Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Science Fiction That Actually Takes Place in (Gasp) Space (a list with apparently 10 titles on it in honor of The Hitchhiker’s “Trilogy”)

When I was reading These Broken Stars, I was a little giddy because here was a science fiction title that actually took place in space.  There has been a lot of science fiction published lately, but a lot of it tends to be more Earthbound involving new tech (think the awesome BZRK series by Michael Grant) or speculating about grim post apocalyptic futures (every 3rd YA book title published in the last 5 years it seems).  So I loved that These Broken Stars had a genuine in space Science Fiction setting.  Here are a few other titles for you if you want to read more books that take place in space or on a planet other than Earth.

Here is the list, in no particular order what so ever.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

It’s a mystery.  In space.  And a very good one.  Check out this series.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

A group of teens are selected to go to the moon for 172 and bad stuff happens.  This book reminds me a lot of the vibe you get while watching The Ring or the Grudge.  In other ways, it’s a little scary and tense.  Which is good.

Feed by M T Anderson

They went to the moon for spring break, it turned out to suck.  That is actually a paraphrase of the first line of this epic book about a future world where you connect to the Internet directly into your brain.

Helium-3 series by Homer Hickam

The author of the Rocket Boys writes this series about a mining colony on the moon, a deadly mission, and secrets that can destroy it all.

Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

You have probably heard of this one recently.  Maybe you have seen the movie ads.  A boy.  Space aliens attacking.  Ender is our only hope. There is actually more to the story as it is the first book in a series if you want to keep reading.  Card also tells the same story from a different point of view in Ender’s Shadow.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A part of the Time Quartet, which is one of the best things ever written.  Ever.  Meg and crew journey through time and space to find her missing dad.  There is also now a graphic novel version.

Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis

Everyone knows he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia.  But did you know that C. S. Lewis wrote a space trilogy?  It begins with Out of the Silent planet in which Dr. Ransom is kidnapped to be a human sacrifice on another planet but when he escapes, he finds this planet is more alike than different than our own.  Not technically YA, but it is so good.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Addams

Don’t Panic! This is one of five books in this, um, trilogy?  Journey around the galaxy.  Meet dolphins and mice.  Learn the importance of the number 42.  Laugh a lot.  Don’t forget to grab your towel.

The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy

Rain boards a spaceship thinking she is set for the Edge, only to discover that the spaceship is a host for an underground slave ship.

Ever Expanding Universe by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal

In the past, they used to ship pregnant teens off to an “aunts” house until they delivered.  What if we sent them to space instead?  Oh and hey, what if we stole their babies to repopulate?  Yeah, Elvie isn’t sure she wants to be a mother, but before she can decide she needs to find her way off this ship being attacked by aliens and her baby’s father?  Book 1 in the series is Mothership, funny.

Bonus: All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury
This is my favoritest short story ever.  And yes, favoritest is totally a word.  A group of kids live on a planet where the sun only comes out once every so many years.  One of the girls has seen the sun, she remembers what it looks like because she recently came from Earth.  The other students are jealous and bully her.  Then, the day the sun is supposed to come out, they doing something terrible.  You can read the story here.

Add your favorites in the comments.

World Book Night, or In Which I Fail at Library* (by Robin)

April 23rd was the second annual World Book Nightcelebration in the United States. Briefly, individuals sign up to receive a box of twenty copies of a single title to hand out to light readers and non-readers that evening. The publishers and authors of the titles available give up their royalties, and special copies are printed for distribution. Ideally, everyone takes his or her box out into the community on the evening of April 23rd and unleashes a flood of reading opportunity.
This was my second year participating. As a middle school librarian, I see the need for individuals to have more access to reading material on a daily basis. I also feel strongly that owning books and having a variety available in the home contributes powerfully to literacy outcomes. World Book Night is an opportunity for me to have a positive impact on a cause I believe in on both a personal and professional level.  
Christie reads Ender’s Game for the 1st time
Last year I signed up for Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Regardless of my opinion of his personal politics, Ender’s Gameis the best science fiction novel I’ve ever read. It is the yardstick by which I measure all the others. Additionally, in my time working with middle schoolers, I’ve found it to be remarkably easy to ‘hand sell.’ I follow a brief summary of the plot with the warning, “But it’s pretty violent, so I wouldn’t read it if that will bother you.” It works every time. And even though it was cold and drizzling on the evening of April 23rd, 2012, I had no problem distributing my copies.
This year, as I read through the list of available titles my eyes landed on two likely candidates – The Lightning Thief and Looking for Alaska. After considering the age groupings of the youth in my neighborhood, I decided to go for Looking for Alaska. I am a huge fan of John Green and love his books. I’ve read all of his books and enjoyed them greatly. I was very excited when I found out I would be getting a box of Looking for Alaska to distribute!

