Cities in Flight, if you will.

9. The most recent book that comes to mind is Sophia McDougall's Mars Evacuees. As far as publication currency goes, it's bang up to date, and right in the right age range too. If you only listen to one recommendation I make, I'd say make it this one.

9a. Just remembered that Jeffery Brown has done some Star Wars tie-in books in the style of Wimpy Kid, called Jedi Academy. Maybe those.

10. Looking at other recommendations, there's a lot that's been recommended which is YA, so maybe another three or four years need to pass for it to be suitable for your son; Planesrunner (and the rest of the Everness series) are really good, but do contain a handful of situations that could be described as 'sexual'. Railsea you could try, I don't think there's anything unsuitable in it but maybe he'll bounce off it - I'd say Un Lun Dun might be a better bet, but it's also rather British, so there may be bouncing for other reasons if you try that.

I'd like to think the Pratchett's are timeless, especially Only You Can Save Mankind and its sequel, Johnny and the Dead, but I fear they may have aged some since I read them when I was a teenager when they were published.

11. Compared to when I was a kid, SF aimed at the eight year-olds seems to be much scarcer on ground. At risk of being a hypocrite, I had books like the Pratchetts and the Tripods, Mr Browser in the Space Museum and Dragonfall 5 and the Mastermind, Nicholas Fisk books, and Doctor Who Target novelisations. Oh, hey, you can still get Doctor Who tie-in novelisations today, actually. Maybe those.

12. Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH I don't think has been mentioned yet, but I see kids still reading it so feel safe in calling that one a timeless classic. Then when your son's older he can read Doctor Rat, for comparative purposes.

13. Speaking of timeless, would Roald Dahl's Charlie books count as SF?

14. There's bloody loads of YA SF, though. Once your son reaches the age of, say, 12+, there's so much out there. The books of Patrick Ness, for one, also Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses series, Bunker 10 by J A Henderson, Feed by M T Anderson, Uglies and the rest of the series by Scott Westerfeld, Unwind by Neal Shusterman, Michael Grant's books, and Cory Doctorow's YA books, Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd, Numbers by Rachel Ward, Pittacus Lore and Kat Zhang, Monica Hesse and Rick Yancey, Kass Morgan and Matt de la Pena… untold riches to be had.

And because I appear to have typed more than I intended, I'll abruptly cut this off now. Hope I haven't been too antagonistic and have managed to be of some help.

Nov 25, 2014, 11:55pm Top

>42 klarusu:

I have a real knee-jerk reaction to excessive political correctness and non-stop object lessons to enable the younger generation to 'cope' with all the terribly damaging attitudes in fiction (I say 'terribly damaging' with my tongue firmly in my cheek so it sounds more like 'tewwibbly dawaging').

How interesting, I have a knee-jerk reaction to efforts that paint basic attempts at human decency as "political correctness" (and as if "political correctness" were some wicked thing in the first place. It is not.) :)

I too dreamed of introducing my niece and nephew to literature I loved as a kid. Unfortunately, once I started looking it over and, especially, rereading, I was devastated to discover that a lot of it I could not, in good conscience, give them (or any other kid for that matter).

Maybe they'll pick up some of it through other channels--but *I* won't be responsible for deluging them with sexist, racist, colonialist and other types of, yes, there's no other word for it--SHIT. I don't want to aid in any way today's kids to have fantasies of a world where women and races other than white or people other than European are lesser beings. In a nutshell.

Nov 25, 2014, 11:57pm Top

>71 HoldenCarver:

Thanks for that, Holden. I'm on the lookout for sf appropriate for children too. Children which I DON'T want to grow up as assholes complacent in their unchecked privilege, that is. ;)

Nov 26, 2014, 12:28am Top

Interesting discussion. A few thoughts:
1: Many commenters seem to have forgotten that this was about books for an 8 year old, not a 14 year old.
2: I am glad someone came up with The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree.
3: Aside from avoiding books with truly horrendous racism, sexism or fascism, the point should be to provide a reading list that is balanced, not that every single book is balanced.
4: Given the current trend of having male "heroes" be idiots or homicidal, it might not be a bad idea to have some books where the clever one is the boy.
5: Don't worry about archaic science, the kid might be charmed. I went through a phase (maybe 10 or 12 years old) where I loved reading the original Tom Swift books, in large part because the inventions were so out-of-date (many would probably seem steam-punkish now).
6: Let the kid choose what to read (with some caveats of course), even if it seems above their skill level. I still hold a grudge against my 3rd grade teacher who wouldn't let me check a book out of the school library because it was rated a step or two above my tested reading level. Something about a blacksmith and his confrontation with the devil (with cool illustrations). The next year, when I reached the appropriate level, the book was gone.

