Boldly go to strange new worlds with this list of the best science fiction books for kids.
One of the best parts of being a nerdy parent is sharing the geeky worlds you love with your kids. I still get a thrill when my kids name some obscure superhero they learned about from me. And I hold out hope that one of my kids will enjoy Star Trek as much as I do.
But there’s another, deeper type of thrill when kids find their own nerdy worlds that they are passionate about. Sure, it might not be a type of fandom that you share (my kids all love anime and manga, art forms that I don’t enjoy at all), but those are theirs, and that passion can be inspiring.
A great way to encourage kids to develop their love for science fiction is to introduce them to the world of books. Even for young, first-time readers, sci-fi books bring to readers all-new universes and adventures. Because readers use their imagination to bring to life the words on the page, your kids become co-creators, designing the characters and settings in their heads.
There are, of course, hundreds of science fiction books for children published every year. And part of the fun for kids is going to the library or bookstore and finding their own discoveries. But for those looking for a start, here are some of the best sci-fi books of the recent few years. We’ve even broken them up by age, so you can launch your kids on reading adventures. With any luck, they’ll come back with some recommendations for you!
Looking for other ways to build a lifelong interest in reading with your kiddos? Check out our list of the best Star Wars Books for Kids That Dream of Far Away Galaxies, or, for something a little more magical, head over to Books Like Harry Potter for your Whole Family!
Ages 5 – 7
There’s a reason that stories like Star Wars and Harry Potter are about normal kids who discover a grand destiny. Kids love to imagine that they’re on the verge of something special, that any day can put them on a grand adventure.
Writer and artist Judd Winnick offers a fresh take on that model for Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, the story of two regular, everyday children named D.J. and Gina and their alien buddy Hilo. Winnick’s charming and energetic drawings bring to mind the best Calvin and Hobbes comics, and his story mixes fish-out-of-water humor with a genuinely moving story of friendship and identity.
Sci-Fi books love their scientist heroes, do-gooders who save the galaxy through their intellect and inventiveness. While science heroes tend to be handsome men and women, John Himmelman gives us a different type of adventurer. Albert Hopper is a frog who teaches Junior Science Heroes Polly and Tad the power of STEM studies.
Funny and exciting, Himmelman’s book is sure to make a STEM enthusiast out of your child, thanks to its amazing and understandable science facts.
Are your kids fans of STEM concepts? Check out our article What is Science for Kids for even more ways to learn while having fun!
If there’s one thing kids like more than astronauts, it’s cats. Author and illustrator Drew Brockington gives readers the best of both worlds with CatStronauts: Mission Moon. Set in a world populated by cats, CatStronauts follows the adventures of Major Meowser and his crew, on a mission to save the world from a global energy shortage.
With a solid mix of adventure, laughs, and energetic illustrations, CatStronauts will expose children to the limitless possibilities of science-fiction.
Ages 8 – 10
After raw chicken ends up inside her best friend’s locker, ace reporter (of the school newspaper) Gabi Real decides it’s time to investigate Sal Vidon, the school’s resident magician. The search for answers takes Gabi and Sal on an adventure across time and space in Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, by Carlos Hernandez.
Infusing Cuban flavor into a sci-fi romp, Hernandez tells an exciting tale about two normal kids dealing with unusual power—and the emotional stakes of having the ability to do anything.
First contact encounters are a staple of science fiction stories, in which people need to readjust their reality when they meet an alien lifeform. New in town stories are a staple of children’s fiction, in which characters learn how to acclimate to a new home.
In We’re Not From Here, bestselling author Geoff Rodkey puts those genres together. The book follows a human kid who just got used to his life on Mars when his family moves to Planet Choom, where the native Zhuri don’t like his type. From those high stakes, Rodkey tells a kid-friendly story about overcoming differences and the power of friendship.
More than any other genre, sci-fi stories have the potential to teach. Properties such as Star Trek and Doctor Who introduce audiences to scientific concepts and historical facts, mixing education with an exciting adventure.
