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Sci-Fi Books For Pre-Teens? 1419

Posted by kdawson
from the needle-definitely-oh-and-mission-of-gravity dept.
o2binbuzios writes "I have two pre-teen boys who are avid readers, and I am going through my mental catalog for great sci-fi & fantasy books for them. What are some of the classics (and maybe new additions to the classics) that would be great for them to read? I am asking because some of the 'straight-up' classics I remember actually seem kind of dark & cynical for younger readers. Starship Troopers and some of the other Heinlein are definitely darker and more political than I remember... Foundation Trilogy and psycho-history maybe too dry. Road-trip reading season is upon us — what are the good reads for the kids in the back seat?"
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Sci-Fi Books For Pre-Teens?

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  • Terry Pratchett (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rminsk (831757) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:12PM (#24109199)
    Almost anything by Terry Pratchett.
  • Re:Enders Game (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eric Smith (4379) * < minus language> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:13PM (#24109229) Homepage Journal
    He wanted stuff that is not "dark and cynical". That pretty much rules out _Enders Game_.
  • by gunnk (463227) <[ude.cnu.gpf.liam] [ta] [knnug]> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:16PM (#24109283) Homepage
    Both Bradbury and Heinlein are wonderful. I loved The Martian Chronicles in Junior High.

    On the Heinlein side, check out his youth fiction rather than his more political stuff. He wrote a bunch of novels targeted directly at youth.
  • by Ugmo (36922) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:18PM (#24109301)

    I love almost all of Larry Niven's books but World Out of Time may not be good for pre-teen boys. Part of the plot is that most of humanity is wiped out. The remainder is look like pre-teen boys but are actually immortal. So far so good. These boys do maintain a breeding population that consists mostly of women with the minimal number of men to keep them pregnant. There is at least 1 orgy scene and some other sex scenes. Minimal violence though. So if you don't mind your 10 year olds reading about orgies, go for it.

  • Everything (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Saxerman (253676) * on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:20PM (#24109335) Homepage
    My advice would be, don't hold back. I had a voracious appetite for books as a teenager which crossed many demographics and genres. But the most memorable to me are the ones with more of an adult edge that really made me think. Personally, I think we spend too much time holding children back and looking to make their lives better than our own. Not every novel I've read was a classic, but there are very few I would say I didn't at least enjoy. Let them read everything you can get your hands on that looks interesting.
  • Ursula Le Guin (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:22PM (#24109377)

    other suggestions:

    Diana Wynne Jones: Howl's Moving Castle
    William Sleator : Interstellar Pig, Singularity, House of Stairs.
    Joan Vinge: Psion (Cat trilogy), etc.

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:22PM (#24109383) Homepage

    No doubt Slashdot is full of Harry Potter haters. I was one, too, until I actually read the entire series last month. It's still not exactly my cuppa, but it's an incredibly well-crafted work of fantasy fiction for young adults. The first couple of books are pure wish-fulfillment, which will appeal to any pre-teen. The books are too long for young readers to make it through all of them back to back, though, so by the time they get around to the later volumes, they will be just the right age to appreciate the darker aspects and more complex themes of the series's conclusion.

    Unfortunately, most kids will probably just watch the movies.

  • Foundation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrsam (12205) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:26PM (#24109441) Homepage

    "Foundation" is not "too dry". The best thing you can do for your kids is to give them reading material -- sci-fi or any other genre -- that challenges their mind, and makes them think.

    Before Foundation, though, get them started on three Robot novels, then the seven Foundation books. After they're done with Asimov, give them the three Lord Of The Rings books. I read all three LOTR in my early teens, in high school. They weren't "too dry", in the least. I loved them. I had no problems with it, and English isn't even my native language.

    Don't be afraid to challenge your kids. Challenging reading material is very good brain food. Other suggestions:

    * The first three Mars books, by Edgar Rice Burrows. Some of that (mostly the first book) is a bit dated, and a bit bizarre (everyone on Mars walks around naked, and Martian women lay eggs). But, once you get passed the weird stuff, it's great pulp.

    * War of the Worlds, by HG Wells

    * A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court, by Mark Twain. Yes, it's sci-fi/fantasy.

    That should be enough to last until next year. Come back then for more stuff to suggest.

