Tricia Sullivan–Kid Approved SF

Tricia Sullivan is the author of sf novels such as multiple award nominated Maul and Lightborn. She lives in England with her partner and three children.

Finding SF for younger readers can be challenging. Fantasy dominates the market, but classic SF for children is often out of print, and new science fiction titles are rare. For children under ten the choices are limited.

What there is for ages 0-10 is all about the aliens. Humorous aliens, dangerous aliens, metaphorical aliens… it was tough to find much of anything but aliens. I tried!

These books are currently available and kid-approved. I took recommendations from friends and put my own kids to work. We’ve concentrated on the younger end of the 0-10 remit because, although some will read upward, it’s tough to find SF geared to younger children. Some titles come from the UK.

Picture Books:

  • Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort (Simon & Schuster, 2008). A perennial favorite in our house, it’s ‘pantstastic.’
  • The Dr. Xargle books by Jeanne Willis and Tony Russ (Anderson Press). An instruction manual on Earthling ways, for aliens.
  • The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel). Warm boy-meets-Martian tale of spaceflight…and crash-landing. And repairs.
  • Commander Toad in Space by Jane Yolen (PaperStar). I love this book with all the love. It has a resourceful female engineer, a scientifically-minded captain, and sly commentary on the nature of courage. Also, Star Wars puns FTW!

Illustrated chapter books:

  • Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot (series) by Dav Pilkey and Martin Ontiveros (Scholastic UK). Mostly pictures, interactive fun. Will suit those nervous of too much text. And robot fans.
  • Monster Makers: Spacemite by Ali Sparkes (Scholastic UK). The Monster Makers series is excellent fantasy about brothers whose drawings come to life. In Spacemite they accidentally start a UFO craze in their neighbourhood. Naturally by the end there is a real UFO.
  • Whizziwig and Whizziwig Returns (omnibus) by Malorie Blackman (Random House UK). There is an alien in Ben’s room and she can grant wishes. My nine-year-old son normally only reads when pressured, but he could not be prised away from this and is now into more SF by the same author.
  • The Astrosaurs series by Steve Cole (Red Fox). Funny and plotty series about space-faring dinosaurs. Wonderful line drawings.

For stronger readers:

  • Animal Investigators: Red Eye by Susan Gates. British series opener about kids with animal powers, a natural history professor and a malevolent, super-intelligent seagull.
  • Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes (Egmont USA). A WWII bomb shelter, spies, scary experiments and social change.
  • Animorphs: The Invasion by K.A. Applegate (Scholastic). Fast-paced and intense alien-invasion series-opener featuring brain slugs and animal transformations.
  • Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies by Andrea Beatty, illustrated by Dan Santat (Amulet Books). Summer camp. Alien invasion. Goofiness all round.

Three irresistible middle-grade books:

  • The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (Hyperion). Alien invasion and a twelve-year-old girl. Crazy-funny, very smart.
  • The Boy at the End of the World by Greg Van Eekhout (Bloomsbury). A post-humanity survival novel for older kids. Proper SF worldbuilding at last!
  • The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor (Hyperion). Plant-based technology! Future Africa! Without compare.

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