My First Science Fiction Book – Giving Young Readers the Gift of SF

What do you give the kid to read if you’re trying to turn him into a fan of science fiction?

I’m soon going to be a grandfather (again:  I’m already a “step-step” grandfather to three lovely kids who are one of my stepson’s stepchildren. This latest is the first born of my other stepson.) and I was quite pleased and surprised when the invitation to the Baby Shower arrived, as it included a little slip requesting that guests to the party bring along a book to help the early establishment of a library for the (soon to be whiney little brat) kid.

Knowing how important establishing an early and positive relationship to books is, I must say that I was impressed with the parent’s support of this;  the family never struck me as being all that fannish, but something must be going on over there to have elevated something so often overlooked to such a high stature during a family gathering.

I wasn’t around for the birth of the stepsons or the other three step-step kids, so this is all new to me (no kids of my own – never wanted them.  Inheriting a grown-up family avoids a lot crap – all I have to do is say “sure” when they ask for money) and I’m quite thrilled with the prospect of helping to usher a new reader into the world.

Of course it is absolutely imperative that the little tyke be a fan of science fiction, naturally.  Nothing less will do (though it does give me the willies thinking about chocolate and sticky goo stained fingers pawing through my library…I’m working on some “rules for reading”) and so I have recently had to turn my attention to finding some age-level appropriate SF reading fare.

51C94QjEMHLIn pursuit of that, I first turned to the Scholastic Book Company, that fine publisher who during the early 60s provided my own introduction to the literary side of the field.  I’ve written before about Lester Del Rey’s (actually Paul W. Fairman’s) story The Runaway Robot, and Silverberg’s Revolt on Alpha C and The Lost Race of Mars (not to mention many others).

I was happy to discover that many of these books are still available on Amazon, B&N and ABE.

Along the way I discovered two resources for these books – apparently I’m not the only one who has fond memories of them.

The first is a collection of covers – a Flickr page – set up by a collector – Nostalgia for the Scholastic Book Club – that definitely evoked a wave of nostalgia from me.

The second is a collection of listings of Scholastic Books by their publication number and can be found among the buyer’s guides on Ebay.  Vintagescholastics2011 has put up several volumes that can be found here – Intro, Part III – TJ, Part VII –  TW,   Part IV – TK #s Part V – TX, Part VI – TX, Part VII – T, Part IX – TW, (don’t know where the missing ‘parts’ are).

But those are all old books that probably don’t capture the zeitgeist of our times (meaning, might not make any sense to the kid as he’ll not be at all familiar with things that happened in the bad old days when his grandfather had to read by holding a physical book, by candlelight, uphill, in the snow, both ways!, so I put the above off to the side, besides, many of those Scholastic SF titles are already in my collection and will be turned over to the kid’s household robot nanny when appropriate) and went in search of more modern fare.

babarOne list kept on coming up, no matter where I went – the Goodreads list of “science fiction picture books for young readers”, which you can find here.  There’s 100 books on that list, most of which I’ve never seen before, and I must say I was quite shocked to find that it did not include Babar Visits Another Planet, but despite that particular oversite, it looks like a fine list.  I will be visiting the bookstore this weekend to take a peek at books from that list (can’t just hand any old book over to the kid, you know.  Got to make sure that it really is science fiction, with a solid scientific grounding, reasonable extrapolation, good characterization, embraces diversity and has a decent plot).

Now the only thing I really have to worry about is if the kid decides that SF is ok, but he really prefers some other genre.  Anyone know of a good list of books on indoctrination or brainwashing techniques?

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  1. This is a fantastic list, Steve. Brings back a lot of fond memories. I have a few years before I need to worry about grandkids (I hope), but it can’t hurt to start looking…you know, to get a head-start.

  2. I was already reading full-fledged SF, not YA-type books, when most of these came out, but I remember a lot of them fondly… because in those days, if you wanted to read ALL the SF/F there was–you could!–you could scarcely skip the “kids’ books”!
    Miss Pickerell, Danny Dunn, the Mushroom Planet–who could forget those? Not to mention all those Heinleins that were YAs (not called that in those days) and, of course.. the Winston series, featuring some great SF that still reads well–most of it, anyway–today!

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