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Ask Slashdot: Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy For Kids? 726

Jason Levine writes "My son is 8 years old. I'd love to get him interested in science-fiction, but most of the books I can think of seem to be targeted to older kids/adults. Thinking that the length of some novels might be off-putting to him, I read him some of the short stories in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot. He liked these, but I could tell he was having a hard time keeping up. I think the wording of the stories was too advanced and there was too much talking and not enough action. Personally, I love Asimov, but I think much of it just went over his head. Which science fiction and/or fantasy books would you recommend for an 8-year-old? (Either stories he could read himself or that we could read together over the course of a few weeks.)"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy For Kids?

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  • Don't try (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @02:45PM (#40388517)

    My advice might seem a little cynical, but the first thing I always tell someone who asks "How do I get my kid to like X?" is to tell them "Don't." If they're anything like my kids, mom and dad trying to sell them on something is the quickest way to make it the most uncool thing in the universe.

    When I was a kid, my dad kept trying to sell me on Westerns. Whether or not that had anything to do with it, or whether it was just my nature, I can tell you that I *hated* Westerns then and still do. Of course, I never had the heart to tell the old man, and humored him to no end. But if there was ever any chance I was going to like those bastards Louis L'Amour or John Ford, my dad trying to make them seem "cool" certainly guaranteed that it was never going to happen.

    As an alternative, why not ask your kid what HE likes, and YOU read some of HIS stuff instead? It will probably be a bunch of crap (my evil kids stuck me with reading those damned Harry Potter and pussy vampire books). But at least you won't be turning him off to something.

  • Tolkien, of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plover ( 150551 ) * on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @02:46PM (#40388527) Homepage Journal

    I read the Hobbit to my son around first grade, and we read Lord of the Rings when he was about 7. This was ten years before the movies came out, and he was able to use his own imagination instead of seeing Peter Jackson's imagination at work. Highly recommended - he still has fond memories of our reading those books, and even said so this weekend.

    If you read them over the course of a few weeks or so they are like any serial, where you learn to keep track of who is where and doing what, and enjoy the anticipation of finding out what comes next. I wouldn't assume they have to be short stories, they just have to hold his interest.

  • Jules Verne! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @02:48PM (#40388555)

    I was totally reading Jules Verne as a young kid. They're easy reads, often interesting for kids, and are very light-hearted/G-rated.

  • Re:Don't try (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @02:53PM (#40388677)

    I would have said, "yeah, dad, sure," and then tossed that crap in the trash can when he wasn't looking. Then I would have went outside, UNSUPERVISED, as was acceptable and even encouraged for kids back then. Then I had actual face-to-face contact with my friends and their parents before my friends and I went to jump bikes UNSUPERVISED and WITHOUT HELMETS (WHAT?! But you could've DIED doing that!).

    Why the hell would I waste my time reading Asimov while I was reading National Lampoon magazines? Yes, before they sponsored crappy frat-boy movies, National Lampoon was a magazine full of intelligent adult humor with gratuitous nudity. But none of you will remember that, because you're too busy beating it to anime. Fools!
      -- Ethanol-fueled

  • by JimProuty ( 1298167 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @02:55PM (#40388737)
    This was got me hooked back in the day (plus the Heinlein juves): [] Part of "The Mushroom Planet Books". These are easy to follow without being condescending. And anyone who isn't captivated by the idea that youngsters could build their own functional rocket ship isn't awake.
  • Re:Don't try (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g0bshiTe ( 596213 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @02:56PM (#40388777)
    We are talking about an 8 year old. They usually tend to still think their parents are cool at that age.
  • Re:Tom Swift books (Score:4, Insightful)

    by farnsaw ( 252018 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:01PM (#40388877) Homepage
    Seconded again, Tom Swift books come in various Generations... get the latest ones for the most relevance to today. But don't ignore the old ones, they are more fun in my opinion.
  • by Jhon ( 241832 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:03PM (#40388931) Homepage Journal

    Agreed. Those are good starters.

    Didn't work for my son,though. He just wasn't interested. But he did go for Harry Potter. I read the first 5 books to him. He re-read those on his own -- then completed the series as it came out.

    So, I left him alone to find is own interests. Around age 11 he picked up a copy of Percy Jackson. He ate up the entire series. Turns out he has the same "useless superpower" that I have -- the ability to read freakishly fast. He's now getting ready to turn 13 and has read through most of my older Heinleins (I'm not ready to try to explain to my wife Stranger, Time enough for Love, etc... so those are off limits), Asimovs and all my old "serials" (Simon Hawke, Robert Asprin, etc).

    I think the best advice is to READ to your kids. Get them interested. Read what they like. And if you can, Be EMOTIVE when you read.

    As a side note, I used to end an evening with a cliff-hanger. Right smack dab in the middle of the chapter there'd be something like "... and then there was a BANG! Ok... We're done for tonight". Drove my son insane. Made him seek out the book and read ahead.

  • Re:Don't try (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:11PM (#40389075) Homepage

    Even better strategy: leave the book lying around, and tell him that it's not for kids his age and he's not allowed to read it. He'll pick it up for sure.

