The 80 Greatest Science Fiction Books for Kids

Science-fiction is an ideal genre for kids of all ages — not the sole domain of ponderous, provocative philosophical tomes using space as a metaphor for the human condition and psyche. Although rooted in astronomy, robots and other scientific truths, the accompanying sense of wonder and speculation makes the genre (and its myriad sub-genres) so enduring. Introducing children and young adults to the comfortable, familiar narratives, character archetypes and settings makes an excellent conduit for stimulating their burgeoning imaginations.

Getting 'Em Hooked Early

  1. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    Part science-fiction, part fantasy, The Little Prince is required shared reading for all parents and children, regardless of their genre preferences.

  2. Space Guys! by Martha Weston

    Introduce very young children to comfortable science-fiction tropes with this delightful story of a little boy who pals around with aliens.

  3. The Commander Toad series by Jane Yolen

    Courageous Commander Toad and the crew of the Star Warts hop across the universe in search of adventure. And science.

  4. The Rudest Alien on Earth by Jane Leslie Conley

    Kids can learn the names of their favorite barnyard animals alongside a mischievous shapeshifting alien friend.

  5. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter by Unknown

    This ancient Japanese story sees a childless couple brought joy and pain from a moon princess sent to Earth in stalks of glowing bamboo.

  6. Babar Visits Another Planet by Laurent De Brunhoff

    Beloved storybook character Babar and his family are abducted by gentle alien friends wanting to spend more time with them.

  7. If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty

    Science fiction meets science fact when a young boy travels to the moon and finds out exactly what Earth's only natural satellite has to offer.

  8. The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes

    Spanning five nights, this exciting story of a gentle robot sent to destroy humanity makes an excellent read-out-loud bedtime story for most of a week.

  9. Cam Jansen: The Mystery of the UFO by David A. Adler

    The spunky, eponymous girl detective finds herself outwitted by a possible alien spacecraft. Or is the bizarre construct something wholly terrestrial?

  10. The Danny Dunn series by Jay Williams

    Boy mad scientist Danny Dunn will greatly appeal to budding young geeks looking for adventures in invisibility, wondrous machinery, shrinking and plenty more.

  11. The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

    Tra-la-laaaaaaa!!! The kitschiest, campiest superhero this side of Ant-Man will delight young readers in this popular graphic novel series.

  12. Here Come the Blobbies by Jorge

    Rainbow-colored Blobbies bounce around space and time, teaching little ones about shapes and emotions. The book also comes with a CD-ROM packed with bonus material.

  13. The First Graders from Mars series by Shana Corey

    Even extraterrestrial entities feel some of the most common anxieties experienced by very young human children!

  14. Hush, Little Alien by Daniel Kirk

    A beloved, popular nursery rhyme gets a gentle science-fiction makeover, punctuated by some very lovely illustrations kids will adore.

  15. Curious George and the Rocket by H.A. Rey

    Everyone's favorite curious little monkey launches himself into space and has many engaging, pioneering adventures.

  16. Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman

    Introduce small children to imagination-piquing science fiction tropes in this story combining two of their favorite things — wacky aliens and underwear!

  17. We're Off to Look for Aliens by Colin McNaughton

    Parents and teachers don't have to support SETI to share the delightful We're Off to Look for Aliens with children.

  18. Buzz Boy and Fly Guy by Ted Arnold

    Fly Guy and his boy imagine themselves as superheroes saving the day from pirates and dragons in this graphic novel combining science-fiction and fantasy.

  19. Hello, Robots! by Bob Staake

    Excellent illustrations and memorable rhymes bring the lives of four endearing, highly specialized robots to vivid life.

  20. Mars Needs Moms! by Berkeley Breathed

    Little Milo takes his mother for granted and doesn't understand why she's so important in his life. Then she gets kidnapped by Martians.

Elementary School

  1. Aliens Don't Wear Braces by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones

    The Bailey School kids have a hard time accepting their eccentric, ghastly white art teacher as anything other than an extraterrestrial spy.

  2. Aliens for Breakfast by Jonathan Etra and Stephanie Spinner

    When an alien pops out of his breakfast cereal, a little boy has to help him save Earth from a big, scary invasion.

  3. Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay

    Along with excellent, whimsical illustrations, David Macaulay philosophizes over what future civilizations may make of today's mundane objects.

  4. My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville

    Many kids probably think their teachers come from different planets, but the ones at the center of this book are actually right!

  5. Help! I'm Trapped in My Teacher's Body by Todd Strasser

    Body switches endure as a common science-fiction trope, and this one reverses a frustrated boy and his socially awkward teacher for some much-needed perspective changes.