I happily picked up my box for World Book Night at my local distribution center (my local, independent book store), and put the box in the trunk of my car. Over the next couple of days I began to feel uneasy, but couldn’t quite put my finger on the cause. As I began planning how I would distribute the books I remembered. Looking for Alaska is the one John Green book I didn’t finish. I’ve only read half of it. Those of you who have read it will know exactly where I stopped. If you haven’t read it…you should probably stop reading here. Approximately 6 months before I picked up Looking for AlaskaI lost my best friend to cancer. ‘Best friend’ doesn’t really cover it, but I don’t think we have a decent descriptor for what she was to me in our language. More like a sister, really. I never finished the book because I couldn’t see well enough to read through my tears. Each time I picked it up I began sobbing. It was more than I could handle. I put the book back on the shelf, and did a fairly good job of pushing it into the darkest recesses of my memory. Some of you might wonder how I could have so easily forgotten my response to it. My only answer is that grief does really weird things to your brain. There is a lot I can’t remember from the first two years after Shannon died.
Picture from IMGFAVE
April 23rd came and went. I walk by my box of books every morning on my way to work. Eventually I know I will find a library colleague who works with older teens who will be able to make good use of these books. Until then, they are a reminder of the fact that sometimes I fail at library, and I need to learn to forgive myself.
*This odd title comes from a Tweet I can no longer find (I think the author erased it.) When I read it, it struck a chord deep within my librarian’s heart. Sometimes we all feel like we’ve failed at library. You are not alone.

Librarian Confessions: Ender’s Game Reactions

I have a rule that I have followed since the movie version of The Firm came out: never, EVER read the book before the movie if I haven’t already read it. WHY? Because I’m going to be CONSTANTLY comparing the two. If you haven’t read John Grisham’s The Firm, then you won’t be bothered by the huge change in the ending between the book and the movie. And don’t get me started on the major differences between the book and movie version of The First Wives Club. And it’s not just in adult fiction- how many knew someone who was upset by things that were left out of one of the Harry Potter movies? Or Beautiful Creatures

So when I mentioned to both That Guy and Karen that I’ve never read Ender’s Game, by their reactions I knew I was going to have to break my rule. If you didn’t know, Ender’s Game was published in 1985 and written by Orson Scott Card, and won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. The sequel, Speaker of the Dead, also won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for it’s year, making Card the only author to win both awards back to back. Ender’s Game is being released into theaters this November.

I knew about Card’s viewpoints and opinions before reading Ender’s Game, and knew that there was huge controversy surrounding the book as well (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.), and went into it with an open mind, and my teen viewpoint in place. The version my library has is published in 2002, and it’s been sanitized from the original (found that out later with a little research):

The cover of the copy that I read, that does not have as much of the objectionable material in it

So what was my reaction to it? I read it all in one day, and fell into the world that Card built. I HAD to find out what was going to happen to Ender, and whether he would survive everything that was being stacked against him. (I admit, it may have helped that I had Harrison Ford’s voice in my head as Colonel Graff and Sir Ben Kingsley’s as Mazar Rackham). I was both captured and horrified. It reminded me a lot of current YA dystopias (Hunger Games, Divergent, The Testing) in that the youth were put into horrific and battle situations where the adults were stepping back and watching, and waiting, and placing hopes and expectations on them. There is still a lot of racism and sexism and homophovia within the book, and I can see it being a hard book to discuss within a classroom content. I’ll be extremely interested to see how they take those issues within the movie; Card is a producer on the movie but did not write the script.

What did I take away from it?


OMG, do the adults suck in this world. His parents are clueless to what they signed their kids up for, nor do they know to what extent their children are doing. I never caught whether or not the Wiggin family was just superior genetics or they were tinkered with (I lean towards tinkered) but you would think that if the I.F. knew how wrong Peter was, they’d keep an eye on him. None of the teachers step in for the fights at any time, and although as the book goes on Graff becomes more of a friendly figure in the book, everything is completely negated by Ender’s “graduation” and Mazer tricking Ender into destroying the Buggers in the last “simulation”. 

Kids are completely expendable in the quest for total destruction of the Buggers. They go through Peter and Valentine in their quest for the ultimate commander, and then toss them aside (never mind their obvious extraordinary intelligence and intensely abnormal personality issues). We never know how many possibilities for the leader of the fleet there were before Ender- Mazar never says, just that there were many before but no one reached the final “simulation”. The adults turn all the kids on each other to hone their fighting abilities, and hide the death of one (he “graduated” and was supposedly returned to his town of Spain) in order to reach the goal- total destruction of the Buggers. Nothing else is important- not the mental health of these kids, not what they can do/become afterwards, not whether they’ll be normal- just total destruction of the Buggers.

Sometimes things come in circles. Karen and I went and saw Star Trek: Into Darkness, and I was really struck by how in the movie Kirk went from full out vengeance and destruction to capture and return for trial based on discussions with Spock and his own internal struggles. In stead of just blasting away, he chooses what we would call the “human” choice and to bring the villain in for trial.
In Ender’s Game, Ender never GETS that chance to have that discussion and choice until it’s far too late. It’s always after things have happened that he gets the chance to reflect- and wish that things were different, that he could go in a different direction. Every fight is forced, and there is no way that he can back away from anything- to do so would be to seal his fate, or to be iced out and send destruction to the human race. Every time he rebels against something, he ends up “winning” the game anyway, and finding the clues to his next challenge. Ender’s Kobayashi Maru if you will, is discovering that his end rebellion destroyed the entire Bugger race. And like Kirk, he is actually given a second chance at the end of Ender’s Game, if he can take it.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Share in the comments below.