  • by INeededALogin ( 771371 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:11PM (#40389083) Journal
    I've seen an eight year old read it and love it. It is very accessible because it is just random fun.
  • by kailSD ( 1271360 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:16PM (#40389175)
    The Star Beast! Kids love Lummox. :)
  • Hard For Kids? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tenebrousedge ( 1226584 ) <> on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:17PM (#40389195)

    Those are all good suggestions, I might add Anne McCaffrey to the list. I am confused however by the idea that it's bad to exceed a child's comprehension. Let his own reading material be age-appropriate if you must, but he will enjoy being read good stuff even if he doesn't completely understand it. What exactly is gained by reading unchallenging books?

  • Counterpoint (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:21PM (#40389247) Journal
    I had the same experience with Westerns. I guess when I saw "My Name Is Nobody" I was a bit lost but the Fist Full of Dollars stuff was right in my wheelhouse. Today I don't watch much other than Clint and my dad was okay with that. On the other hand, my dad used to play records for me like Baba O'Riley by The Who and The Beatles' Red and Blue collections on his old record player. I gobbled that stuff up and, later, when I would be exposed to then popular bands like Ace of Base and Green Day from my classmates my body rejected that trash like a baboon heart with the wrong blood type. So I think it can easily go both ways depending on the relationship and the kid's interests. This guy's kid already sounds like he's showing a positive enjoyment towards the books so let's further it.

    And today, I have many younger cousins that I guess I never realized looked up to me and thought I was cool. Well, one Christmas, my aunt just put my name on a present to my younger cousin Hunter and it was for some book I never heard of. She e-mailed me the synopsis and he read that book in five days we did a little back and forth over e-mail about it. So I took her cue and started sending him books I pick up at thrift stores and other used book stores if they're cheap (I'd wager he's got some pretty good sets and maybe even doubles of most of these authors []). Seriously, stop in a goodwill sometime, pick out some good books and gift them to your younger relatives, it's worth the ~50 cents for the old paperback on the chance the kid reads it. Now when I'm visiting I casually ask him about the books and he goes nuts where he never said two words before.

    So, if you want to help the person asking Slashdot, perhaps the suggestion should be "Give the book to his idol and politely ask them to give the book to your kid." Then once the kid is hooked, you just so happen to have read the book as well.
  • by ghostdoc ( 1235612 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:27PM (#40389391)

    Good call on Alan Garner, I'd second that.

    Also the Wizard of Earthsea series (Ursula LeGuin) are very readable and the character is (or at least starts the adventure as a) kid, which I think is necessary for kid-suitable fiction.

    It's heartbreaking to say it, because they've given me so much pleasure over so many years, but we may as a civilisation be moving away from Plain Old Books and into other forms of storytelling.
    It might be more useful in the long run to teach him how to discern between mass-market crap and good, meaningful stories in whatever form they take.

  • Re:Don't try (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Capt.DrumkenBum ( 1173011 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @03:57PM (#40389923)

    It is Ok if you kid Like Gangster Rap.

    WRONG! If your kid likes gangsta rap you have done something wrong and must be punished.
    Also, get of my lawn.

  • The Hobbit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oxford_Comma_Lover ( 1679530 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @04:08PM (#40390067)

    Absolutely, The Hobbit. At eight it should be easy. We were reading LOTR by eight. The Narnian Chronicles are also good for children and easy reads. (Some people hate them as inherently religious--kids don't notice.)

    Harry Potter, though reductive and non-classic, is also easy and can be fun.

    The Dark is Rising Sequence is a slightly tougher read, but also uses much better language.

    Most importantly, turn off the TV/Computer/Videogames. Books get MUCH more interesting when there isn't something around that gives faster rewards.

  • A wrinkle in time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @08:45PM (#40392825) Journal
    I agree, I tried to wade through Tolkien as an adult but could never stay awake long enough to turn the page. For an 8yo I would suggest A wrinkle in time [], I enjoyed immensly when I read it as a kid in the 60's. Unlike Tolkien it flows very well. The main charcters are kids a teenage girl hero and her younger brother, the writer does a great job of making them real by giving the charaters everyday kids problems. For example the girl is seen as a troublemaker at school and lacks self-confidence in her looks because of her red hair. It's educational without reading like a text book, it firmly plants science and math concepts into the child's mind by applying them to situations the hero's find themselves in, (a visit to a 2d planet is one example of that covers the concepts of higher spacial dimemtions).

    But most importantly it's a great story about two kids growing up on an road trip through the universe, guided by wise beings who do not belittle their childhood concerns but rather expose them to experiences and hard choices that provides them with the perspective to deal with their own problems. The Harry Potter series does the same thing but in a different setting and with less educational value. Ultimately I belive the ability of these writers to relate to kids in this way via a fantasy world is why both books have been immensley popular with children. The fact that both books mention wicthcraft have also made them very unpopular with religious nutters, Both are high on the list of books that have garnered the most petitions to ban them in the US, wich to me is even more reason to give them to your kids and let them make up their own minds.

    Now if someone could just explain to me why my 3yo grandaughter is facinated by kids shows that to me look and sound like they were the product of some really funky drugs? I'm not having a go at modern kids shows here, my favorite when I was very young was "Bill and Ben the flowerpot men" which as an adult appears every bit as fucked up as the modern stuff. Since I only had B/W TV as a young child, this universal urge to watch bizzare animated creatures wander around the screen can't be explained away by "bright colours".

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson