Great Science-y Middle Grade Fiction for ages 8-14
Since this post revolved around the space-time continuum and time travel, I wanted to include this link from my fav science (fiction-y) blog io9 on the 10 Coolest Time Machines in the Space-Time Continuum. I think this is possibly the scenario for time travel by the laughing man in When You Reach Me. He had to travel in his birthday suit and could only carry what fit in his mouth– in his case, a small stack of notes. This is #3 on the Top 10 list by io9.
3) Skynet’s Neon Ball of Nakedness We don’t see all that much of the time machine in the Terminator movies and television series if memory serves. There’s one in the final episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and it’s mostly just a room with some gear. Anyway, it’s got lightning, which we already established was awesome with Bill and Ted. And any method of time travel which requires you to be naked is automatically kind of awesome.
I finally read the books I brought on vacation with me. I had purchased a copy of Newbery award winner When I Reach You by Rebecca Stead at an online charity auction I found through Twitter. It was signed but in the form of a sticker with her signature. My kids and husband got a chuckle out of that but I don’t really care. I just wanted her book and even her signature via sticker is fine with me.
My fifth grader just finished A Wrinkle in Time** by Madeleine L’Engle which is a dominant theme in Steads’ book. I had been at the library and found it on the librarians recommended shelf and thought if my daughter loves Maximum Ride by James Patterson so much she just might like a childhood favorite of mine. She did love it but she found Stead’s book to be too scary.
I remember college physics and how it gave me a brain cramp to think about the theory of relativity which is used, to maximum effect, in Stead’s book. It was this mental puzzle that went something like this: There are these two twins. One stays on earth, the other goes on a spaceship traveling at the speed of light. Thirty years later, the space-traveling twin returns to earth. What happened to the other twin. Indeed, what did?
Though Stead uses time travel as the means of moving through the space-time continuum, it’s sort of the same thing. Then throw in themes from Star Trek about altered realities; if you move back in time, your very presence affects the space-time continuum causing different things to happen than what would normally occur. Craziness, right? Time and space are nonlinear? Well, the earth isn’t flat after all! I thought it was interesting that these three books were being read simultaneously in my house by my kids and me and all are interconnected … that’s a little Twilight Zone in itself, right?
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street* by Newbery Winner Jeanne Birdsall mentions A Wrinkle in Time by way of dark matter because, as it turns out, the Penderwicks new neighbor is an astrophysicist. This is the most gentle nudge into science and a wonderful book that my third grader and I are enjoying tremendously. When You Reach Me, by another Newbery author, delves into the complications of coming-of-age friendships as well as this time-space conundrum. It’s tightly written with such well-developed characters that it’s a pleasure to read.
I hope my 5th grader will give it another go in a year but vagrants do scare her and there is one featured prominently in the opening chapters of the book. A Wrinkle in Time by YET ANOTHER Newbery-winning author, Madeleine L’Engle is a must-read for every child in my humble opinion. Iconic. And makes science fascinating. My fifth grader was grateful that I ordered the boxed set for her from Amazon. I hope it comes soon! So my final thought, what is it about A Wrinkle in Timeand winning the Newbery? Coincidence that mentioning it in the book results in a Newbery in an author’s lifetime or cause and effect? Only time (warped or otherwise) will tell!
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* The Penderwicks is going to be a 5 book series. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is the second in the series.
**A Wrinkle in Time is also a series. It’s arriving at my house shortly so I can tell you more soon!
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.