  • give 'em all of it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BootNinja (743040) <mack,mcneely&gmail,com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:28PM (#24109473) Homepage

    Ringworld, Snowcrash, Cryptonomicon, The Hobbit, LOTR, Harry Potter, Odd Thomas, Dragonlance (the stuff written by Weiss and Hickman, not the 3rd party crap), Star Trek novels, Sword of Truth, A Game of Thrones, Neuromancer is pretty edgy, but a great read. My younger brothers absolutely loved a series called Animorphs. When I was about 12 I really enjoyed Swiss Family Robinson. Maybe throw in some classics like Frankenstein and Dracula. H.G. Wells Time Machine, Gulliver's Travels, Around the World in 80 days, Dune

    I would also second the suggestions of Card's early work. Ender's Game, Songmaster, The Shadow Series, The first few Alvin Maker books are good. I would definitely get them to read Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus.

    You also can't go wrong with comics. There's a lot of really good stuff in trade paperback these days. You can introduce them to Marvel's Ultimate lines; Ultimate Spiderman, Ultimate Fantastic Four, etc. These series start over and reboot the universe. They will be more compelling for young readers because there isn't 40 years of continuity to sift through.

    I would also suggest giving them books that you enjoyed as a child, or even an adult. Just because something is edgy or political doesn't make it automagically inappropriate for a child. You can tell them to come to you with any questions, and you will end up raising a kid who's wise beyond his years, and that will serve the kid well as he gets older.

  • Re:Jules Verne (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:31PM (#24109493)


    I'm less than a month past my 24th birthday and have just started getting into Jules Verne. He's not just for kids - its great literature and you can learn a lot. Verne was waaaay ahead of his time with some of the things he discusses.

    For instance, he proposes hydrogen fuel cells (using electricity to separate the hydrogen and the oxygen) as an alternative to coal (which he predicts to run out in 250-300 years) in "The Mysterious Island," which is sort of the sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

  • Earthsea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bob54321 (911744) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:32PM (#24109535)
    Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea novels + short stories are a fairly easy read. Also each is quite short. Can't remember anything in it that might not be suitable for younger children offhand.
  • Re:Jules Verne (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SputnikPanic (927985) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:33PM (#24109547)

    At first I was going to suggest The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and the Foundation series -- you know, the classics. Then I got to thinking a bit and the sad thing is that I'm not sure the kids today would appreciate those works as much as we did when we were their age. If they were to read those when they're slightly older or maybe even as adults, then maybe they might appreciate them more. But now? Probably not so much. I mean, we're talking about a generation that's grown up on a style of television and film different from that that we grew up with. Today, a camera angle rarely holds for more than 10 seconds before it cuts to another angle.

    All this to say that I think your recommendation of the Verne novels is pretty spot on. There's more plot and more stuff happens in those Verne novels -- which are indeed great -- than in the works of Bradbury and Asimov which tend to be more contemplative and intellectual.

  • Dark and Cynical? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alaren (682568) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:43PM (#24109703)

    I think o2binbuzios has actually answered his (her?) own question with regard to "dark and political." The fact is, o2binbuzios does not "remember" those books being so dark and political because a your average pre-teen or tween will not recognize the dark and political stuff in a book.

    One mark of great literature is that it grows up with you. A lot of Juvenile and Young Adult literature (from "The Giver" to "The Chronicles of Narnia" and beyond) is just as interesting to adults as to children, because the mature themes are only evident when you're mature enough to recognize them. The first time I read the Narnia books, I had no idea there were "Christian overtones." But I was young and just enjoying a quick fantasy.

    The same goes for Heinlein and a lot of Asimov's stuff as well.

  • Overtones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alaren (682568) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:49PM (#24109821)

    His other books have not-so-subtle Mormon overtones that turn an otherwise decent book into a terrible one.

    I'm not sure how borrowing from religion really worsens a work of fiction. Some of the coolest fiction out there has not-so-subtle overtones of Native American, Hindu, Buddhist, Norse, Greek, or a thousand other religions. The "Alvin Maker" books and the other ones--Return to Earth or something like that?--are deliberate retellings of specific LDS stories. If anything, Scott is genericizing otherwise patently Mormon folklore.

    Some people criticize the Narnia books as "too Christian" and the Dark Materials books as "too atheist" and of course Orson Scott Card would get dragged into those silly fights. But compare fiction by Ayn Rand or Terry Goodkind and then get back to me about "preachy" and "overtones."

  • Little Fuzzy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by way2trivial (601132) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:51PM (#24109851) Homepage Journal

    H. Beam Piper.

    2-3 sequels..
    fuzzy sapiens...

    a great read- similar to heinline juveniles.

    hard to find-- worth the search....

  • by Paul Carver (4555) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @09:55PM (#24109901)

    The first time I read the Narnia books, I had no idea there were "Christian overtones." But I was young and just enjoying a quick fantasy.

