Junior Time Lord Needs Reading List
May 17, 2016 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Our kid is seven. He's asking for books and graphic novels he can read that are about time travel and/or parallel dimensions.

We've found a few things that scratch this time travel/parallel worlds itch in book form. The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens was a big hit. He liked A Wrinkle in Time, though he had trouble sticking with the first sequel.

About his tastes:
  • time travel and parallel dimension stories are his very favorite, by far, and that's mostly if not entirely what we're seeking, though more general sci-fi stuff can go over pretty well sometimes, too
  • ordinary kids in extraordinary circumstances are his favorite protagonists
  • he likes books that aren't all boys (many of his friends are girls) and is totally open to female protagonists
  • he finds kissing and romance super gross
  • he is a pretty committed junior pacifist; he can enjoy the excitement of danger/peril and some physical conflict, but he has less than zero interest in stuff based primarily around fighting, guns, swords, etc.
  • he does sci-fi or old school monster scariness well, but doesn't hold up well to monsters or villains whose violence gets bloody or realistic
  • he's cool with big ideas and can appreciate the occasional Valuable Life Lesson, but he strongly prefers everything to be wrapped in adventure or jokes
  • he appreciates wordplay and puns
He reads at about a fourth grade level. He probably most enjoys graphic novels. The Hi-Lo books went over like gangbusters, and he loves Zita, The Space-Girl. But he tends to tear through those quickly. He also enjoys those semi-illustrated books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid/Jedi Academy vein, but lately, he's getting more and more comfortable with reading completely text-based chapter books solo. He'd probably love graphic novel recs; we'd probably like a stack of books. Some of both is probably good.

What should he read next?
posted by DirtyOldTown to Media & Arts (46 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Great female protagonist, and awesome subtle time travel plot.
posted by Knicke at 1:38 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Has he started on Harry Potter yet? The third book involves time travel; the other books (except 1 and 5) also have some time-travel-y aspects to them as well (in the form of people seeing/observing the past).
posted by damayanti at 1:42 PM on May 17, 2016

The Artemis Fowl series is well written and hits many of the criteria you list. My son started them around 7 years old and loves them. They have a little bit of violence, but nothing extreme. They have a lot of jokes and funny stuff, but they are also clever and smart. The author has a new series involving time travel that my son likes a lot, though I have not read those.

Mr. Benedict Society is very good, though the books are longer and it may be more of a challenge to read them by himself at that age. I read them aloud to my son probably around 7 and then he read them himself after that.
posted by Mid at 1:47 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I loved the Bunjee Venture and Half Magic as a kid. Both deal with ordinary kids in extraordinary time-travely circumstances.

(The Bunjee Venture has been out of print for decades, but it is 1000000% worth tracking down a copy. So great.)
posted by phunniemee at 1:50 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

By the way, both books have strong boy and girl characters.

Also, I loved When You Reach Me and also Liar and Spy by Stead, though I read those aloud to my son and I was glad that I did because they have a little more "emotional content" than most books. I mean that in a good way - kids getting their feelings hurt, having social difficulties, etc. -- important stuff, but it was good to be able to talk it through with him. Not sure how much he would have picked up if he had read them alone.
posted by Mid at 1:51 PM on May 17, 2016

A Tale of Time City, by Diana Wynne Jones. Some of her other books have elements of time travel and alternate universes.
posted by Frowner at 1:52 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, by Daniel Pinkwater, is a great silly light-hearted parallel universe story. It's a children's chapter book, pretty close to fourth-grade level.

There's a $3 Kindle edition, and it's also in one of the Pinkwater anthologies.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:56 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

When I was a kid I really liked Time Cat, by Lloyd Alexander. It came out in 1963, though, and involves travel to other parts of the world at other eras, so you might want to take a quick look at it for Perhaps It Has Unpleasant Attitudes reasons. I have only dim memories of it and don't remember anything off, but I might easily have missed something as a white kid in a conservative suburb in the eighties.
posted by Frowner at 1:58 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I started reading Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy around that age. Time travel features by the second novel.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:01 PM on May 17, 2016

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (spoiler: involves time travel!)
posted by jillithd at 2:01 PM on May 17, 2016

In a year or two he might be ready for The Devil's Arithmetic, which was my favorite female-protagonist time travel story as a kid. It has mature themes (it's a Holocaust story) but is listed as a reading grade level of 5.
posted by telegraph at 2:02 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Phantom Tollbooth is always a classic, too.
posted by jillithd at 2:03 PM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

My kid liked Amulet when he was his age. It's both a graphic novel and ordinary kids (girl and boy siblings), extraordinary circumstances. Nice thing is there are lots of books in the series.
posted by ReluctantViking at 2:05 PM on May 17, 2016

The My Little Pony Equestria Girls series have parallel dimensions. They go back and forth through a mirror.
The Indian in the Cupboard (and sequels)
If he likes wordplay and puns, what about the Phantom Tollbooth?