Nov 26, 2014, 2:04am Top

Offered a choice between The Tunnel in the Sky and Treasure a island, he chose Treasure Island and is enjoying it immensely, despite a baffling quantity of nautical argot.

Nov 26, 2014, 2:18am Top

>41 timspalding: "Yeah, that's exactly the attitude I disagree with. Most good children's literature was not written in the last 20 years, so if you do this, you're sacrificing quality. It also cuts you off from enjoying with your kid anything you enjoyed yourself, which is absolutely central to building a reading family."

Just because you grew up reading something, that doesn't make it suitable for a kid in the twenty-first century. If you want to teach your kid everyday sexism and institutional racism, by all means let them read Lucky Starr and Heinlein juveniles and so forth.

Discovering something new along with your kid can be just as enjoyable, because if you read that old stuff you might a) learn that the old "classic" you loved as a kid is actually quite bad, or b) have to explain all the embedded sensibilities in it - "Daddy, if those women are all gay why do they stop being gay when a man has sex with them?"

Edited: Nov 26, 2014, 2:22am Top

>42 klarusu: You do realise there's no such thing as "political correctness"? It's a right-wing slur, just like "social justice". And if you react against what you perceive it to be then... well.

Nov 26, 2014, 3:14am Top

>66 andyl:

What - 'how nice to vada your dolly eek again?' I used to listen to 'Round the Horne' which is of course full of Polari in the Julian and Sandy sketches.

>75 timspalding:

If you're flummoxed by some of the argot, there's various nautical dictionaries available, but obviously go for ones that are UK based. Arthur Ransome would probably have used Royal Naval slang in some of the Swallows and Amazon stories which, thinking about it, I read when I was your son's age (our branch library had virtually no science fiction). Oddly, I just found out at one point I was living up the road from where he was born!

If he goes for more high adventure, you could try some W E Johns although they'd be very dated by now (and would be considered sexist due to the lack of female characters). I read those at your son's age along with the Pocomoto books (these also would need some thought about introducing to a younger child nowadays). Some of the Biggles books I remember had science fictional elements - there was one I remember that had them trapped on a 'cloud'.

Another thought would be Dave Freer's Cuttlefish and it's sequel The Steam Mole. I got them recently and thought them to be good steampunk alternate universe yarns. The two protagonists are older than your son so they'd probably count as YA but if he's read 20000 Leagues Under the Sea they would be a good contrast.

Most of the books I remember from my reading at our branch library where in fact books aimed at boys (this was the 60s and 70s). I have zero recollection of any books aimed at girls - probably because I didn't find them interesting! I am hesitant to recommend books specifically as I didn't really get into SF until I was a teenager and brought Frank Herbert's The Dragon in the Sea at a charity sale at school - and was able to get to the central library in town on my own. After that, I didn't look back.

Re sliderules, I remember using one at school - when I was taking my 'O' Levels aged 15, calculators were banned but slide rules were allowed. It only got chucked out recently when my sister was clearing stuff out of our mother's house - unless she gave it to her eldest as a curiousity (he's just started an engineering course at university). Of course, the advantage of a slide rule is that it doesn't get flat batteries.

One thing to consider about older science fiction is that often (to my mind) it reads like engineering fiction - especially if written by a man. It wasn't until I found C J Cherryh in the late 70s that I really got into it; I was reading more fantasy than SF prior to that.

Edited: Nov 26, 2014, 3:41am Top

>78 Maddz: Well actually he calls it Palari, but yes it is Polari with a few extra words. It is the cant used by airship crews in the steampunkish universe. (it world jumps quite a bit)

Now CJ Cherryh can write engineering with the best of them when she wants.

