Amazing Adventures - You know, for kids.
May 16, 2011 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Rocket Boys? Kavalier and Clay? All Our Yesterdays...

The Hive Mind has helped me with my short fiction before -- now I'm writing a book. It's a Young Adult novel set in 1935, based on a true story, in which my lead character gets involved with a rocket plane flight and discovers science fiction fandom... walk-ons include Fred Pohl, Isaac Asimov, and some well-known fans. I have loads of reference (Knight's The Futurians, Asimov's In Memory Yet Green, Merrill's Better to Have Loved, and Harry Warner' Jr's All Our Yesterdays) but want more.

I'd also like to read books like the one I am writing. (Twenty chapters in, now.) I thoroughly enjoyed Homer Hickam's Rocket Boys, about his youthful fascination with rockets. At the same time, while it wasn't strictly for kids, I loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon. What other books like these, about kids discovering science and/or popular culture, are around? Bonus points for Young Adult titles. (And yes, I already know about Heinlein's juveniles. But other books like those might work, as well.)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Willy Ley, German (and later American) popularize of space exploration, wrote a number of books which inspired the first space flights.
posted by orthogonality at 8:11 AM on May 16, 2011

I was going to say Danny Dunn but he's after your [1935] time. Maybe the original Tom Swift books?
posted by Rash at 8:13 AM on May 16, 2011

Response by poster: Ley is a character in my book; I even interviewed his widow before she died. So I'm good there.

Danny Dunn... Tom Swift... yeah, not "real-world" enough, if you know what I mean. They exist too much in a vacuum. I'm looking for stuff that has some historical underpinning, if at all possible.

The Boys Life "Time Machine" series, about some Boy Scouts who stumble on an abandoned time machine, might be a bit closer. The leads do get into some historical situations (Johnstown Flood, etc). But even this isn't on the money for what I have in mind.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:20 AM on May 16, 2011

E. L. Doctorow's World's Fair sounds a lot like your book. It's a historical novel set in the 1930's and told from a child's perspective, with cameos from historical personages. The main character does spend time marveling at the science and culture on display at the title event, but it's not the main focus of the book, IIRC.
posted by Tsuga at 8:25 AM on May 16, 2011

Response by poster: Yes, the Doctorow title would be in my ballpark. Good suggestion!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:38 AM on May 16, 2011

I think you'd really like Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude. Set in the 70s, so quite a bit later than your time period, and it's not YA, but it's wonderful and deals in a pretty unique way with many of the same themes you're talking about.
posted by dersins at 8:43 AM on May 16, 2011

Are you up for vintage/contemporary options?

I really liked reading the Automobile Girls and Motor Girls series on Google Books or from ManyBooks. They were written/take place around the turn of the last century, and are nice and wholesome. In the backs of both of those series, they had descriptions of other young adult and children’s series you could read by those same publishers, with lots of ones for boys that sounded really interesting. Anything past the 1920s you won’t be able to find scanned online, but it should give you a good starting point for library research.

Here’s a link to the beginning of the “other series” portion of the Motor Girls, starting with the Motor Boys.
posted by thebazilist at 8:53 AM on May 16, 2011

Brian Selznick's book/graphic novel The invention of Hugo Cabret. It's more of a childrens book than young adult, but have historical figures in it.
posted by Tawny Owl at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2011

Response by poster: Keep 'em coming, folks. Very helpful so far! Some of these I had not heard of.

I had heard of the Motor Boys, believe it or not, thebazilist.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:42 AM on May 16, 2011

Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon is a deeply weird novel that jumps between a lot of different styles including "The Airship Boys cluster, which is told in a boys' adventure idiom," the "Western Revenge cluster, which is told through an array of western narrative voices," "The Geek Eccentric Scientist cluster, which is told in an amalgam of styles," and the "Flaneur Spy Adventuress cluster." One of the main themes is the clash of science and science fiction with the real world.

The book is more a comment about the types of novels you're describing, rather than actually being one of those novels itself. But it seems to replicate those styles well -- at least well enough for someone like me who isn't intimately acquainted with the source material.
posted by hayvac at 1:06 PM on May 16, 2011

I have looked through this thread three times now and seen no mention of Ray Bradbury, which is somewhat inconceivable to me - did I miss him somewhere? - because this is basically Bradbury's gig. All his short story collections are applicable but R is for Rocket is the one I'd start with; I also liked S is for Space and Dandelion Wine.

Some of the stuff is hard SF, but some of it is a take on that style of SF through a kid's eyes. Dandelion Wine is less SF-y, but is the chronicle of a kid growing up in 1957; who loves rockets, but also baseball and his grandfather. Enjoy; I think you will.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 5:56 PM on May 16, 2011

Response by poster: Ack! Bradbury! You are 100% correct, Protocols, and I am embarrassed. He happens to be a favorite author -- I am in lvoe with Something Wicked This Way Comes.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:33 PM on May 16, 2011

Well, for what it's worth, I got so excited about this that I ordered a copy of Dandelion Wine and Farewell Summer from Amazon, so at least one of us gets something out of it!
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 6:43 PM on May 16, 2011

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