  6. Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson

    Sinister cetaceans plot to overthrow humanity in this silly, pulpy, postmodern masterpiece for elementary and middle school science geeks.

  7. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

    Technology and magic alike pepper this whimsical tale of a ridiculously smart boy who tests his considerable wits against the faerie folk.

  8. Eager by Helen Fox

    A British family adopts a new robot, named Eager, to help out their mechanical butler Grumps, who's grown a bit shabby. But the little machine's programmed curiosity, learning acumen and ability to lie unsurprisingly cause some serious problems.

  9. The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman

    Supergenius Brenton invents a machine capable of doing everyone's homework, but then their teacher starts growing evermore suspicious as assignments come in with no wrong answers.

  10. Lunchbox and the Aliens by Bryan W. Fields

    Elementary school kids who love alien stories may want to check out this fun little narrative about a lovable basset hound and some silly extraterrestrials who want him to help make their favorite food.

  11. The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy by William Boniface

    Everyone in Superopolis has superpowers, except for Ordinary Boy. Which, of course, means he'll have to save the day using fully human abilities.

  12. The Franny K. Stein series by Jim Benton

    Little mad scientist Franny K. Stein will surely delight the budding young biology and technology geek in every elementary school kid.

  13. The Outernet series by Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore

    The eponymous structure is kind of like the internet, only outer. Also, this book involves disguised pets, reluctant kid heroes and an interstellar battle for universal domination.

  14. Norby the Mixed-Up Robot by Janet and Isaac Asimov

    Quirky little robot Norby and his pupil Jeff Wells unexpectedly discover an organization's plans for conquest, applying their lessons learned to the problems at hand.

  15. Nose Pickers from Outer Space by Gordon Korman

    Devin Hunter's truly bizarre new exchange student ends up far more than he seems on the outside and ends up dragging him into some fun, strange adventures fraught with clever wordplay.

  16. The White Fox Chronicles by Gary Paulsen

    After a teenager escapes from the prison in which many kids are wrongfully interred, he makes his way back in order to grant them the exact same freedom.

  17. Fat Men from Space by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

    Aliens want to steal the planet's supply of sweet, salty and fatty treats! Oh no! Only protagonist William and his radio tooth can save them!

  18. The Space Ship Under the Apple Tree by Louis Slobodkin

    The quest for Secret Power Z leads to an unlikely friendship between an average boy and his eager young alien scientist companion.

  19. The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron

    Since the 1950s, this delightful tale of two boys exploring the planet Basidium in a homemade rocket has brought joy to many ardent readers.

  20. Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies by Andrea Beaty

    Lumbering lagomorphs from outer space crash-land on Earth in search of sugary food after a meteor smashes up their home world.

Middle School/Junior High

  1. Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause

    On an interstellar space ship, young protagonist Puck must help a new alien friend unravel the terrifying mystery behind his missing artifact.

  2. The Giver by Lois Lowry

    Learn the bizarre secrets behind a seemingly idyllic society through the story of a young apprentice tasked with learning the shocking reality.

  3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    Postapocalyptic totalitarian regimes force children into gladiatorial combat in order to establish dominance and instill perpetual fear.

  4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

    A Wrinkle in Time is one of the most beloved science-fiction works for middle school kids, blending complex mathematics, interdimensional travel, fantastic creatures and plenty more engaging elements.

  5. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

    This novel features pretty much exactly what the title promises, packaged in exciting, romanticized and eloquent prose.

  6. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis

    Not everyone wants to (or should) read Christin-tinged science-fiction, but those who do will probably enjoy one of C.S. Lewis' other oft-enjoyed series.

  7. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

    While veering more towards the fantastic than the scientific, The Golden Compass contains enough steampunk elements to please fans of the sub-genre.

  8. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

    A series of alien attacks cripples the Earth, forcing its inhabitants to train kids for combat situations through games and play.

  9. The Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate

    In order to fight back a stealth alien invasion of Earth, a group of young adults gain the ability to shapeshift into different animals and align with more benevolent beings.

  10. Jumper by Steven Gould

    David Rice uses his newfound teleportation ability to escape his abusive dad, but runs into some challenging ethical issues as he attempts to make sense of them.

  11. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

    Almost all of H.G. Wells' scientific romances make for essential reads, really, but this one sports such visceral, provocative imagery one cannot help but list it here.

  12. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

    The original short story appears in many middle school readers, but particularly astute students may want to delve deeper into the highly provocative tale of a mentally impaired man given a shot at superintelligence.