Nov 26, 2014, 3:59am Top

>71 HoldenCarver: That's a really comprehensive list, thanks. Some there I haven't considered and am adding to my list too.

Nov 26, 2014, 4:06am Top

>79 SimonW11:

Because Polari was (is) a spoken cant there isn't really a consistent written form. Polari, Palare, Palari, and other forms of spelling have all been seen outside of fiction.

Edited: May 5, 2015, 3:16am Top

>81 andyl: Certainly, until recently. there was a lack of consensus as to Polari's spelling. Mcdonald choose not to use the now standard spelling deliberately. I won't second guess his decision. His choice was made I suspect to distance the alternate universe from this one. It does not really matter why. His story his choice. They speak Palari.

Nov 26, 2014, 8:16am Top

>71 HoldenCarver: My daughter was very taken with the Animorphs, so I read a couple too. I was impressed with how well imagined existing as an animal was described.

Nov 26, 2014, 12:02pm Top

Older but good. And suitable for 8 year old -

The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts
Escape To Witch Mountain and
Return From Witch Mountain by Alexander Key

and another thumbs up for this one mentioned above -
The Forgotten Door Alexander Key

Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey is terrific but more fantasy than sci fiction.
Dragonsong is the first in the series.

Nov 26, 2014, 12:09pm Top

My daughter has read the Harper Hall books, with my wife's encouragement. Despite the modest technological level, "dragons," and teleportation, I felt like the sense of exploration and, well, "reality" kept these books feeling more sfnal and not so fantasied-out.

Edited: Nov 26, 2014, 2:28pm Top

You do realise there's no such thing as "political correctness"? It's a right-wing slur, just like "social justice". And if you react against what you perceive it to be then... well.

I find this absolutely incomprehensible. Terms exist. They do not stop existing because you don't like them. "Political correctness" means something to a group of people—and indeed it is quite understood by those who disagree with it. Ditto social justice--which, incidentally, is used on all sides.

As for "you do realize" language, I can only emphasize how patronizing this is.

Incidentally, as a bit of Googling around will show, the term "political correctness" originated on the left. Indeed, the first time I saw it was in that context—a leftist poking fun at other leftists, in a letter to me around 1986. It was picked up around 1991 by conservatives, leading to far wider usage.

Edited: Nov 28, 2014, 8:32pm Top

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Nov 26, 2014, 7:52pm Top

WOW - I have never seen so many different opinions, but I am really interested sa I love SCI FI - but don't think I will introduce him to any of my favourites until at least 10-12

I think everyone needs to rememer that 8 is still very young.

My son turns 8 next week - and I struggle to find ANY book to read with him. As 7 turning 8 children are still in a fantasy world and cannot tell real from imaginary in a storyline.

My son is still scared when he reads/listens to a FAMOUS FIVE book because ROBBERS are Scary and ROBBERS are REAL. We can still only read the first half of the book.

He cannot distinguish between NOVELS and REALITY. Because the book has boys and girls in them - then the story is real because boys and girls are real. he cannot understand that it is a story about made up boys and girls.

If the story has GIANTS in it - then he knows it is made up! (but he still thinks there are really giants somewhere ! just not in our suburb)

I would suggest going into fantasy before science fiction as it allows the imagination to engage without being as threatening.

Nov 27, 2014, 12:44am Top

I would recommend:

Andre Norton's Beastmaster series.... sort of like cowboys and indians in space

Assimov's I Robot... not the Will Smith's nonsence , the book of short stories

Edited: Nov 27, 2014, 3:10am Top

>86 timspalding: Words and the underlying concepts are not the same thing, as Korzybski more or less said. In its current usage, what people who disagree with "political correctness" are actually disagreeing with is complaints against their so-called right to be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. There's no system of political correctness against which they're disagreeing, there's no political movement or party. It's a shibboleth of the right. The same is becoming true of social justice, which was initially used to self-identify by those who are liberally progressive, but has now become just another pejorative thrown around by the right.

The point I'm trying to make, and that others have made earlier, is that there are a lot of unquestioned assumptions in old sf. Things have changed since such books were written, and either you intervene to explain those assumptions when a child is reading, or let them go unchallenged, which is unwise at best. Arguing that they never did you any harm is disingenuous - those assumptions are being challenged on a daily basis these days and, in many cases, have even been legislated against.

