Science fiction stories can make our imaginations soar and take us on a wild ride to new worlds. For older kids, science fiction books can be especially exciting, since they introduce complex ideas in a way that’s accessible and fun. We’ve put together this curated list of science fiction books for kids that’s perfect for 5th graders through middle school students (and beyond).
Content Warning: Science Fiction books for 5th graders and up
Please note: 5th graders (age 10 and up) vary greatly in their tolerance for violence, sexual themes, and other controversial issues. While members of our family have read and appreciated many of the books in this list, we recommend that adults pre-read any of these books that may contain questionable content.
Table of Contents
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1. The Giver (Newbery Medal winner)
“The Giver” by Lois Lowry is about a boy named Jonas, who lives in a future world where everyone is the same. There’s no war, no pain, and no choice. Everyone is assigned a job and a spouse, and they all live in the same kind of house.
One day, Jonas is chosen to be the Receiver of Memory. This means that he’ll be the only person who remembers all of the good and bad things about the world before it became the way it is now. Jonas learns about love, hate, joy, and sadness, and he begins to question the world he lives in.
In the end, Jonas is faced with a difficult choice that will help other young people consider what values they consider important. My youngest daughter read this and described this as a “thought-provoking book with a sad ending”.
2. Ender’s Game (1st in series)
Like “The Giver”, “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card is a memorable book worth reading. A boy named Ender Wiggin is sent to Battle School. He’s learning how to fight the Formics, an alien race that attacked Earth a few years ago. Ender is a very smart and talented boy, and he quickly becomes the best student at Battle School.
However, he also makes a lot of enemies, and he has to deal with a lot of pressure. In the end, Ender is able to defeat the Formics, but he also has to make some difficult choices that will haunt him for the rest of his life. My oldest daughter described it this way: “Well written and thought-provoking. It was a real book with interesting ideas.”
NOTE: this book deals with difficult themes and hard choices. It won’t be suitable for sensitive fifth graders.
3. The City of Ember (1st in series)
“The City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau is set in an underground city that was built to sustain the human race after a global disaster. However, after 200 years, the city is falling apart, and the people fear for their future.
The main characters, Lina and Doon, uncover a secret message that leads them on a dangerous journey to find a way out of the city and save their people. Along the way, they discover the truth about their society’s past and uncover secrets that have been kept hidden from them.
“The City of Ember” is the first book in a dystopian series that really seems like a future possibility. It’ll make 5th graders think about the consequences of blindly following societal rules. I (Jenn) read and enjoyed the entire 4-book series a couple of years ago, so I’m confident that older kids and even adults will appreciate it.
4. The Time Machine
“The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells is classic science fiction. It tells the story of an inventor who travels through time and sees the distant future of humanity. As one of the earliest science fiction books, it made time travel a popular concept.
The Time Machine contains some mature themes, so it won’t be appropriate for younger children. There’s an abridged version (one of the “Great Illustrated Classics”) which might be a better choice for some 5th graders.
5. The Iron Giant
“The Iron Giant” is a great book about a boy named Hogarth who finds a giant robot (from outer space) in the woods. The robot doesn’t know what he is or where he came from. Hogarth helps him learn about Earth and what it means to be a good person.
The government thinks the robot is dangerous, but Hogarth knows he’s just a big, friendly guy. In the end, the Iron Giant proves that he’s a hero by saving the town from a plane crash. The Iron Giant is one of the best science fiction books for 5th graders that emphasizes friendship, acceptance, and the power of good over evil.
6. The Chrysalids
“The Chrysalids” is a science fiction book by John Wyndham. It’s set in the future after a nuclear war. The people in the book are very religious and they believe that anything that is different from them is a sin. They call these people “deviants” and they kill them.
The main character is a boy named David. He is a “deviant” because he has telepathic powers. He meets a group of other “deviants” and they form a secret society. They plan to escape from the religious people and find a new place to live where they can be free to be themselves.
This story has been compared to Marvel Comic’s X-men and deals with similar themes and challenges.
7. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (book 1 in series)
“Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” is about a boy named Kyle Keeley who wins a contest to be one of twelve kids to spend the night in a new, state-of-the-art library. The library is filled with all kinds of strange things, like talking books, holographic characters, and even a life-size chess set.
