The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – A Cautionary Tale for Teen Readers

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

It is so important to read the books upon which film adaptations are based because they offer a subtlety in syntax and tone that is all the author’s and that simply can not be transmitted by any filmmaker.

The Hunger Games, a sort of cross between such films as “Logan’s Run”, “Battle Royale” and “The White Mountains”  was a massive theatrical success, and while its concept may seem a bit morbid and adult for a young reader, there is also a lot of heart, and an introduction to some more advanced themes that would still be manageable by younger readers.

The writing is easy to follow and not so stylized as to be confusing.  If you believe your young one is ready for the heavier elements involved (blood sports in this case), then this one is worthy of a read.

Publisher’s description: “In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called,”The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.”

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; Reprint edition (July 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439023521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439023528




The City of Ember (Books of Ember) – Imaginative Science Fiction for Young Readers

Jeanne DuPrau tells the story of the great, underground city of Ember, an apparent haven for the human race in a time of great turmoil. After several centuries, food has become scarce and the great generator has begun to fail causing the lights begin to go out, threatening to leave this small pocket of civilization in permanent darkness. We follow two teens, Lina and Doon, as they begin to piece together fragments of an ancient parchment that may hold the key to salvation from Ember left by the ancient Builders.  The teens’ desire to escape has grown from the fact that they have never known anything but the amber artificial light of their small subterranean city and feel trapped like rats.  What will happen when the generator finally fails and what awaits them in the forbidden and great Unknown beyond?

Though the dialogue is at time a little thin and the plot rather straightforward, City of Ember introduces some very intriguing and imaginative settings not seen elsewhere, and concludes with a very positive and thought provoking message.

In 2008, City of Ember was released as a major motion picture starring Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Martin Landau, Saoirse Ronan, and Harry Treadaway.  The clockwork, Steampunk aesthetic and quirky characters make for a highly entertaining and unique adventure story.  Of course, we always recommend reading the book first, or at the very least, afterwards so as to participate in the original author’s stylistic and thematic intent.  This tie-in edition of The City of Ember features a movie-art cover and an 8-page photo insert.

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling; Reprint edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385736282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385736282


Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – Essential Science Fiction for Young Readers

“Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a classic science fiction work that continues to be a significant warning to our society today. The advanced vocabulary and complex themes lend themselves to class discussion and further research. There is sure to be demand for this classic in schools and public libraries.”
Pat Griffith, Schlow Memorial Library, State College, PA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Although Brave New World could be taken as the alternate path the future could take from George Orwell’s 1984, the two books now seem to have converged into a mutually prescient set.  Where 1984 introduced the idea of Newspeak, Brave New World introduced “Soma” which can be taken as the hypnotic effect of new media to the more literal prevalence of better living through chemistry via such mood tailoring drugs as Prozac. Regardless of how it is interpreted, Brave New World is essential science fiction for introducing young readers to critical thinking and social awareness.

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060850523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060850524


Science Fiction for Young Readers: Spacer and Rat


“Jack is a kid who grew up on Freedom Station. He works in a bar and can tell the Earthies from the Spacers. He thinks he knows everything about Earthies, but that was before Kit showed up. Kit is just a normal Earthie except for what she carries with her. When Jack finds out Kit’s secret, he feels he has no choice but to help her. Even if it is illegal. Even if it means risking their lives in space.”

Margaret Bechard has naming colony and ship names after Shakespearean characters and science fiction icons from the twentieth century.  Thematically, the story considers both the despair of a solar system which has never succeeded in solving its health, political, or environmental problems, coupled with the possibilities that open up in the mind of the protagonist who begins to see the cosmos he inhabits, in a whole new light.  A quick, albeit light read for young readers of science fiction.

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (September 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596430583
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596430587


The Mystery Machine – A Science Fiction Adventure Story For Kids

From Herbie Brennan, author of Emily and the Werewolf, comes this terrific science fiction adventure story for kids.  Hubert discovers a weird machine in his nasty new neighbor’s new toolshed, presses a glowing button, and ends up in outer space, where he discovers that Mrs. Pomfrey-Parkinson is an alien advance scout.  At only ninety-eight  pages, The Mystery Machine (not to be confused with the van from Scooby Doo)  proves an enjoyable, short, but fast-paced read for young readers.