Recently British TV started a broadcasting a programme "It'll Be Alright in the 70s", which shows clips of programmes from that decade demonstrating blatant sexism, racism and homophobia. It makes for horrifying viewing. I lived through the 1970s, and I don't remember it as bad as that programme paints it - but clearly it was.

Nov 27, 2014, 12:18pm Top

>90 iansales:

On the flip side, you neglect to imagine that contemporary literature might lack important qualities that literature of less enlightened ages may possess. The Chronicles of Narnia may indeed messages about women and race which need discussion. But they also contain messages of conscience, sacrifice, commitment, forgiveness, responsibility and simply growing up that contemporary literature utterly lacks or distorts. Or to take your example of the 1970s, the 1970s—or at least the sixties and early 70s—were a time when young people in the west were passionately involved in social and political justice and the culture, especially music, reflected that. I don't find that in contemporary literature or culture. On the contrary, I find the "unquestioned assumptions" of contemporary literature for children troubling.

Underneath it all we have the question of how literature affects children. Ultimately, it's an empirical question. We could perhaps put two sets of children in skinner boxes, one with literature that models values cut contains too few female scientists, and the other with literature that teaches egoism but has lots of female scientists. Then we'd see what came out.

Nov 27, 2014, 1:56pm Top

>91 timspalding: The Chronicles of Narnia may indeed messages about women and race which need discussion. But they also contain messages of conscience, sacrifice, commitment, forgiveness, responsibility and simply growing up that contemporary literature utterly lacks or distorts.

As a rule, I'm skeptical of the "things were better way back when" approach to literature. "New" is not "immature" by default. And just because such books were not part of yours or my formative years, does not mean they will not serve that purpose beautifully for the children who read them now.

One of the greatest things I think my parents ever did was to never take a book out of my hands. But they did make sure that all their own favorite books were within reach. They trusted, I think, in the natural self-centeredness of children, so that when I picked up "R is for Rocket" or the Dune series or something else "too old" for me, they thought I would skip over anything I wasn't really ready for. If I didn't skip, if I asked, then they discussed.

More fantasy than science fiction, and perhaps a little young at this point, but Tove Jansson's moomin books are a must. Joan Vinge's Snow Queen, Beth Revis's "Across the Universe" series both might work. They are more YA, but plot-driven so they tend to work well in lots of age groups. And for what it is worth I've been reading Terry Pratchett with my nephews for the last couple years. They are pre-teen, but the advantage is that if you like the books, there's about a hundred and fifty of them in the series.

And by the way, the Harper Hall books were my least favorite of the Anne McCafferey series -- I thought they were dreadfully written, derivative, predictable, and flat. In the end I think "well written" still trumps uncomfortable content in a book.

Edited: Nov 28, 2014, 8:32pm Top

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Nov 27, 2014, 2:21pm Top

I grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, Heinlein, EE 'Doc' Smith and all that other horribly racist and sexist stuff. I am probably way to the 'liberal left' of many.

Kids' sensibilities are not formed solely by what they read - especially when they know it's fiction. I would have thought that's the point of fiction. It allows you to explore.

I hate the idea that contemporary editions of children's book are being edited/sanitised to 'modern' sensibilities (the version of Twain's 'Tom Sawer' with every use of the word "nigger" cut being the most egregious):


I'm not saying we should be unaware of the effects of inappropriate fiction on young minds - I regularly screen films my kids want to watch before I let the see them. But to pretend the world was never racist, sexist, etc. betrays all the hard work and sacrifice of those people we should be lauding. I think it's great that my kids at primary school in Scotland learn about Rosa Parks - but what she stood for and the bravery of her actions are being diminished by the cultural; Photoshopping out of the background.

Nov 27, 2014, 2:40pm Top

It is to laugh. Women and people who have been enslaved and colonised by whites start showing up in "white boys' own" genres as something more than wallpaper and cardboard villains--whooooops, immediately we get cautions about rampant modern "egoism", lack of "forgiveness", "conscience" and "self-sacrifice". Because clearly NOBODY needs to learn to take the back seat every now and then, or empathise with others, more than women and people yet in recent memory enslaved and colonised. And because clearly these modern books with protagonists who may not be automatically and solely white boys are devoid of virtue (forgiveness? Conscience? Responsibility? REALLY?) to the point that they logically must be--vicious.

