I don't remember when I first read science fiction, but I know when I learned to love it. I spent seven months in San Ignacio, Belize, working on my PhD dissertation, and the small nonprofit that sponsored me had a bookshelf filled with science fiction, thanks to an ex-pat who worked there.
Since this was before e-readers, this bookshelf was my library. Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert A. Heinlein, all the great science fiction authors were there. My favorite was the Orson Scott Card Ender's Game series. Early in my trip, I got quite sick, and my reading choices were apparent in my illness-related hallucinations. I spent an entire night, eyes wide open, thinking I was a spaceship trying to dock on planet Earth.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and now I have a kid who loves to read, and I am amazed by the huge selection of fantasy and science fiction books available for kids. I read everything he reads, and kid lit has changed for the better. Most of it is far more engaging than Nancy Drew and the other books I read (but won't name for fear of trashing someone's favorite childhood novel).
I'm going to stick with books he read from fourth to seventh grade. When he finds one he likes, he reads the whole series, which can take a while. I recently asked him to rank his favorites. His first two, which he read in late sixth and seventh grade, were Ender's Game and The Hunger Games. He read the first three of the Ender's Game series, including Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide. I was thrilled that he loved these books as much as I did. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is a trilogy that includes Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Many of these books have been made into movies and we always rent the movie after he finishes the book.
His next favorite takes us back to fourth grade, and if you've read my post on bribing your child, you'll remember this: Harry Potter. This is a seven-book series written by J.K. Rowling, starting with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. He read the entire series and liked the first few and the last one best. These are also some of my favorite books and movies and were his favorites until recently. There is a fun companion website for kids, and adults, J.K. Rowling is great to follow on Twitter.
His next favorite is the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans. This is another seven-book series, and the final book was published last fall. The series follows a group of kids with special electrical powers as they fight against the evil men who created them.
He read all of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. His favorite thing about these books was learning about Greek and Roman mythology. He read some of the Trials of Apollo series, also by Rick Riordan, but didn't enjoy them quite as much. I think he probably aged out of this series.
Two other series he thought were worth mentioning are the Maze Runner by James Dashner and the Divergent by Veronica Roth. He enjoyed these dystopian novels featuring teenage heroes during seventh grade. The Divergent movies are good but be forewarned that the Maze Runner movies deviate significantly from the books.
One final book read as a school assignment in fifth grade deserves mention. That book is A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. This book is a fantastic introduction to science fiction for children, and deals with universal issues such as the battles between good and evil, individuality and conformity, and reason and faith.
Of the nine books mentioned, three of them have female protagonists, and although I wish it were more, this seems to be improving. My kid certainly doesn't care about the gender of the main character, he just wants a good story. For those of you whose kids aren't interested in science fiction or fantasy, click here for recommendations. To receive these blog posts when they are published, sign up below.