Mr. Lemoncello, the library’s creator, has hidden twelve clues throughout the library, and the first kid to find all twelve clues will win a prize. Kyle and his group of friends team up to find the clues, but the other kids team up as well, and they aren’t afraid to cheat in order to win! Kyle’s team must find the clues and escape from the library before it’s too late.
I recently read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and found it imaginative and fun without being scary. I’d recommend it for kids who love adventures, riddles and solving puzzles.
This is the first book in a multi-book series, so look for the rest at your local library or bookstore.
8. The Search for WondLa (book 1 of trilogy)
“The Search for WondLa” is a novel by Tony DiTerlizzi, and it’s the first book of the WondLa trilogy. These science fiction books for 5th graders are a beautifully illustrated, creative series.
“The Search for WondLa” begins on an alien planet. The humans living on the planet human were genetically engineered by a race of aliens called the Wondla. The main character is a young girl named Eva Nine. A robot named Muthr raised Eva Nine in an underground bunker.
One day, Eva Nine’s home is attacked by a marauder, and she is forced to flee aboveground. Eva Nine sets out on a journey to find other humans and learn more about her origins.
These are long books, but the storytelling and world-building is excellent. Watching Eva Nine explore the new-to-her world aboveground kept me turning page after page through book one. I also loved how the author handled the themes of prejudice, friendship and familial love. I’m excited to get into the next two books!
9. The Mysterious Benedict Society (1st in series)
My oldest daughter highly recommends “The Mysterious Benedict Society” for readers who love puzzles, spy stories, and mysteries. The story follows four gifted children–Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance–who answer a peculiar newspaper advertisement. That’s how the children end up on a mission to keep their world from falling into the hands of a mysterious threat.
The four children are sent to infiltrate a school on Nomansen Island called “The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened.” They are attempting to find the source of mysterious voices that have negative effects on the minds of the people who hear them. As the story continues, we learn that there’s a lot more to the children, the Institute, the voices, and the Emergency than you’d expect.
The beginning book and its sequels (The Perilous Journey, The Prisoner’s Dilemma, The Riddle of Ages) show the perspectives of exceptional children who are so far beyond average in their abilities. They can solve problems that normal children can’t, but they still struggle with the challenges that normal kids have.
Readers will be hooked from the first page, constantly wondering how they’ll get out of each situation. It’s a lot of fun to see them figure it out and grow up together.
10. Last Gate of the Emperor (Book 1 of series)
One of the newer middle grade science fiction books available, “Last Gate of the Emperor” is about a boy named Yared living in a futuristic city called Addis Prime. Addis Prime is full of aging technology, lots of rules, and not much to do. Yared is a thrill-seeker who loves to play an augmented reality game called The Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk.
One day, Yared logs in with his real name and triggers an attack that rocks the city. In the chaos, Yared’s uncle Moti disappears. Yared sets out to find his uncle and discovers that his uncle’s stories about an ancient empire called Axum are real. Yared must use all of his skills to find his uncle and save the city from an evil force.
I recently finished this book and I really enjoyed reading the story through Yared’s eyes. The action-packed story maintained my interest throughout. I could appreciate the emotional struggles that Yared goes through as he discovers that his life is not what it seems – I think many teens will empathize with his struggle.
I particularly loved the hints at Ethiopian heritage that are sprinkled throughout the story, which reminded me of what I learned about Rastafarian religion when I was growing up in Jamaica. Reviewers compared this book to Ready, Player One and Black Panther, and I agree with those comparisons.
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Book 2 The Royal Trials is now available as well.
11. A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel
Here’s a must-read adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s modern classic “A Wrinkle in Time.” Illustrated by Hope Larson, this graphic novel tells the same thrilling story of Meg Murry’s adventure through space and time, but with eye-catching images that bring the story to life in a new way.
Graphic novels are a great choice for readers who want a little bit of assistance in following the story. Plus they’re easier to read than the original novels, which is a good thing for helping reluctant readers to engage with a story.
12. A Wind in the Door (second book in series)
Written by Madeleine L’Engle, “A Wind in the Door” is a fantastic science fiction book for young readers to explore. The novel follows the journey of Meg, who sets out to save her brother from a strange illness using time and space travel. It’s the sequel to “A Wrinkle in Time” and continues the Time Quintet series.