With their bestselling book Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs tell an exciting story filled with STEM facts. Specifically, the book follows kid-genius Frank Einstein, whose household experiments teach him about the concept of matter. When an accident brings to life his robots Klink and Klank, Frank finds himself at odds with his arch-rival, the evil T. Edison.
With striking illustrations and a lively plot, Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor is so much fun, your kids won’t realize that they are learning.
Ages 11 – 13
While we parents like to believe that we’re our kids’ favorite adults, most children have a special place for their grandparents. In her novel The Fourteenth Goldfish, three-time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer L. Holm builds on that connection with her story of 11-year-old Ellie and the new kid who might be her Grandpa Melvin. The old scientist has always been obsessed with defeating old age. Has he finally figured it out?
With a twisty story full of humor and emotional beats, The Fourteenth Goldfish addresses a question every kid has asked: “What were my grandparents like as a kid?” As Holm shows with her thoughtful prose, the answer may be more than they bargained for.
While science fiction can introduce kids to amazing new worlds and faraway galaxies, some of the best stories in the genre make the mundane fantastic. That’s the case in Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox, which brings aliens invaders and robot warriors to the school lunchroom.
Finn Foley looks like your average kid, right down to the tin lunchbox he carries to school. But when he opens that lunchbox, everything changes. Because where most kids have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their lunchbox, Finn carries around wormholes that take him across the galaxy!
One of the most exciting subgenres of sci-fi is alternate histories, stories about what the world would be like if a certain invention or battle went a different way. In her book York: The Shadow Cipher, Laura Ruby imagines a world where the strange Morningstarr twins brought futuristic technology to New York in the late 18th century. After the twins’ disappearance nearly 60 years later, a trio of heroes must find the mysterious Old York Cipher.
Ruby’s relatable characters and imaginative worlds make for an exciting version of New York. Readers can not only picture themselves as heroes saving the world but also living in a world almost like our own.
Whether she’s writing comic books, stories for children, or novels for adult readers, Nnedi Okorafor has established herself as a master of science fiction. Her Africanfuturist and Africanjujuist stories, which put African characters into sci-fi and fantasy worlds respectively, have won her numerous accolades, including Eisner, Hugo, and Nebula awards.
With her YA book Akata Witch, Okorafor brings her approach to the magic child genre. The novel follows American-born Nigerian Sunny, whose athletic talent is soon revealed to be magical powers. To hone her abilities, Sunny joins a group of other magic students and quickly finds that she has a lot of learning to do.
As a father of two teenagers, I can say this with some authority: teens treat every setback like it’s the end of the world. But for 18-year-old Nami Miyamoto, the protagonist of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s The Infinity Courts, it really is the end of the world. When she’s murdered on the way to her graduation party, Nami finds herself in Infinity, the afterlife of human consciousnesses.
From that striking premise, Bowman crafts a story of rebellion and self-discovery, as Nami joins a group of freedom fighters against Ophelia, the Siri-like virtual assistant who has become the queen of Infinity. As Nami tries to reconcile with her new normal, she discovers that she still has much to offer, even as her plans go wildly awry.
When I was a teen in the 90s, hacker stories were all the rage. We all read William Gibson and his followers, our heads filled with the wild unknowns of the internet. Today, the internet is as mundane as the grocery store or the mail service, but hacker stories still capture the imaginations of readers. In her debut novel This Mortal Coil, Emily Suvada tells the tale of hacker Catarina Agatta, who can do everything, from taking control of street lights to altering people’s physical bodies, all thanks to gene implants.
Suvada’s gripping tale takes Cat from this place of immense power to one of desperation, as she finds herself caught in a plot that might finally cure the plague that has gripped humanity for decades. When her famous scientist father is killed, Cat must go on the run to protect the cure and save the galaxy, all while trying to hold on to her identity in a world where everything is hackable.