I need an exceptionally good science fiction novel for my gifted 6th graders (some reading 4-5 years above grade level) ---I wanted Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card or The Giver by Lois Lowry but it's come to my attention that the middle school teachers "own" those titles. I'm not an SF reader so help me come up with some really good suggestions.

We're reading a dozen SF short stories including Nolan, Asimov and Bradbury and want to finish up with a novel.

Tags: fiction, novel, science

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I've had a lot of success reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle with my 6th graders - it's a mix of science fiction and fantasy. It's a great book for 6th grade students, but there's lot of extended opportunities with gifted students because of the more mature themes and advanced science fiction elements. And don't judge the book by the recent Disney movie... it was terrible compared to the book, but I still show it to them just to prove the point that books are typically better than movies (and to teach compare/contrast principles). It's also great because there are 3 sequel novels by L'Engle that continue the story and they keep my kids reading for months afterward - voluntarily!
My students LOVE House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.
You might give Little Brother by Cory Doctorow a look. It's almost Sci-Fi, but you can download the complete text for free, or if you want a paper copy you can buy it.

I know I read Red Planet by Robert Heinlein when I was that age and it got me hooked on science fiction for the rest of my life.
Almost all of the Heinlein juveniles are good. Red Planet, Citizen of the Galaxy, Star Beast, Tunnel in the Sky etc. You would want to stay away from his juveniles that are now dated because they took place before the current year or the near future.

Here is the complete list - I would stay away from those not in Bold:

The Scribner's juveniles
Rocket Ship Galileo, 1947
Space Cadet, 1948
Red Planet, 1949
Farmer in the Sky, 1950
Between Planets, 1951
The Rolling Stones aka Space Family Stone, 1952
Starman Jones, 1953
The Star Beast, 1954
Tunnel in the Sky, 1955
Time for the Stars, 1956
Citizen of the Galaxy, 1957
Have Space Suit—Will Travel, 1958
I am a huge fan of Science Fiction for YA. I teach grade 5 but read some more challenging novels. Here are some suggestions for you: "Among the Hidden" by Margaret Peterson Haddix, any novel by Monica Hughes but I do love "Invitation to the Game" or "The Other Place" or "The Girl who Owned A City" by O.T. Nelson!
Seriously though, my students LOVE "Among the Hidden" ...they get addicted and want to read the whole series. I believe there are 6 or 7 books altogether but you can read Among the Hidden on its own.
Good luck!
Thanks for the tips---the issue I always have it that they have rwad EVERYTHING!! We have the Among the Hidden series in our class library. I usually choose something very new or look at one they might have missed. I'll check the Monica Hughes books.
It's not pure sci-fi, but some students at my school recently read Life As We Knew It By Susan Pfeffer and really enjoyed it. It was on the shortlist for Sheffield Children's Book Award (sadly it didn't win - was commended though) and it was the book that most of the students in our school's reading group voted for. It's part SF, mainly a story about a family's struggle for survival.

My first ever SF read (can't remember how old I was, but I would guess around 10/11) was Chocky by John Wyndham, which I loved. I think this story would still appeal to kids, but the language and style is rather dated, not sure what my current students would make of it.
I'd go with The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy - I read that for the first time in 5th grade, and that's what turned me on to reading for enjoyment.

If they've read "everything", then they may have read The Golden Compass and The Dark Materials trilogy, but if not... and if you have a somewhat progressive community, that's a fantastic series.

Both of those suggestions, btw, are other books not to be judged on the poor movies.
Thanks dsgran, I serve kids from parochial schools and one of them BANNED (!) the Pullman trilogy. Yikes! I still have it on my classroom library shelf. I read reviews on Invitation to the Game and House of the Scorpion (mentioned in this discussion), both look good so I'll read them over break. Have you read either?
I haven't read either of those- but will look into them as well. Sorry to hear that they were banned- although I guess I can't say I'm surprised, they are pretty controversial, especially the last one which pulls no punches. its a shame though, it would be interesting for students to compare them to the CS Lewis books- both are brilliant series that are built out of conflicting ideologies.
I also love The Golden COmpass (book) but would recommend parent permission.Susan Cooper's series The Dark Is Rising is intriging and thought provoking. Both of these stretch the mind to accept an alternate reality. The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer is also good.

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