“A Wind in the Door” paints a picture of a fantastic world full of fascinating characters. With its exploration of scientific concepts, it’s sure to be one of your favorite science fiction books for 5th graders.
13. The Hunger Games (1st in series)
The Hunger Games is a book about a girl named Katniss Everdeen who lives in a place called Panem. Panem is a post-apocalyptic country that was once the United States.
The Capitol, which is the wealthy part of Panem, forces the other 12 districts to send one boy and one girl to fight to the death in the Hunger Games every year. Katniss volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games. She teams up with a boy named Peeta Mellark to try to survive.
NOTE (from my youngest daughter): This book is a dystopia and contains some death and quite a lot of violence, making it a better read for older kids.
14. Animorphs Book 1: The Encounter (1st in series)
There are aliens on Earth! They’re called Yeerks, and they’re taking over people’s bodies. But there are five kids who are fighting back. They can morph into any animal they touch, and they’re using their powers to save the world.
Animorphs follows the stories of Jake, Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, and Marco. They’re all in middle school, and they’re all different. But they’re all brave, and they’re all willing to fight for what’s right.
This is the first book in a series of over 60 books. The first few books have recently been made into a new series of graphic novels.
15. Diary of a Martian (New Release February 2023)
“Diary of a Martian” is a book about a boy named Elliot who lives on Mars. He’s a normal kid living life on a different planet with different rules. For example, he always has to wear a spacesuit because the air on Mars isn’t breathable.
Elliot is lonely because he doesn’t have any friends, but one day he meets a girl named Sarah. They become friends and they go on adventures together. They explore the red planet and they learn about the different plants and animals that live there, and they make some surprising discoveries.
This book is exciting and teaches kids all about Mars through the eyes of a 12 year old. We haven’t read it yet (it’s brand new), but the early reviews from other kids are positive.
16. Star Wars: A New Hope
“Star Wars: A New Hope” is a timeless classic that has delighted sci-fi fans for decades. Set in a distant galaxy, the story follows Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo as they embark on a dangerous mission.
They’re trying to find a way to destroy the evil Empire’s Death Star (a massive space station with planet-destroying capability). Along the way, they meet iconic characters like Darth Vader and Chewbacca, and face many challenges that test their courage.
Star Wars fans rate this novelization of the original movie highly. It also includes several anecdotes that didn’t make it into the movie.
17. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Newbery Medal winner)
My first introduction to “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH” was through the animated movie “The Secret of NIMH.” I discovered that the two are VERY different, and as is often the case, the book is better!
This classic tale tells the story of a widowed mouse, Mrs. Frisby, who must turn to a group of highly intelligent rats for help when her family is in danger. The novel offers plenty of opportunities to learn about topics like biology, genetics, and animal behavior, since the rats gained their abilities as a result of scientific experimentation.
It’s also important to note that although the animated movie based on this book can be frightening for young kids, the book is much less so.
18. The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones (1st in series)
We struggled with how to best categorize Rick Riordan’s 39 Clues series. It’s a modern adventure series, but there’s so much science, history and mystery throughout that it’s sure to appeal to all kinds of interests. We felt that it would capture the interest of 5th grade sci-fi readers, so we included it.
The 39 Clues is a series of books about two siblings, Amy and Dan Cahill, who are on a quest to find the 39 clues. The clues are hidden all over the world, and the Cahill family has been searching for them for centuries. Amy and Dan must work together and learn new skills to find the clues before their enemies do.
19. Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble
Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble is the first in a series of time travel adventures written by D. Robert Pease. Noah Zarc is a 12-year-old boy who lives on a spaceship called the ARC (Animal Rescue Cruiser). The ARC is a time machine that travels back in time to save animals from extinction. Noah’s parents are scientists who work on the ARC, and Noah has a younger sister named Anya.
One day, Noah’s parents disappear while on a mission to save mammoths from extinction. Noah and Anya must go on a quest to find their parents and save the mammoths. Along the way, they meet a group of friends who help them on their journey.
20. The Mushroom Planet (series)
While they’re on the planet, they meet a group of friendly aliens who are being threatened by a mad scientist. David and Chuck must help the aliens save their planet and return home.
The Mushroom Planet is a fun and exciting book that is perfect for 5th graders and appropriate to share with younger readers too. It’s more about the adventure than the “science” (written in the 1950s), but that won’t be a problem for kids who enjoy a good story.
