Archive for Science Fiction

Purple Pup

Written by Karl Steam
Illustrated by Joshua Lagman

What if science advanced far enough that we could pick and choose very specific characteristics for the plants, animals, and humans around us? Would we be able go to the pet store and get a dog that is our favorite color and soft to pet? Could rescue dogs have even better senses of smell and hearing to locate lost people better? And how would their new positions affect the personalities of the animals?

Compelling characters and an exciting story make Steam’s speculations on these topics fun and challenging for kids. Great illustrations are an added part of the story.

Lav, bred to be purple and soft, is raised with Kama, a camouflaged dog with super hearing. But Lav hates the people in the lab because they poke him with needles and don’t understand that Cryp, Kama’s designated future mate, is vicious with him. Lav escapes and finds people he can love. Meantime, Kama is being trained by a human she can love. Due to his unusual color, Purple Pup, as Lav is now known, is returned to the lab, but he can’t forget his boy. He then escapes with Kama, Cryp, a miniature gorilla, and a miniature lion. They live in the woods with a wolf pack until Lav’s purple coat is again spotted.

Given all the discussion about GMOs and mapping genomes, this is a good place to get third graders started on the possible scientific results of manipulation. Many activities can arise from caring about Lav and his friends.

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  • Title: Purple Pup


  • Author: Karl Steam
  • Illustrator: Joshua Lagman
  • Published: Karl Steam, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 214 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 4
  • Genre: Chapter book, Genetic manipulation, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-163578-0001-7
  • Extras: Real-life Modifications, GM Food, Online videos (

The Fourteenth Goldfish

Written by Jennifer L. Holm

What if your grandfather found the Fountain of Youth and ended up a teenager barely older than you? Would you let him go to your middle school despite his two PhD’s? These questions and more are answered in Holm’s delightful new book.

Eleven-year-old Ellie comes home one day to find her mother with a thirteen-year-old boy in tow. Turns out the boy is Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin, who tested his anti-aging potion on himself. Ellie has to help him complete his research and adjust to middle school. When the potion works, Melvin is kicked out of his own lab by an enthusiastic guard. Denied access to his research, Melvin enlists Ellie’s help plus the help of Ellie’s friend. Absurd details such as Melvin wearing “old man” clothes, or whatever is clean, and using Ellie’s hair bands on his pony tail give the book kid-appeal. Ellie’s mom and grandfather experience a sort of incomplete role reversal, where she grounds him and he tells her to be in by a certain hour.

Although this book is pure fiction, the author manages to sneak in many scientific and historic facts and philosophical questions. Who was Robert Oppenheimer? Are scientific advancements inherently good or do they often carry elements of good and evil? What is the responsibility of the scientist to recognize those elements? Isn’t it important to maintain the circle of life? Third graders and above will enjoy the outrageous ideas in this story and gain literacy skills. Reading activities include research of the many topics introduced and discussion of other topics that might be explored.

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  • Fourteenth GoldfishTitle: The Fourteenth Goldfish
  • Author: Jennifer L. Holm
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
  • Genre: Fiction, fantasy
  • ISBN: 978-0-375-87064-4
  • Grade level: 3 to 6

Fortunately, the Milk

Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Skottie Young

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Middle grade readers will giggle all the way through this silly tale through time and space. Supposedly, all these adventures and time travelers happened to father on his way home from the store with the milk. The children wondered what took him so long.

It is a typical kind of story that parents often try to make up for children using what they see about the kitchen as far as labels or character ideas.

One child is quite skeptical about father’s adventure tale, but the daughter just hopes that somewhere in the story there will be ponies. So, of course, father puts in some ponies.

The one constant in the whole silly escapade is the bottle of milk carefully protected in father’s coat pocket.

Teachers and librarians will use it successfully for read aloud time.

The cartoon type pencil sketched drawings add greatly to the fun and silliness. It would be of particular interest to low readability/ high interest students. The many drawings and large amounts of dialogue make for a great deal of white space in the book that will help to encourage newly independent readers.

  • Fortunately the MilkTitle: Fortunately, the Milk
  • Author: Neil Gaiman
  • Illustrator: Skottie Young
  • Publisher: HarperCollins, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover,128 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-06-222407-1
  • Genre: Humorous Fiction/ Science Fiction
  • Grade level: Third up

Infinity Ring: A Mutiny In Time

Written by James Dashner

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Oh what a swashbuckling tale of time travel, adventure and mutiny on the high seas.A smidgen of danger is thrown in: storms and volcanic eruptions, increasing crime, and earthquakes, and all of it because of the things that went wrong in the past. Time itself has gone wrong. The only way to set things right, then, is to travel to the past to correct those mistakes.

“What mistakes?”, the reader may ask. And the author tells us. This is the first book in a seven-book series and James Dashner creates the scaffolding on which this story, and all subsequent stories, will hang. He digs a deep foundation, taking us back to Aristotle’s time. Events back then took a turn they should not have when Alexander is assassinated. This leads to Aristotle seeing this as a mistake, a tear in the fabric of reality, and plans to make it right. He creates a secret society called the Hystorians, whose job is to track and document the Great Breaks through the ages, in the hope that someday time travel will enable the Hystorians to return to the past and mend the tears in the fabric.
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