How about exercising humbleness and stomping out egoism by allowing someone different from you in gender and race to take centre stage, and delving into experience from THEIR vantage point?

It's what girls and minorities in white-dominated world did for centuries.

Nov 27, 2014, 3:15pm Top

Which reminds me. The great Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray wrote science fiction (as well as mysteries). He claimed influence of H. G. Wells and Verne, typical childhood fare for Western children of his (and later of course) generation.

I have read one collection, Bravo, Professor Shonku!, and found the stories interesting and pleasing enough (a younger reader would probably be more enthusiastic). These WOULD be suitable for an eight year old. Girls are notably absent, it's a strictly male world, which is probably only an additional recommendation for some.

Nov 27, 2014, 4:26pm Top

Something that your son may enjoy is Hal Clement. I'm thinking about Needle and the sequel Through the Eye of a Needle rather than his more hard SF planet building exercises - I would save those for when he's older and understands a bit more about the science involved. Needle is set on Earth and features an alien policeman and a young boy (I forget how young exactly). There's a nice bit of squick factor in that the alien resembles a giant green amoeba and becomes a symbiont with the boy.

Is he into dinosaurs? You could try Anne McCaffrey's Dinosaur Planet. Some of Robert J Sawyer's books may also be suitable too - the Far-Seer series might appeal (although you may wish to vet it first - the cannabalistic feeding frenzy of the young Quintaglios may be a bit much - which is why I hesitated to mention it earlier).

Nov 27, 2014, 5:23pm Top

I hate to say this, but some of the comments that have been made in this thread leave me with a distinct impression of:

"Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters - because girls can read as well as boys - reading this book? Is it a book you would have lying around your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?"

Nov 27, 2014, 5:44pm Top

Tim, try taking this question over to the Green Dragon. Yes, we're mostly fantasy, but a lot of us read science fiction, too. And you'll get actual recommendations rather than rants.

Also, ask scaifea over in the 75ers group. She has a 6 year old and they read hundreds of books together. She might have some ideas.

I've gone over the GDers 111 Science Fiction Books to Read Before a Supernova Kills Us All but nothing seems appropriate for that age group.

I asked MrMorphy and he said that one he read about that age was Secret Under the Sea by Gordon Dickson. He said he was 8 or 9 when he first read it. Don't know how well it will have aged.

Edited: Nov 28, 2014, 12:21am Top

>98 Maddz:

That's awesome. I had to Google the source. But exactly.

> 95

Because clearly NOBODY needs to learn to take the back seat every now and then, or empathise with others…

None of your allegations match up with what I think, nor, I suspect, anyone else here. You're playing hand-puppets with yourself, making up both sides. Nor are you really describing the works we were discussing. The last books I mentioned were Narnia, which isn't a gender paradise, but in which girls are hardly wallpaper, and Tunnel in the Sky, which isn't a racial or gender paradise but has strong female characters and a black protagonist.

How about exercising humbleness and stomping out egoism by allowing someone different from you in gender and race to take centre stage, and delving into experience from THEIR vantage point?

You're quite illogically flipping things around. Nobody is saying that children should not read contemporary literature, literature by women or people of color, or literature with women or people of color at the center. The question is whether it's licit to read older literature.

To your point, however, the quantity of quality science fiction written for young children with all the necessary gender and race check-marks is quite small indeed. I look forward to introducing Liam to, say, Octavia Butler, often regarded as the best black, woman sci-fi writer, and especially The Parable of the Sower, which is brilliant and unforgettable. But the unremittingly bleak, violent and degrading content would fairly cook his brain; it nearly cooked mine.

Edited: Nov 28, 2014, 2:40am Top

>100 timspalding:

I well remember the row when one of my great aunts asked what I was reading, and I told her that book (I must have been 16 at the time). The politest comment was 'It should have been thrown on the kitchen fire without being read.' It was birthday present from a school friend, and frankly I didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

I still don't, and to be honest I've never gone for many of his books; I find his literary style on the florid side. Had he written nowadays I suspect he may have won the same 'literary award' Alan Titchmarsh won for his first novel...

