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Great sci-fi series for middle schoolers

  • smek

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Science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia have been a big trend in young-adult books for the last few years, with series like The Hunger Games making a big splash and being turned into movies. But great dystopian novels for middle grades can be hard to find. These two series will give tweens the adventure and world-building that sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopia offer, but without the more mature content, such as love triangles, that seem to have become a ubiquitous trademark of dystopian novels aimed at teens.

Two books by Adam Rex, The True Meaning of Smekday and Smek for President, are the perfect mix of traditional sci-fi and humor for the tween demographic. They are excellent choices for reading aloud with a grown-up because adults will enjoy the sophisticated, but still kid-friendly, humor in the books. Rex has created a commentary on colonialism, imperialism, and racism that works on many different levels. These books lend themselves well to multiple readings, because children can take something new and deeper from them each time. The animated movie Home, starring Rihanna, was based on Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday. Home is a sweet, suspenseful, and funny movie, but the books are even better!

  • smek for president

 

In the Smek books, the main characters are a 12-year-old, mixed-race girl (half African American and half Italian-American) named Gratuity "Tip" Tucci (you'll have to read the books to find out about her mom's funny naming mishap) and an alien, a Boov, who has chosen the human name J. Lo for himself. The two become friends in spite of their differences, which include the Boov invasion of Earth and subsequent displacement of humans. They work together to achieve their goals through a series of adventures that are both action-packed and hilarious.

This story is about culture shock, acceptance, friendship, unity, family, coming of age, and so much more than just aliens, cool gadgets, and space—although there is plenty of that and everything else that science-fiction lovers crave. Sci-fi and dystopian fiction are so often about boys, and therefore perceived as being only for boys, particularly White boys. Although J. Lo is a boy, the Boov are not limited to just boys and girls. The aliens have seven genders — and eight legs! Adam Rex's great illustrations are a major bonus for kids, too! Read these books. You won't be disappointed.

  • freakling

 

In the Psi Chronicles series (Freakling, Archon, and True Son) , author Lana Krumwiede takes readers to a dystopian society in which dwellers of the city of Deliverance wield Psi, a psychic power that allows them to do things with their minds, rather than their hands. Her world-building skills are out of this world (pun intended)! Kids will have an opportunity to flex their imagination muscles as they visualize the main character, 12-year-old Taemon, his family, his city, his powers, and his whole, vivid, well developed universe.

The Psi Chronicles is reminiscent of Lois Lowry’s The Giver (and follow-up novels) and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series. Exciting and imaginative, Krumwiede’s books explore the ideas of morality, power, being an outsider, family, government, loyalty, and truth. They are un-putdownable! The Psi Chronicles is a great series for kids in grades 4-7, who may not be ready for books like The Hunger Games. Older readers will be mesmerized by this series, too.

Visit your local Free Library location and ask a librarian for more suggestions of books your child will love!

Becky Shaknovich is a librarian with the Free Library of Philadelphia.

 

The True Meaning of Smekday 

by Adam Rex

Random House, 2010

Ages 8-14

 

Smek for President!

by Adam Rex

Disney-Hyperion Books, 2014

Ages 8-14

 

Freakling

by Lana Krumwiede

Candlewick, 2012

Ages 8-14

 

Archon

by Lana Krumwiede

Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2013

Ages 8-14

 

True Son 

by Lana Krumwiede

Candlewick Press, 2015

Ages 8-14

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