    When I read the Narnia books when I was a kid I had no idea there were "Christian overtones.". When I read them again when I was 33 I still had no idea there were "Christian overtones."

    I think whatever overtones you're reading are more about what YOU put into what you're reading than what's written on the page.

    I know C.S Louis was considered by himself and others as a christian writer, but it's quite a stretch to think that the Narnia series are any more "christian" than most other fantasy novels.

    Unless you consider anything with good and evil epic battles and sacrifices to be "christian", but that seems like an awfully broad definition.

  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:08PM (#24110073) Journal

    Don't try to avoid dark in sci-fi. A lot of the best sci fi is more about exploring the human psyche - the technology or remote physical setting is more a tool than the focus of the story.

    My recommendation: Go for a short story collection. Anything by Asimov would be good. Or failing that try a collection that exposes the youngster to a wide variety of authors, but in short little bursts. Any story that isn't interesting can be skipped, or if read won't turn into a long drawn out drag that'll put the little tike off.

    If short stories aren't what you want, try Cities in Flight James Blish.

  • Re:Try these (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Famanoran (568910) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:15PM (#24110161)

    Anne McCaffrey is definitely on the top list, along with David Eddings.

  • Red Wall (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mkiwi (585287) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:20PM (#24110243)

    Along a similar line as Harry Potter-
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Brian Jacques' "Red Wall" series of books. Perhaps I am getting older, but those were a lot of fun when I was in elementary school.

    The series is about various critters who act like humans. Lots of well described scenes, battles, and specific personality traits characteristic of which type of critter you are looking at. Your kids will probably learn some vocabulary too.

    Thoughtful and well written series of books.

  • by mtgarden (744770) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:21PM (#24110255)
    For the record, Lewis wasn't trying to write "Evangelistic" literature. He wanted to teach children ideas about right/wrong, self-sacrifice, good behavior and such. His self-avowed goal with those series was to plant seeds of good conduct not to explicitly attempt a conversion.

    And, yes, I like the books and agree with what he did with them.
  • by sbeckstead (555647) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:28PM (#24110365) Homepage Journal
    The Dune books are far too adult for pre-teens.
    Give Frank Herbert a pass. Go for the Heinlein and Poul Anderson.
  • by Qzukk (229616) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:30PM (#24110383) Journal

    A lot of the pervy stuff I totally didn't remember.

    And this pretty much sums up why people worry too much about this stuff.

  • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:30PM (#24110401)

    Don't forget RAH's first - Rocketship Galileo, and also Space Cadet, Time for the Stars. Also: I think 'The Rolling Stones' is the correct title of 'Space Family Stone', although I understand many of his early works were originally published serially, and under different titles; that may be the case here, but the novel has always been known to me as 'The Rolling Stones.' I would also include 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' and 'Starship Troopers' here, and perhaps 'The Puppet Masters.' I read all of these before I hit 12, and had no problems with them. Indeed, Moon is perhaps my favourite book to this day, even though I don't agree with some of Heinlein's social or some of his political views, it certainly formed or firmed a lot of my beliefs then and since. I don't see any need to avoid political stuff simply due to being young. On the contrary, much like with pets, it's good to get exposure early, else you might develop an allergy later in life. :)

    Other good ones include Isaac Asimov's "Lucky Starr" books (originally credited to his alter ego, 'Paul French', I think). There are also Schmitz's "Telzey Amberdon" books, as well as his classic "The Witches of Karres." Clarke's "Islands in the Sky", Gallun's "The Planet Strappers" (hard to find, but awesome), "Across a Billion Years" by Silverberg, "Space Angel" by John Maddox Roberts, "Healer" by F. Paul Wilson, "Eridahn" by Robert Young (dinosaurs! Time travel! Martians! Aliens! (yes, Martians and Aliens are listed separately here :)), someone else already mentioned "Welcome to Mars" by Blish, and I'll certainly second that. There's a LOT more to E.E. Doc Smith than his Lensman and Skylark books, and I think I'd recommend them all. "Spacial Delivery" by Gordon Dickson was a good one, as are "Talking to Dragons" by Patricia Wrede, (which is apparently part of a series. This is the only one that I've read, and it stands alone brilliantly), the Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey (set on the Pern world), and the undersea books by Jerry Pournelle (I think) I remember as being quite fun, too. Also: Robert Aspirin's "MythAdventures" books, and Piers Anthony's "Xanth" books (though the older you are, the more you'll get the 'awful' puns).

    Many, if not most, of these, will need to be purchased used, due to the sad state of the publishing industry. *sigh*

    I actually wrote a gigantic list on this subject several years ago on Slashdot - you may be able to find it via a search by using some of the more unique titles or names listed here as keywords.