Nov 28, 2014, 4:19am Top

> That horrible man he and Sir Archie Marshall. what a pair of immoral odious scumbags.

Nov 28, 2014, 4:24am Top

>91 timspalding: "On the flip side, you neglect to imagine that contemporary literature might lack important qualities that literature of less enlightened ages may possess."

Do you really think that is true? That all twenty-first century children's genre fiction is mindless fluff? I'm pretty sure if you look you can find something - someone earlier mentioned Malorie Blackman, for example. Outside the genre, you have stuff like the Horrible Histories books, which have proven popular. One of my nephews was a fan of the How To Train Your Dragon books by Cressida Cowell. He did try the Alex Rider books, but I don't think he took to them.

Nov 28, 2014, 4:27am Top

>94 TheOtherJunkMonkey: Not necessarily true. I first read The Stainless Steel Rat as a young teenager and really enjoyed it. I bought all the books in the series - well, the original series - and worked my way through them. A couple of years ago, I had a go at rereading the first book. It was terrible - horrible misogynistic nonsense with piss-poor world-building and no real reason it even be sf. So I dumped every Harry Harrison book I own in the nearest charity shop. Kids are uncritical readers, they just soak it up. I never noticed the rampant sexism in The Stainless Steel Rat when I read it as a fourteen-year-old. But it's there.

Nov 28, 2014, 7:10am Top

I second the recommendation for Mars evacuees; while the main character is a bit older than Liam (12 or 13) there is an important younger character too, and all are very relatable.

Emma Tupper's diary is a fun British SF-ish adventure where kids find a Loch Ness-type monster on their summer holidays, but it's thoughtful and very literate in terms of vocabulary.

The Yoko Tsuno series of graphic novels are excellent; they are being translated into English at the rate of 1 or 2 a year, and feature a female engineer and her 2 friends falling into Boy's Own type adventures involving weird science and dastardly villains.

Nov 28, 2014, 10:04am Top

>101 Maddz:

Whose books—Octavia Butler?

Do you really think that is true? That all twenty-first century children's genre fiction is mindless fluff?

No, obviously we're talking in tendencies and general terms, just as we were about older fiction. I haven't read Blackman. I'm interested, but the books I see on LT look like edgy YA, not stuff for 8 year olds.

We did read How to Train Your Dragon. Enjoyable, but not terribly memorable. They differ markedly from the movies.

Nov 28, 2014, 10:30am Top

>106 timspalding:

Malorie Blackman has a wide range of stuff from edgy YA to rather more traditional young kid's books. However as might be expected there are more copies of the YA stuff than the kid's stuff on LT - so if you only clicked on a few books at the top of her author page it is quite easy to see how you jumped to the conclusion she just does YA.

Whizziwig and Whizziwig Returns is younger than YA. As is Operation Gadgetman for example.

Cloud Busting is probably a bit young for Liam (if he is a strong reader) - it is aimed at 6-8 year olds.

Edited: Nov 28, 2014, 2:24pm Top

>106 timspalding:

No - not Octavia Butler - D H Lawrence. I was referencing the quote I made in post 98. It's funny, but thinking back about my great aunt's reaction to me reading Lady Chatterley's Lover, it was after that my mother stopped referring to the Angelique series (by Sergeanne Golon) as smut and didn't complain when I got the next in the series out of the library...

Nov 29, 2014, 10:41am Top

Hello There! I'm staying out the argument - but I do have a few suggestions.

First - I don't know what kids are reading these days - my suggestion - let him loose in a library with a well stocked children's section. Have him check out as many books as he can, and see what he likes. The nice thing - no money, and you get an idea of what he wants. Also, if your library has a knowledgeable children's librarian - ask her what would work for your son's interests. She will know what is popular, and older books that stand up over the years.

You can do the same in the bookstore - but that costs money, and you won't get as nice as a selection. You could take note of what he wants at the store - and order it from the library :)

Second - Research what graphic novels are out there - especially stuff from Japan (Manga). - but I know there is a lot out there. Your local library (again) should have a good selection of manga - and if you have a GOOD local comic book store - they should be able to suggest titles for your son to read. I just requested Akiko on the Planet Smoo from PaperBack Swap for my 7 year old niece - I don't know if its any good, but I see it recommended every once in awhile.