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry; 1st edition (May 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689506155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689506154


Ned Feldman, Space Pirate – Witty Science Fiction for Children

Ned Feldman joins Lumpy Lugo, a.k.a. Captain Bugbeard the Pirate, on a fun-filled, action-packed journey into outer space aboard a kitchen-sink spaceship and through a perilous encounter with dangerous space chickens.

Like a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the youngest readers, Ned Feldman, Space Pirate by author Daniel Pinkwater, is a legitimately funny book that both parents and kids will find entertaining. For kids who might be otherwise distracted by gadgets and short-form programming, the wacky storyline can be a real attention-grabber.

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum (September 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 002774633X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0027746334
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.2 x 0.5 inches


The Great Interactive Dream Machine by Richard Peck

Josh Lewis’s best friend, Aaron Zimmer, has turned his computer into a wish-granting machine. Unfortunately, there are a few bugs in the system. Nobody knows when the computer will interactivate next!  When a mysterious spy called The Watcher starts monitoring the boys’ every move in cyberspace, the trouble begins….

“Humor, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery all cleverly combine to make this book guaranteed fun.”– School Library Journal

A truly entertaining science fiction book for kids.

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin (November 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014038264X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140382648


The White Mountains – Fantastic Science Fiction for Young Readers

Here is the 35th Anniversary Editon of one of the most beloved science fiction books for kids with new text and a new preface by author John Christopher!

The first book in the Tripods series, The White Mountains describes the journey of three young boys who are eager to escape the Capping ceremony of the Tripods and go on a journey to the White Mountains where there is a rumor free-men still live.

When thirteen-year-old Will is told that there is a place in the mountains where there are people free of the Tripods, he decides he doesn’t want to be capped and runs away. Along the way, he is joined by a childhood friend and an old man. Their journey goes fairly well, until Will becomes really sick and the three have to seek shelter in a medieval-like town.

A compelling adventure story filled with action and suspense, young readers will be captivated by this science fiction story that also incorporates a medieval fantasy setting in a fast-paced, easy to read but utterly gripping odyssey. The White Mountains is a flawless start to the Tripods series of children’s books.  Also be sure to take a look at the companion novel, When the Tripods Came.

As an aside, Disney purchased the rights for the Tripods series in the 1980’s but never did anything with it.

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689856725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689856723


Aliens Ate My Homework (Alien Adventures)

This zany caper showcases Coville’s ( My Teacher Is an Alien ) ability to make the unbelievable close to credible. The young hero, down-to-earth Rod Allbright, doesn’t quite believe his eyes when a small blue spaceship flies through his bedroom window and lands in a vat of papier-mache he is using for a science project. Within minutes the startled boy meets the spaceship’s curious crew, and is recruited to become an integral player in their mission to apprehend an alien criminal whose specialty is cruelty. As it turns out, Rod knows too well how cruel this culprit can be, as he has been posing as the bullying Billy Becker, Rod’s archenemy at school. After several surprises and funny moments (as Billy turns in his math assignment, he is horrified to see that one of the aliens hiding in his desk has chewed on it so that it resembles a lace doily), the plot ends with Billy (literally) getting his comeuppance, as the aliens carry him off to a faraway planet.” – Publisher’s Weekly

The first book in a delightfully quirky series perfect for young readers (who might be a little bored of day to day school activities), this book and its three sequels, “I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X”, “The Search for Snout”, and “Aliens Stole My Body”) is a thoroughly entertaining romp for the imagination and ripe for a cinematic adaptation.

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Aladdin (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416938834
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416938835


Animorphs #1 – The Invasion

We can’t tell you who we are. Or where we live. It’s too risky, and we’ve got to be careful. Really careful. So we don’t trust anyone. Because if they find us…well, we just won’t let them find us. The thing you should know is that everyone is in really big trouble. Yeah. Even you. There’s a massive outdoor concert coming to town. Offspring. Alanis. Nine Inch Nails. Marco refuses to miss it. He even has a great idea for getting in, uh, free: He and Jake will morph dogs. Marco thinks it’s a perfect set up (especially since girls LOVE cute dogs). And even though Jake doesn’t agree at first, he finally decides that if Marco goes to the show someone should be around to watch him. Right?

A rich universe unfolds in a dense series of books that are very hard to put down for readers of any age.  With powerful imagery, memorable scenes and a list of unforgettable characters, Animorphs is a series you will enjoy and remember for many years.

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (June 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590629778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590629775

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