21. Out of the Silent Planet (1st in series)
Many people are familiar with C.S. Lewis’ fantasy books, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” but did you know he also wrote a space trilogy?
C.S. Lewis’ “Out of the Silent Planet” takes young readers on a thrilling adventure through space. The novel follows Dr. Ransom as he is kidnapped and transported to another planet in our solar system. There, he encounters strange creatures and learns about the planet’s unique culture and way of life.
C.S. Lewis was known for his imaginative world-building, and the Space trilogy is no exception. “Out of the Silent Planet” is a great choice for young science fiction fans.
22. Perelandra (2nd in series)
The second book in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Perelandra, continues the story of Professor Ransom who is sent to the planet Venus. Ransom has been to Mars previously, and he’s now on a second space mission to stop a powerful being from corrupting the new world.
The being is called the Un-man, and it’s trying to trick the first woman on Venus into sinning. Ransom must use all of his strength and courage to stop the Un-man, and he also learns to trust in the power of love.
NOTE: the third and final book of C.S. Lewis’ Space trilogy contains some disturbing imagery that we don’t recommend for young readers. However the first two books are excellent science fiction books for 5th graders and up.
23. Last Day on Mars (1st in series)
“Last Day on Mars” by Kevin Emerson is a realistic fiction story that explores the challenges of space colonization. The book tells the story of a boy named Liam Saunders-Chang who lives on Mars with his parents and sister. The sun is dying, and humanity plans to evacuate Mars and move to a new planet.
But on the day of the evacuation, something goes wrong, and Liam and his sister are left behind. Liam and his sister must find a way to survive on Mars on their own. They must find food, water, and shelter, and they must learn how to protect themselves from the dangers of the Martian environment.
Books 2 and 3 are also available now.
24. The Wild Robot (Newbery Medal winner; 1st in trilogy)
“The Wild Robot” by Peter Brown is a heartwarming and adventurous sci-fi book. It’s one of the most unique science fiction books for 5th graders and younger. It’s about a robot named Roz who is stranded on an island after her ship crashes.
Roz is the only robot on the island, and she must learn to survive on her own. She makes friends with the animals on the island, and she learns about the beauty of nature. Roz also learns about the importance of family and friendship.
For kids who love science fiction, “Glitch” by Laura Martin is a great pick. Glitch is written from the perspective of two cadets at an academy for time travelers. When they find a letter from their future selves, they’re thrown into an adventure that will change everything.
This book is full of suspense, humor, and heart, and readers will love the creative world-building and unexpected twists. For my youngest daughter’s full review of “Glitch”, check out our list of great fiction for 4th-8th graders.
26. Around the World in 80 Days
Jules Verne was one of the first science fiction writers, and even over 100 years later, his stories are engaging and imaginative. This has been one of my favorite sci-fi books since childhood, even though the “technological advances” that Verne writes about (locomotives and steamships) have been passed up by rockets and airplanes.
Middle school readers will enjoy the unique, sometimes hilarious, adventures of Phileas Fogg and his loyal manservant Passepartout. The storytelling is excellent, and the suspense of waiting to see if Mr. Fogg will win or lose his bet, keeps things interesting.
27. Journey to the Center of the Earth
Another classic book that will keep your fifth-grader engaged this summer is “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne. This adventurous tale begins with a professor and his nephew embarking on a dangerous expedition to the center of the earth. From encountering prehistoric creatures to navigating treacherous underground landscapes, this book is sure to keep any young reader on the edge of their seat.
These are classic science fiction books for 5th graders, and they’re perfect for discussing science and history with your child. Comparing the predictions that the authors made about the future, with what we now know scientifically, is a great way to encourage critical thinking skills.
28. Rick Riordan Presents… Dragon Pearl
Your fifth-grader will love “Dragon Pearl” by Yoon Ha Lee! The story follows the journey of Min, a teenage fox spirit, as she travels through space to find her missing brother. With a mix of mythical creatures, magical powers, and twists and turns, this book will captivate your child’s imagination.
29. The Secret Keepers
If your child is looking for a new and intriguing story, “The Secret Keepers” by Trenton Lee Stewart is a great choice. In a city where secrets hold immense value, a young boy named Reuben discovers a watch that grants him the power of invisibility!