And - while this isn't necessarily science fiction - it is science related - try The Phantom Tollbooth. I think I would have liked when I was 8 - as an adult, I thought it was well written and not dated, although I read this 10ish years ago.

Dec 1, 2014, 9:15am Top

I've been ignoring this thread, and don't intend to go back and catch up, but I did want to come provide some suggestions. I asked on another forum dedicated to feminist science fiction for some suggestions. Should someone locate the other discussion please do not take your hostility there.

Some suggestions from that discussion:

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor. I haven't read this myself but I've read her other works including her YA material (The Shadow Speaker and Akata Witch and enjoyed them. (Those are definitely YA rather than children's.)

So You Want to Be A Wizard and sequels by Diane Duane. These are an SF/fantasy hybrid - there is, as the title suggests, wizardry, but there are also interplanetary gates and aliens. There are new revised editions out - the first book was written in the 1980s - but I suspect Tim would make a point of seeking out the old editions anyway.

There was also a suggestion for William Sleator. I remember liking his stuff, but I think I was a little older than Liam, all the major characters are boys, and some of them were pretty scary, so pre-reading is especially recommended here.

I want to put in a nod for Daniel Pinkwater, who hadn't been mentioned at the time I stopped reading the thread. Apologies if that's old news by now.

Dec 1, 2014, 9:21am Top

I do want to add one more comment, to those who say things along the lines of "I grew up reading Asimov (taken here as representative of all the "people are men by default unless there's a good reason for them to be otherwise" old SF) and did just fine" people.


So did I. But not everybody did, and in an SF forum we aren't hearing the voices from those who were turned off of science or the genre or both by not seeing people like them.

When I was a kid, we also grew up without air bags, or shoulder belts in back seats of cars. I remember riding in the "way back" of my parent's station wagon (a rear-facing fold-out seat in the cargo area). Nobody would do this now, because we know better. I got chicken pox as a kid, too, and I'm fine, but I still got my kid the vaccine, because things have gotten better now. "I did okay with what was available in 1984" isn't reason to say "therefore I will limit my child in 2014 to the same material" any more than you'd say "I survived riding around in my dad's Ford Pinto, so my kid will be fine in the same car."

Dec 1, 2014, 2:44pm Top

I wasn't too repulsed by some of the juveniles by Robert A. Heinlein. I'm thinking of Between Planets, Space Cadet, The Star Beast and Have Space-Suit, Will Travel and I think there are some others I haven't read. Proceed with caution though, Heinlein's later stuff in particular isn't suitable for children or adults.

Dec 3, 2014, 12:01am Top

Those Heinleins are still good. Kids at my elementary schools loved the Magic Treehouse and Animorph books, along with John Flanagan's Ranger Apprentice series. Andre Norton still does well with her early books as well.

Dec 3, 2014, 3:38am Top

To be honest, I would be less worried about books (within reason) as people will read what they want into them (vide the Hunger Games issue mentioned above) and will miss cues especially if they're subtle. They are also easy to put down and dismiss.

I would be more worried about visual and other environmental cues. My nieces are both normal well-adjusted girls - except after watching Disney Channel when they turn into pink-sparkle obsessed monsters. I remember Lois McMaster Bujold (I think it was) commenting that the Disney Snow White was incredibly damaging to a whole generation of girls who grew up thinking 'Someday my prince will come...'

Dec 3, 2014, 7:35am Top

>114 Maddz: I think pink may not suit many complexions. I myself own two blue sparkly dresses.

Dec 11, 2014, 1:40pm Top

>34 SimonW11:

Just wanted to let you know that I've nominated that story for discussion in our Deep Ones reading group over at The Weird Tradition (https://www.librarything.com/topic/184126). Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Dec 12, 2014, 3:26am Top

>116 artturnerjr: thanks I will follow it.

Sep 7, 2015, 1:12pm Top

When my sons were in first and second grade, I've read them the Animorph series (all 52 books, out loud...). It was a marathon of reading. But the books were short and I had fun reading them. I think they are perfect for a kid into sci fi who is about 7-10 years of age. They also have strong female characters -- always a plus in my book!

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