  • by CDarklock (869868) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:35PM (#24110461) Homepage Journal

    You don't remember these books as dry and cynical because you didn't care.

    You're not seeing them the same way today. Just as I look back on books I loved as a child and see new things, so do you. But the fact remains: they were good books. Children are very, very good at ignoring the things they don't understand in favor of the things they do.

    Consider just handing them Heinlein, and letting them figure it out for themselves. Children are robust little machines for making sense of the world. Give them "Stranger in a Strange Land"; all the sex and religion parts whizzed right by me as a kid, and I mainly came away from it with an appreciation for cultural differences. So if you were looking at that book thinking the sex and religion parts were too much, you might be right, but you're also throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  • In the same vein: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by weston (16146) * <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:38PM (#24110505) Homepage

    Lloyd Alexander's books. His "Chronicles of Prydain" (starting with "The Book of Three") are probably his best work, but he's got some other wonderful stuff.

    Jeff Smith's Bone [] -- don't hold the fact that it's a graphic novel against it. :)

  • by haemish (28576) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:47PM (#24110621)

    Any of the "Tales of Known Space" series by Larry Niven; "Tar Aym Krang" by Alan Dean Foster.

  • by nhaines (622289) <.moc.utnubu. .ta. .seniahn.> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:50PM (#24110665) Homepage

    No, Tolkien grew up a devout Catholic. So that's definitely not it. :)

    I hate to appeal to Wikipedia, but the article there does mention Lewis's falling away from Christianity as a teenager and then returning to theism and then Christianity when he in his early 30's.

    C.S. Lewis was definitely one of the great Christian apologists of the 20th century, and it's no wonder that you remember him as such.

  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:00PM (#24110793) Homepage
    There's a list of books suitable for children from six to sixteen at The LASFS website. [] It's one of the many projects of This World's Oldest Science Fiction Club.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:02PM (#24110817) Homepage Journal

    This is going to go into the borders of TMI territory, but I have to admit to being turned on by events that I found even in Piers Anthony's Xanth books as a teenage boy - when let's face it, anything will accomplish that. It does not seem to have unduly warped me, however; for example, I do not believe Piers Anthony to be a competent author now that I am an adult.

    Long story short, kids will actually seek that stuff out once they know it exists; but they have a short attention span and low burnout factor. Or put another way, kids out there are so fucking jaded these days they're bored with porn. You didn't think Net Nanny was effective, did you?

    Slightly more on topic to the question, I would very much suggest Niven; I was aiming for the Smoke Ring books. I'm sure this has been suggested up and down, but Orson Scott Card does a very good job of putting children in adult situations, which I know really got me interested in the ethical questions when I was that age. But I do want to stress that I read basically every piece of science fiction I could get my hands on as a teenager, and today I only have forty or fifty gigabytes of pornography. :D

    I just thought of another must-read, C.J. Cherryh's Chanur series. As a teenager, I really loved all of her sci-fi.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:03PM (#24110835)

    The "sinner" is replaced by the blameless sacrifice, who is shamed, mocked then killed, the women weep over the body which disappears, then the blameless sacrifice is resurrected.

    Lion the witch and the wardrobe.

    Precisely. I like the stories from an agnostic's perspective -- after all, would you rather your kids learn about Jesus as "Oh, the guy in the ancient myth who was the inspiration for Aslan in that cool fantasy novel", or about Jesus from your local fundamentalist outfit?

    I wouldn't care whether any of my offspring grew up to be believers or not -- but I would want them to know that the historical/literary Jesus bore very little relation to the version of Jesus that the anti-sex anti-science fundie whackjobs seem to believe in. The literary genius of the Narnia tales is that they illustrate the myth without preaching belief one way or the other. The theological genius of the Narnia tales is they illustrate the teachings and let the reader come to his or her own conclusion as to whether Aslan was worth following.

    To use a modern analogy, one doesn't have to believe in Yoda or Anakin/Vader to realize that Yoda's teachings are more worthy of being followed than Darth Vader's.

    To go back to a Narnia analogy -- if I brought my kids up on a diet of Aslan vs. the Witch, I think they'd quite accurately discern that the fictional character for whom the fundie nuts are working... sure as hell ain't Aslan.

  • Re:Enders Game (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:07PM (#24110887) Homepage

    Except in the universe presented there had been concerted effort to make smarter and smarter children who would be intelligent at younger and younger ages.

    Which is what's ridiculous. Physical maturity and adult-level intelligence aren't independent of one another. Childrens' brains are simply not physically developed enough to do the things Card has them doing. If they had found a way in that universe to make them smarter, they also would be physically more mature.