  13. An Audience for Einstein by Mark Wakely

    Genuinely frightening, ethically questionable experiments regarding brain and memory transplants form the core of this challenging, essential read.

  14. A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr

    After humanity's demise, it gradually rebuilds itself, only to make the same mistakes yet again. The Brothers of St. Liebowitz serve as preservers of knowledge to try to stave off the cycle as much as possible.

  15. The Ugliestrilogy by Scott Westerfield

    Tween and teen girls alike can easily relate to the ridiculous, arbitrary hierarchy based on looks where this popular series takes place.

  16. The Ringworld series by Larry Niven

    These exceptionally detailed novels take place in a highly technological future, engaging readers with its speculative take on where humanity may very well find itself someday.

  17. Singing the Dogstar Blues by Alison Goodman

    Protagonist Joss Aaronson and her alien friend Mavkel break the law and travel back in time to find her father, because if they don't, the latter will inevitably perish.

  18. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

    Both a work of fantasy and science-fiction, The Phantom Tollbooth sports sophisticated literary wordplay perfect for the hyperliterate middle schooler.

  19. The Boxes by William Sleator

    Annie Levi receives two boxes with explicit instructions to open neither. But she cracks them open anyways and has to face the scuttling, clawed consequences.

  20. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

    The government forces all families to stop at two children, but one secretly harboring a third must keep the poor buy suppressed for grave fear of punishment.

High School

  1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

    Although most view this classic novel as a treatise against censorship, Ray Bradbury really meant for it to reflect the encroach of television and mass media on reading.

  2. 1984 by George Orwell

    While not the first work of dystopian science-fiction ever written, 1984 and its looming totalitarian regime seems to be the one most recognized and referenced.

  3. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

    Early in his illustrious career, Kurt Vonnegut used science fiction to painstakingly satirize everything from organized religion to the arms race.

  4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    Frankenstein revolutionized the horror and science-fiction genres alike with its genuinely scary tale of a mad creator and the intelligent monster he brings to life.

  5. Neuromancer by William Gibson

    William Gibson may not have invented the cyberpunk sub-genre alone, but he undeniably left one of the heaviest impacts on it, most especially with his frenetic Neuromancer.

  6. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

    This breakneck cyberpunk classic follows Hiro Protagonist as he navigates a virtual realm to prevent a brainwashing word virus from spreading. Many of the technologies Stephenson predicted eventually wormed their way into reality, for better or for worse.

  7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams

    Even science-fiction detractors can find something to enjoy about one of the genre's most beloved, absurdist classics, which parodies far, far more than just the familiar tropes.

  8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    Another quintessentially dystopian work, Aldous Huxley's tragedy features an advanced civilization whose comfort leads to complacency.

  9. Logan's Run by George Clayton Johnson and William Nolan

    At the center of the haunting Logan's Run lay a not-so-thinly-veiled parable about ageism, brought to readers through a narrative of forced euthanasia.

  10. The Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov

    Seven novels comprise this beloved, heavily influential series, which involves the epic story of a mathematician predicting some horrific things for his home world.

  11. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra

    Yorick Brown and his helper monkey Ampersand luck (?) out as the only men to survive a global cataclysm, which specifically targets the Y chromosome. What follows is a deeply psychological, action-packed adventure at the end of civilization.

  12. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

    With its feet in both horror and science-fiction literature, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde terrifies just as much as it delights and sparks philosophical discussion.

  13. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

    In a futuristic dystopia where the line between robots and humans has become inextricably blurred.

  14. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke

    An alien civilization lands on Earth and transforms it into a peaceable utopia, bringing about the next stage in human evolution and thought.

  15. Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

    As technologically stunning as it is philosophical, this intelligent read takes audiences to a bizarre celestial structure capable of piercing through an individual's psychology.

  16. Dune by Frank Herbert

    The epic tale of intergalactic war stems from individual and governmental greed over one of the universe's rarest spices.

  17. The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

    An "unknown biologic agent" from outer space might very well signify doom for the human race if a cure cannot be found in time.

  18. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

    Valentine Michael Smith, a human born on Mars and raised by its inhabitants, returns to his parents' native Earth trailing interplanetary conflict in his wake.

  19. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

    Easily one of the earliest dystopian novels, We bred a flurry of successors hoping to build upon its horrifying totalitarian setting.

  20. World War Z by Max Brooks

    Horror and science-fiction collide in an oral history of a zombie outbreak, relaying the very visceral, very real fear of living in a society as everything goes straight to hell.

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