Get them early. That’s the way it works. And from our earliest days, we were exposed to strange worlds where dinosaurs could talk, magic flutes had faces, and anatomy was, at best, a moderately interesting inspiration.
But what about books? Where do kids get into sci-fi/fantasy when it comes to books? I have a few suggestions of my own to get that going, if you so desire:
10: Goosebumps (R.L. Stine): Yep. Those wonderful, wonderful books. My first introduction to horror fiction. Of course, those aren’t the best books for your very youngest crowd, but hit them up in the middle of elementary school…could be good books to convert the younger generation…I mean…widen their horizons.
9: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carrol): These, too, are dark. But kids probably won’t pick up on it, to be honest. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about. But, in general, this is a classic book for kids, full of mysterious magic and stuff.
8: Bailey School Kids (Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey): Quick, early chapter books. Not only do they deal with ghouls, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and all other variety of mythic creatures, but they’re a good introduction to mystery books. Well written, and the child in question can tear through them by the dozen without difficulty.
7: The Witches (Roald Dahl): This is for older readers, at least nine or ten years old. Not because it’s hard to read but because it’s kind of dark (like most of Dahl’s work). But it is definitely worth a read. In spite of everything, though, it’s got a positive ending. And lots of fun magic, which always helps.
6: The Time Machine (H.G. Wells): One of the first sci-fi books I remember ever reading was The Time Machine. Fourth grade. I fell in love, read it at least three times, just one right after the other. I think this one works for the younger crowd because there are clear delineations. Eloi are good, Morlocks are evil. Plus it’s another way to slip a classic right in there without them noticing.
5: Wayside School (Louis Sachar): Just…wow. Imagine the brainspawn of Douglas Adams, like some grey matter just fell out of his ear and grew into children’s books—that’s Wayside School. It’s so far out there…but it’s wonderful. It captures the elementary school experience, but, at the same time, it’s got some very strange elements. People with third ears, an existential classroom (and teacher)…just…weird. But good.
4: Math Rashes and Other Classroom Tales (Douglas Evans): Some very strange little fairy-tale-like stories. They all revolve around the magic that happens when moonlight creeps into this one elementary school. The stories are pure fun for the kids. A classroom allergic to math, a girl trading away senses for a day in return for someone else doing her schoolwork, a fairy godmother that’s not quite what you’d expect…good book, and very short reads, since it’s all short stories.
3: The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster): Have I mentioned that I like the idea of giving kids older books? Well, I do. The Phantom Tollbooth. I only read it once, but it stayed with me. It’s a very good book, almost like a modernized Alice in Wonderland. It’s no great achievement in plot, but the concepts in the book are just simply too good to pass up.
2: Holes (Louis Sachar): Lightly engrossed in spec fic. The plot is driven by some old magic. But it’s still a good introduction to that branch of the genre tree. Of course, it’s possible that it’s going to be required reading for whatever child. It was when I was in school. Several times.
1: Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling): Oh, come on. You saw this coming. When it comes to children’s spec fic, Harry Potter isn’t the first. It’s not even the first wizarding school series. But it’s among the best. And, if you hook a kid into the first book, they will finish. Even if they don’t read anything else, they’re absorbing seven books. Thousands of pages. And the books grow along with the reader.
Some of my favorite young reader books. What about you? Tell me some of your suggestions.