    To top it off, he handwaves away the reality of physical maturity too. There one specific passage where 11 year old Ender finds himself developing muscles from all the combat training--- 11 year olds can't develop musculature without showing other signs of physical maturity first! It's just an absurdly long reach he's making in order to fulfill a really lame "think of the children" point. The worst part is that this point is totally superfluous to the real meat of the story, and could have been better made. The tragedy of wasting a young man's life putting him through that rigorous military training his entire young life is actually a greater tragedy if it's 10 years longer and he's a 21 year old mentally destroyed leading the fleets to victory. An 11 year old could plausibly recover.

  • by pvera (250260) <> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:09PM (#24110911) Homepage Journal

    and I really enjoyed Jules Verne. The Asimov short stories are really good and not as convoluted as Foundation.

    Asimov's robot series are also pretty simple unless you try to make them fit into the big picture, then it turns into a huge headache. I still remember throwing Prelude to Foundation across the room when I realized that it connected to some other Asimov books I always assumed to be isolated.

    The litmus test for when a kid is ready for Asimov is to let him read "The Last Question" (

    If the kid goes "uh, whoa" at the end of the story, then he is ready for Asimov.

    If he can't figure it out, then he isn't ready.

    If he goes "this is bullshit, what a bullshit ending!" then there's nothing for you to worry about, hand him some Philip K. Dick and see what happens.

  • Re:Jules Verne (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GradiusCVK (1017360) <originalcvk@gmail . c om> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:15PM (#24110983)
    Yes, you keep shoveling horse manure at your kids and they will grow up with a taste for horse manure. Why are you all so quick to discount your kids? Do you honestly consider them to be "not good enough" to enjoy tasteful books? How about not trying to lower the level of entertainment to what you perceive as their standards, but elevate it to what is likely well within their reach. As a young child I had a major hardon for "contemplative and intellectual" books, and I'm only 23 now, and not an outlier for my generation. Due to your own pre-screening of their entertainment, your children will grow up to be exactly as superficial and attention-deficient as you expect them to be.
  • Re:Try these (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fireboy1919 (257783) <> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:16PM (#24111001) Homepage Journal

    Terry Pratchett's books are funny, but they tend to spoof the politics and happenings of the US and the UK, so your kids might not grasp all the jokes.

    You're just thinking of the Discworld, which isn't even Sci-Fi. Then there's the Diggers and the Johnny Maxwell trilogy, both of which are actually Sci-Fi series written for children. Kids should be able to get those jokes. They have lessons in them, too. It's a complete package. Pratchett also happens to be an amazing writer. His command of language, plotlines, and character development are a wonder to behold. People have written doctorate theses examining the art that is Terry Pratchett's work. So he's definitely a good choice.

    Anne McCaffery has some good ones

    You're reading them as an adult, and you're glossing over things. Her novels are definitely PG-13, or possible R rated. She makes sex and death an everyday part of her novels, and not the Judy Bloom way. Characters are mating with/killing other characters, and she's describing how it makes them feel, which makes it much more real than seeing random redshirt die in Star Trek, or Kirk sleep with the green chick.

    CS Lewis' Space Trilogy is excellent, though it gets pretty violent, and might be a bit advanced for pre-teens.

    Definitely. The language is too complex for most. It's also highly Christian. As in, the protagonist is a Christian fighting the forces of Satan with the aid of angels. And this isn't all symbolic/easy to overlook like it is with the Chronicles of Narnia. So if you're hostile to Christianity, don't have them read it. If, however, you're not, it's a really good read. One of the first sci-fi novels written where you actually end up getting to know what the characters are *feeling*.

    Which is a problem with the early works of the genre as a whole (i.e., pre-1960 or so). Start with people who actually write well to get them hooked on reading. Sadly, quite a few of the classics - Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Wells - are terrible writers. They have excellent ideas from the broad "wouldn't this make a good story?" sense, but their command of language, plot development, and characters aren't as vivid as many of their counterparts of the times they wrote. That was just the way that sci-fi was. Most important of these is the characters. The timid reader has to become attached to them early on in the story so that he'll keep reading.

    Later, once they're voracious readers, they can take on the guys who have great ideas but don't write well. They won't need to constantly be fed the writing equivalent of high definition to want to "view" it.

    And for that reason, I definitely like the parent. These writers he has chosen are really good at writing to grab the readers and hold their attention.