Pretty much anything by Kate DiCamillo
Pretty much anything by Roald Dahl

Sixty-Eight Rooms Series
TJ and the Time Stumblers Series

No Flying In The House
The One and Only Ivan

The Fearless Four is a graphic novel series about phonics. Not totally what you're talking about but great fun.

When he gets old enough, the Glass Sentence; you should totally read it in the meantime.


This is an interesting list I had bookmarked: http://charlotteslibrary.blogspot.com/p/time-travel-books.html
posted by dpx.mfx at 2:07 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Boy Who Reversed Himself by William Sleator, who also wrote the fantastic Interstellar Pig. I read this in middle school, so my memory is incredibly hazy, but it concerns a kid (wikipedia tells me it's a boy/girl pair) taking a trip into 4 dimensions, with much weirdness. Interstellar Pig is equally weird, but set in a vacation spot in Maine.
posted by Hactar at 2:07 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Chrestomanci Quartet leans more toward fantasy (warlocks/witches/wizards) than sci-fi, but deals with parallel universes. I enjoyed it very much when I was around that age.
posted by permiechickie at 2:19 PM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Has he read the Wrinkle in Time graphic novel? Seconding a look at the Charlotte's Library list. Towards the bottom you see the genre you're interested in I think (time travel in present or time travel to future). The designation "mg" is the middle grade mark that will probably work best for your kiddo.
posted by LKWorking at 2:20 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ursula Vernon has a series about a Hamster Princess, who is awesome. ("Who says princesses don't fight dragons, I'm a princess, and I'm doing it!") And a series about little kid-dragons called Danny Dragonbreath. Both endearingly funny, wonderfully illustrated, with practical, sensible characters.
posted by suelac at 2:21 PM on May 17, 2016

They're probably a little below his reading level, but at that age my little brother LOVED the Magic Tree House books, which are all about siblings (Jack and Annie) time traveling places with Morgan Le Fay to solve mysteries. There's also the Time Warp Trio.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:26 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Meanwhile is a choose-your-own-adventure graphic novel he might like.
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:26 PM on May 17, 2016

Definitely The Homeward Bounders, adding to the Diana Wynne Jones pile.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:34 PM on May 17, 2016

He might like a favorite of mine, The Dark is Rising. The whole series involves time travel to various extents, kids saving the day, no romance, and lots of British folklore, but even if he never goes on to those (and some of them maybe should wait until he's a tiny bit older), TDiR is a great book.

The Children of Green Knowe might work if he's ok with spooky, but not gory, stuff. It's got ghosts but also some back-and-forthing in time.

I haven't read this particular Danny Dunn, but possibly Danny Dunn, Time Traveler?
posted by PussKillian at 2:47 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I recall The Boy Who Reversed Himself, and Singularity, both by William Sleator. I havent' read them in decades though so I can't say much about how they hold up now.

Flatland is of course a classic, but it does have some weirdo gender stuff going on.
posted by nat at 2:48 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

While time travel isn't generally the main theme of the books (though very much possible in-universe), if there was ever a kid ripe for loving Animorphs, yours is it. Here's a solid reading order suggestion that looks like it maximizes the big time travel books early but without spoilers (link itself contains a major spoiler, albeit hidden).
posted by teremala at 2:55 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

As mentioned by others, the books of William Sleator will probably be a perfect fit.

The Boy Who Reversed Himself involves travel in the fourth dimension.
Singularity involves a special place where time moves much faster.
Strange Attractors is about time travel.
House of Stairs is about a scientific experiment.
Interstellar Pig has aliens, a cool board game, and mild peril.
The Duplicate is about a boy who makes a copy of himself.

Hell Phone and The Boy Who Couldn't Die are the only two I'd be wary of. They are a bit more mature.
posted by tacodave at 3:15 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Green Futures of Tycho
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:17 PM on May 17, 2016

In the first book of The Once and Future King, it's King Arthur as a boy and Merlin as a backwards time-traveler. (Might be a little over his head, maybe a read-aloud?)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:46 PM on May 17, 2016

The Quiet Earth - I can't figure out how to post a link, but it's available here:

posted by therealshell at 4:09 PM on May 17, 2016

I'll second Green Futures of Tycho and strongly second everything tacodave cited. William Sleator is definitely your friend on this. Also, see if you can find Bradbury's short story "A Sound of Thunder," although it's a little dark at the very end. Mike Resnick wrote a couple Alternate ________ anthologies (Alternate Presidents, Alternate Kennedys, etc.) that may be a little adult for him (not as in sex, just as in reading level), but will probably be future faves. There's also -- again, may be too high a reading level, but perhaps a future fave -- the 1632 book series, about a 20th century town that gets transplanted back to the 16th century, and how the world develops differently because of it. And, as you cite to Time Lords, there's of course the good Doctor, which has had tons upon tons of novels written with him as their protagonist, in addition to the show.
posted by WCityMike at 5:34 PM on May 17, 2016

Oh, and Neil Gaiman's Coraline and Neverwhere (more the book than the TV miniseries) touch upon places that, while they aren't quite alternate dimensions, definitely scratch that itch. Both have Wikipedia entries if you or he want to check them out
posted by WCityMike at 5:43 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Dark is Rising; it was one of my favorite series growing up.

