The very first science-fiction book I remember reading as a kid was Rusty’s Space Ship, written in the 1950s by Evelyn Sibley Lampman. I became hooked on stories of aliens and spaceships as I toured the solar system with Rusty and his lizard-alien-pal Tiphia. You can still find a few copies of the book in libraries around the country, but here are some other sci-fi adventures that I also recommend.
The Doom Machine, by Mark Teague (lexile: 610; AR book level: 4.5; 384 pp)
The year is 1956, and all is quiet in the small town of Vern Hollow as whiz-kid mechanic and amateur juvenile delinquent Jack Creedle sets out on his paper route — until the flying saucer arrives! The creepy-looking skreeps (from planet Skreepia) have been sent by their queen specifically to Vern Hollow to steal a Special Item — an amazing device (cleverly disguised as a refrigerator) invented by Jack’s Uncle Bud.
Stranded in Vern Hollow at the same time are Isadora Shumway and her mother, a scientist who is not inclined to BELIEVE in aliens and flying saucers. And wouldn’t you know it — the skreeps end up grabbing the Special Item, Jack, Uncle Bud, Isadora and her mother, a homeless guy named Joe, and the local police chief and his son (Jack’s sworn enemies) for a wild inter-galactic ride back to Skreepia.
Along the way Jack and Isadora become quite a team — repairing the ship before it crash-lands, escaping onto the planet Arboria, befriending an ultra-powerful monster, and teaming up with anti-skreep rebels and a very self-centered skreep princess to ultimately save the day. Plenty of action, twists & turns, battles, wild aliens, and humor — a seriously fun story.
Stinker from Space, by Pamela F. Service (lexile: 820; AR book level: 5.1; 83 pp)
In the midst of a battle, space warrior Tsynq Yr crash lands his ship on Earth. To escape death, he transfers his mind to the nearest higher life form — which happens to be skunk. Powerless to repair his ship or get back home, he fortunately meets two kids, Karen and Jonathan. Karen has long dreamed of space adventure, and Jonathan is a computer whiz. With their help he puts together a plan to hijack the NASA space shuttle, adapt it with his booster rocket, and get home. Things get even more complicated, though, when the enemy aliens show up!
This is a fast-paced and fun read, short and especially appropriate for younger sci-fi fans. It’s clever, too, and the idea of an alien stuck in a skunk’s body is funny. If you like this one, check out the sequel as well: Stinker’s Return.
The White Mountains, by John Christopher (lexile: 920; AR book level: 6.2; 195 pp)
Will Parker is 13 and almost “of age.” In his world that means that soon the Tripods — giant three-legged alien vessels — will come to his quiet English village and take him and others his age to be “capped.” The tight metal mesh implanted atop their heads will make them obedient to the aliens that have subdued and rule the Earth. Most people blindly regard capping as a rite of passage to be celebrated, but Will isn’t so sure.
From a vagrant passing through his village, however, Will learns that to the south, in the White Mountains, there are those who manage to escape capping and who want to overthrow the Tripods. So together with his cousin Henry, Will flees the Tripods across the shattered remains of Europe to hopefully find and join this resistance army.
The story continues in the next two books, The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire. Will and his companions manage to infiltrate a Tripod city as spies and learn their ultimate plans for Earth. Will they discover the aliens’ weaknesses? Will they be able to defeat them? For that, you’ll have to read the books!
This not a new series — The White Mountains was first published in 1967 — but generations of kids have continued to love these stories of adventure, courage, and really weird aliens. (The prequel, When the Tripods Came, describes the initial invasion of the aliens.)
And if you can find a copy in any library, Stranger from the Depths by Gerry Turner is well worth reading. I first read it in grade school, loved it, but later forgot the title. After much searching I rediscovered and re-read it a couple of years ago.
In a cave by the sea, brothers Gary & Jordan discover the hibernating body of Saa, a 100-million year-old lizard man, possibly the last survivor of an ancient and advanced undersea race. He is awakened, and leads them to his city under the earth. They discover, however, that others of his race have survived — and they are not all friendly! Very cool story!