    Bearing that in mind, I have two more authors to add:

    David Eddings - he's known for his endearing characters. Unfortunately, I don't think he's ever strayed from writing fantasy. The important poitn is that you can basically start with "you liked Harry Potter? Why don't you read this..." IMHO, going from Harry Potter books to David Eddings is a fairly natural progression. Once you've absorbed those, you're pretty well prepared to move into heavier stuff.

    Alan Dean Foster - writes, among other things, the "Pip and Flinx" novels. While he's not the greatest writer in the world, Flinx is a young boy at the start, and very well developed as a character. Young readers will identify with the feelings and attitudes that Flinx goes through as he transitions into someone remarkable.

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:40PM (#24111209) Homepage

    by the end she is not telling a story she is recording the lives of the main characters.

    Actually, I think that's her major innovation. So much fantasy fiction relies on generic stereotypes and faux-operatic melodrama. By contrast, Rowling's old, white-haired, bearded wizard is not Gandalf. Her protagonists aren't hobbits and they aren't the long-lost kings of an ancient race and they aren't kids at their magical old uncle's house; they're 21st century British schoolkids. The people they meet are ordinary folks in an extraordinary setting. They have feelings -- not all of which are worthy of fantasy heroes -- and family, and jobs. (Goblins! Actual goblins! And what do they do? They're clerks at a bank.) The lives of her characters are pointedly not the stuff of legend; rather, most aspects are quite ordinary.

    Rowling is sly about it, so that you don't realize it at first, but the main thrust of her narrative is that these ordinary kids manage to enter a world of magic and mystery -- and in many aspects it's no different from our world. At first it seems like they're the luckiest kids in the world, but in reality, things are still hard for them. They still have problems to overcome, the respect of their elders to earn, friends to win, their first loves to deal with.

    In other words, the whole point of the books is chronicling the lives of the main characters. You, who have probably read too much stock fantasy fiction, just didn't get it. I bet young kids all get it, though.

  • Re:Try these (Score:2, Insightful)

    by miskate (730309) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:46PM (#24111279)

    Terry Pratchett's work spoofs politics in general - corruption, bureaucracy, the foibles of human beings in general, power, corporations, monarchy, religion, racism, crime, insurance, technology, death ... I think they're a great way to get young people thinking about the broader issues of the world.

    You really don't have to know what (if any) specific events are being referred to to get the jokes. That said (and here's a nod to the person who mentioned the Maskerade/Phantom of the Opera connection) I think I enjoyed the first two Granny Weatherwax books all the more for recognising them as Macbeth and A Midsummer Nights Dream (and yes, obviously the third one is Cinderella).

  • by bigbigbison (104532) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @12:00AM (#24111411) Homepage
    Absolutely. I still read them every few years even though they are very much "Boy's Own Adventure" stuff with teens and tweens saving the world.

    Just a note, however, there's also a prequel which explains how the world happened but that ruins half the fun of the series. Do not read it first.

    It is an ok book but read it last. Half the fun of reading The White Mountains is figuring out what is going on, what time period it is and other things. Once you read the first three books then read the prequel to learn how the world got that way.
  • Re:Try these (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iocat (572367) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @12:04AM (#24111461) Homepage Journal
    All the books by British author John Christopher are really great. The Tripod series, and the Burning Lands series [] are both post-post-apolyptic and blew my mind when I read then around age 12 or 13. Nerds of a certain age may remember that the Tripod series was serialized in comic form in Boys Life for years in the 1980s.

    The burning lands series has some great elements of questions about science and technology whether or not its use is ultimately good or evil -- good food for thought for youngersters raised in the Internet age, and also is sex-scene free.

    Additionally, if you read some books you now think are too old for your kids, maybe you should consider that those books were too old for YOU, and you turned out fine! I cringe when my son reads MAD, but it was probably just as nihlistic and subversive in the 1970s as it is today.

  • CONTACT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mlawrence (1094477) <[martin] [at] []> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @12:08AM (#24111501) Homepage
    By Carl Sagan. Sci-fi mixed with a little bit of learning - can't go wrong. :)
  • by tuna_wasabi (792557) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @12:46AM (#24111831)
    It's controversial author aside, Battlefield Earth is one of the best science fiction books ever written. It's written in a straightforward pulp-action style that is great for kids to digest (as long as they're not intimidated by the ~1k page count). There's nothing too deep or demanding, it's just sci-fi action at it's best. Make sure to buy the copy with the original cover art; leave the hammy John Travolta cover in the store.
  • Re:Try these (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cp.tar (871488) <> on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @12:57AM (#24111925) Journal

    Though I would argue that dark isn't bad.
    Kids thrive on dark; fairytales, ghost stories... though maybe I wouldn't give them Martin. Especially if they tend to bond with characters they grow to like.