If he's open to stories about extraordinary worlds found within the ordinary world (i.e. not explicitly a time travel or parallel dimension story) he might like The Underland Chronicles by Susanne Collins. Be aware that it does get a bit dark, especially the last book in the series, Gregor and the Code of Claw.
posted by Aleyn at 5:47 PM on May 17, 2016

Came in to suggest Animorphs! It's perfect. Also for a more contemporary title, Greg Van Eekhout's The Boy at the End of the World. Not alt dimensions but far future with really cool tech and snarky humor. Not a kissing book.

(Which makes me think: The Princess Bride???)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:51 PM on May 17, 2016

Lewis Carroll is probably both obvious and timeless... or Edward Lear, or Hillaire Belloc, perhaps silly, dumb, childish, yet still interesting into adulthood.
posted by ovvl at 6:39 PM on May 17, 2016

Looks like you might have to get it used, but I loved Max and Me and the Time Machine when I was around that age.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:46 PM on May 17, 2016

Seconding The Chrestomanci Books by Diana Wynne Jones, especially The Lives of Christopher Chant. Many of Diana Wynne Jones's books deal with parallel universes! When he's a bit older, he might like the Dalemark Quartet or Deep Secret, both also by Diana Wynne Jones.

He also might like The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce involves time travel.
posted by azalea_chant at 7:50 PM on May 17, 2016

I was your son's age when The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha was published. I know it made a strong impression on me. It has time travel and parallel dimensions galore.
posted by little eiffel at 7:57 PM on May 17, 2016

The adventures of the Polaris Patrol in Donald Keith's Time Machine stories which originally appeared in Boys Life.
posted by Rash at 9:13 PM on May 17, 2016

Crusade in Jeans by Thea Beckman is about a 14-year-old boy from modern-day Rotterdam who accidentally travels back to the year 1212 and ends up in the Children's Crusade and uses his skepticism, knowledge, and organizational skills to help keep the children fed and safe. The book was made into a film in 2006, but there were American and European versions and both have significant plot changes from the book.
posted by BicycleFace at 10:53 PM on May 17, 2016

So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane.

The main hero Nita is a smart, 13 year-old girl and the 12 year-old boy she gets to be friends with. They live in New York and in the course of the book they travel to a parallel-universe Manhattan. If I remember correctly, there's a bit of stuff to wade through when they're first learning about magic which may be tiring/tedious for a 7 year-old, but if you hang in there, you get to some good adventures. The basic magic principle in the book is: wizards have a duty to help keep the universe in balance.
posted by colfax at 1:00 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

When I was a little bit older than him (8-9), some of my favourite books were the Messenger series by Monica Dickens (granddaughter of Charles), about a girl who travels in time on the back of a horse. I haven't re-read them as an adult but I know as a kid I was riveted and still remember how hooked I was.
posted by tracicle at 1:05 AM on May 18, 2016

I think Jane Langton 's series of books about the Hall family might fit the bill. The Diamond in the Window is the one I remember most.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:28 AM on May 18, 2016

I was a lot like that kid, and at that age my very favorite books along those lines were Fantasia Mathematica and The Mathematical Magpie, two collections of short stories edited by Clifton Fadiman. The stories are more about the fourth dimension than about parallel universes (so more, like, perpendicular, I guess?)

Nthing Phantom Tollbooth too.
posted by miles per flower at 7:25 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Amulet graphic novels do sound right up his alley and there are a bunch of them. My daughter (8) has similar tastes and she loves them.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 7:54 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

The People of Pineapple Place and the sequel, The Prisoner of Pineapple Place have an odd take on time travel -- their street stays the same and no one ages, even as the rest of the world changes.

The New Policeman series has some faerie world traveling from a modern Ireland. The Moorchild does this from a more medieval setting. The Hollow Kingdom trilogy has some neat traveling between earth and the goblin kingdom.

Franny K. Stein is all around hilarious and great, but The Fran That Time Forgot deals specifically with time travel. (This'll be below his reading level, but hit his age just right.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:58 PM on May 19, 2016

My 9 year old, Eppaulette, recommends The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Barry Jonsberg. She says that one of the characters is from a parallel world (or thinks that) and the book was really good.

I also just remembered 100 Cupboards by Nathan D. Wilson, which explores a number of parallel worlds.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:09 AM on May 26, 2016

Harry Turtledove has a nice YA parallel worlds series called Crosstime Traffic. The first book involves a Roman Empire that never fell, and subsequent books have other alternative worlds.
posted by Philbo at 2:03 PM on May 26, 2016

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