However, with great power comes great danger as Reuben uncovers a sinister threat to his city. This page-turning adventure will keep your child on the edge of their seat, wanting to read more.
30. A Princess of Mars (1st in series)
“A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs is another classic sci-fi novel. This captivating story tells the tale of John Carter, a soldier who mysteriously finds himself transported to the planet Mars.
Set in a world filled with alien creatures and warring tribes, John navigates his way through this strange new land. Along the way he falls in love with the beautiful Dejah Thoris, a princess of Mars.
Exciting action scenes and descriptive world-building will enthrall middle grade readers. Kids who love stories of adventure, heroism, and epic battles will delight in “A Princess of Mars”. (Note: I wasn’t able to find a version of this book on its own, only as part of sci-fi collections.)
My middle daughter (code name ‘Burro’) loves this book! She gave this content warning: “A Princess of Mars” contains some violence and may not be suitable for sensitive kids.
31. The School for Whatnots
Your fifth-grader will love “The School for Whatnots”, written by Magaret Peterson Haddix. This New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story about friendship and the inequalities of social classes. “The School for Whatnots” takes place in a future world where androids exist.
Maximilian Sterling is a boy from a rich family who unknowingly attends a school filled with robot children. Josie (a poor child) pretends to be a Whatnot so that she can get an education. When they discover the truth about the Whatnot company they begin a gripping adventure.
My youngest daughter (code name Appaloosa) highly recommends “The School for Whatnots” as one of the best science fiction books for 5th graders.
32. Cinder (1st in series)
“Cinder” by Marissa Meyer is a sci-fi retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale and the first in the Lunar Chronicles series. I’d recommend it for mature 5th graders up to young adult readers.
The story follows the life of a young mechanic named Cinder, who lives in a futuristic world of humans and cyborgs. But when she meets Prince Kai, her world takes a dangerous turn as she discovers secrets about her past. Cinder uncovers a conspiracy that could destroy their entire society.
Cinder is one of the few books I’ve read that was so engrossing that I read the entire book in a single sitting (staying up WAY too late in the process)! The world-building takes a little time to get into, but once you’re hooked, it’s hard to put this one down.
33. Space Case
My youngest daughter also recommended “Space Case“. Dash is a 12-year-old boy who lives on the moon! He’s one of the first people to ever live on the lunar surface station, but it’s also kind of boring. Dash is starting to get really restless.
One day, a scientist named Dr. Holtz dies. Everyone thinks it was an accident, but Dash isn’t so sure. He starts to investigate, and he soon discovers that Dr. Holtz was working on a secret project. A project that could change everything for the people living on the moon.
Dash has to solve the mystery of Dr. Holtz’s death, and he has to do it fast. If he doesn’t, the people living on the moon could be in danger. Space Case is a great book for 5th grade kids (and older) who love space, mystery, and adventure.
34. Artemis Fowl (1st in series)
This is another book that defies an easy category– it’s fantasy, mystery, adventure and science fiction all-in-one. Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old criminal mastermind who lives in a big house with his bodyguard. Artemis is a genius, and he’s always coming up with new plans to make money.
One day, Artemis hears about a secret world of fairies that live underground. He decides to kidnap a fairy named Holly Short, and he holds her for ransom.
Artemis thinks that the fairies will give him a lot of money, but he doesn’t know that the fairies are actually really dangerous. Artemis and Holly soon find themselves on an adventure that takes them all over the world.
The Artemis Fowl books are a fun and exciting series that’s perfect for kids who love adventure stories with a lot of technology, science and fantasy mixed in. I’ve read Artemis Fowl, and my kids have read several of the other books that follow, and we’ve enjoyed them.
35. Short Stories
Short stories can be a great way for 5th grade readers to start exploring science fiction. Some notable science fiction short stories for kids include “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury, “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, and “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick.
As with the full-length sci-fi novels, parents should pre-read any short stories before giving them to sensitive children. My youngest daughter read “The Veldt” and while she appreciated it, she also cautions that the violence and suspense may not be appropriate for all readers.
We’re confident that these 35 science fiction books for 5th graders are excellent stories that will take readers on a journey through time and space. From classic tales to modern graphic novels, this list offers something for every young sci-fi enthusiast. Let us know which ones are your favorites, or tell us which books we should add to our list!
©️ Copyright Jennifer D. Warren 2023