  • Re:Piers Anthony (Score:3, Insightful)

    by callmetheraven (711291) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:00AM (#24112499)
    I preferred the Catastrophe over the Catapult! But I think that Anthony got kinda lazy after Centaur Aisle, I don't think he put a lot of thought into the books that follow, just cashed in on the franchise. And the puns get agonizing from about Ogre Ogre on... Compare what a great book Castle Roogna is VS, say, Golem in the Gears...
  • Re:Try these (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shmlco (594907) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @02:21AM (#24112679) Homepage

    "Though I would argue that dark isn't bad."

    So true. And I'm not so sure that the OP's original statement about Starship Troopers being "political" is on the money either. Or rather, it is, but getting kids to think about those kinds of things is important. As is introducing them to concepts like duty and honor and responsibility.

    Add a firm dash of irreverence and the importance of questioning authority, and they'll be good to go.

  • by kristinester (986170) * on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @03:43AM (#24113341)
    Well, I'm not entirely certain as to what "pre-teen" is. 9-12? But when I was around that age I wasn't really reading books for my age group. Well, except for Sweet Valley High, but it was a guilty pleasure.

    If they display an interest in something, let them read it. Regardless of whether it's too advanced for them. Yes, certain themes may be a bit mature (i.e. A Clockwork Orange, American Psycho), but so long as there is no graphic violence, torture, or rape there shouldn't be an issue. Books with political messages should be fine as well, if they catch the references, it can spark an interesting conversation. It's always good when kids think and ask questions.

    As far as sci-fi goes specifically, I've always been more of a fantasy chick myself. Loved Dragonlance, it's total fluff but still fun. They even have children's versions of the first trilogy now, although I'm not sure how much easier to read they can make it. It's not exactly difficult reading material to begin with.

    Oh! William Gibson. I read Mona Lisa Overdrive, Count Zero, and Neuromancer when I was about 12 and loved it, then explored his other novels. Good stuff. Orson Scott Card is great as well. [] Top 100 Sci-Fi books.

    Hell, if they're ambitious throw a copy of Cryptonomicon at them and see what happens. If they don't like it, read it yourself, great book. And it's ridiculously long, perfect for road trips or long plane rides.

    Doctor Who is great sci-fi. I haven't picked up any of the books yet, but now that I have a two years or so until the next series I may start reading the novels until I can get my fix. ;)

    All else fails, toss them in the sci-fi section of the library and tell them to look around and read. I suppose it all depends on how much they enjoy reading. Some kids just aren't into it. I was very happy on summer vacations when my parents dumped me at the library.
  • by try_anything (880404) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @04:00AM (#24113445)

    Where did we get the idea that pre-teens can't be exposed to sex in any way? It's a good idea to read books before recommending them to your children to make sure the presentation of sex isn't sinister in any way, but the mere presence of sex shouldn't disqualify a book.

    I see several posts on this page where people rule out any sex whatsoever, but nothing at all lamenting the fact that most classic sci-fi is absurdly sexist. Usually naively and unintentionally sexist, perhaps, and only occasionally misogynistic, but not suitable to be the bulk of your kid's literary diet.

    In fact, the best reason for tolerating a little sex is that most of the non-chauvinistic sci-fi does contain sex. Plus, it is a good idea for kids to be self-consciously, abstractly wondering about sex before they encounter their own urges in a concrete form. They aren't going to take their ideas from you, their parents, and the alternatives are books, movies, TV, and peers. Obviously, good books and a few movies are your best hope if you want your kids to take a thoughtful, critical approach.

    I don't know ANYTHING about pre-teens except what I know from being one, but I know I read several books about sex as a pre-teen and was alternately amused and horrified by the unreflective, superstitious, fetishistic approach to sex that my peers took to sex. Whatever they heard from anyone between their age and twenty-one, they took as gospel truth. Whatever they knew at a given time was assumed to be pretty close to the whole truth. Good science fiction is a wonderful inoculation against those attitudes. (Unfortunately, it seems that most science fiction is optimized to sell to people who would rather fantasize about sex than think about it, but you just have to find the exceptions.)

    Here are a few books that might be suitable for preteens.

    Island [], by Aldous Huxley. I actually read this as a pre-teen. The main thing I took away from it is that sex and love present some thorny problems, and different people have come up with many very different ways of coping with them. It influenced me to approach sex with a combination of compassion, love, and pragmatism, in that order. I learned to keep that attitude to myself in the macho culture I grew up in, and gave up on it altogether by the time I went to college, but eventually my adult experiences with sex brought me right back to where Aldous Huxley started me out. This is a no-brainer choice to give to freethinking kids. It does advocate judicious use of hallucinogens for spiritual purposes, but I read and admired it as a preteen and was never tempted to test that particular idea. (Twenty years later, I still haven't.)

    Fledgling [], by Octavia Butler. Perhaps this one should be saved for older teens. I really don't know what to say about this book except that it made me think. I'm normally a pretty quick reader, but I kept putting this one down just so I could think for a while. (I know, I'm supposed to do that with every book. So I'm a philistine; sue me.) The takeaway lesson from this book is that people have to be very ethically careful about relations of power and dependency.

    Stranger in a Strange Land [], by Robert Heinlein. The older I get the more I realize that Heinlein was a pompous dick who loved to put ridiculous ideas over on people, take undeserved adulation from naive people (like my teenage self,) and then defend himself against the critics by saying he was just "throwing things out there" or "seeing who would take him seriously." So I would definitely rer

  • by js_sebastian (946118) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @05:04AM (#24113821)

    Sure, you can propose some books you think they will like, but please also take them to a library and let them browse and pick up whatever they want. This is how you get kids into reading in the first place. We are all different, I have a lot of books that are dear to me that I've pushed on this or that youngling, and with some I have been successful, with some I have failed totally. I think I bought my sister Michael Ende's "Momo" twice by mistake, and she never read it once.

    Real readers start omnivorous, reading all sort of good as well as bad books, but of all the books I read as a child, very few of the more important (for me) were "for children".

  • by Angostura (703910) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @05:49AM (#24114021)

    The ones that stick in my mind are:

    The Wizard of Earthsea books by Ursula Le Guin
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
    The Gods Themselves - Azimov
    The End of Eternity - Azimov

  • Re:Try these (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GeffDE (712146) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @07:40AM (#24114635)
    Animal torture is disturbing; I would hope that the OP's kids find it disturbing. There are a lot of disturbing things in the world, and so in order to maintain sanity, one has to learn how to deal with unpleasant things that come up in daily existence. I would argue that reading about disturbing things before having to actually experience them is beneficial because it forces the reader to confront and deal with disturbing images/ideas/etc., but while the reader is in a safe place.

    I also think that underestimating kids is deleterious to their existence; if you aren't sure they would grasp it, have them read it and talk about it. Even if they still don't grasp it totally now, when they reread it, they will grasp it and marvel about how their perception of the book has changed.

    O2binbuzios: So in the same vein, I think you should suggest to your kids the same books you read when you were their age. If you, like me, read Starship Troopers at their age, suggest it to them. The reason you don't remember it being as dark and as political is because you didn't recognize the dark and political parts when you read it as a child; your kids probably won't either.
  • Re:Try these (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarkSarin (651985) on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @10:00AM (#24116601) Homepage Journal

    Actually there is a LOT of truth to this.

    As an aspiring writer, and someone who tends to read a lot about writing, and reads a LOT (the last of which hardly makes me unique in this crowd, but there you go), lets just say that sex scenes are, by definition poorly written, and the MORE graphic they are, the poorer the writing. They may function perfectly for providing pornographic imagery but as literature they stink. I find that if an author wants to include a sex scene, the BEST ones are those that are minimalistic, initiate the romance, and leave it alone. Let the reader imagine the details, if they so choose.

    There are a number of reasons for this. First is that this means that there is less question of age-appropriateness (and yes you can still handle the same themes of love, compassion, romance, etc within a work while remaining very minimalistic in this regard). Second, ALL sex-scenes can a break from the book. If they are sufficiently erotic that they actually elicit a reaction from the reader, then they may actually be jolted from the story (this is bad). Third, sex scenes don't generally advance the story. In most cases the actual description of the sex is inconsequential to the story, and is therefore filler. This is bad in many ways. On the other hand in the rare cases in which the actual sex scene is crucial to the story, I have no problems with its inclusion, but that is an exceptionally rare situation, and almost always a contrivance.

    With all that said, as a writer, sometimes a scenario just suggests itself as necessary, and you have to include it. In these cases, I have no problems with it.

  • Re:Try these (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 09, 2008 @10:17AM (#24116955)
    What, you didn't blow up frogs when you were a kid? You never bothered to find out the gruesome effects of salt on slugs? Never pulled the legs from insects? You make a poor excuse for a geek, sir!

    As a kid, I did some things that would make me puke today. But children are often not at all bothered by such things. Mostly just interested.

    You have to develop a taste first, for things to become distasteful.

It is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same.