Take a scientific fact or theory, add a futuristic or other-worldly setting, stir in an imaginative plot and fascinating characters, and a science fiction novel emerges from the cosmic mix. The best authors of science fiction turn a "what if?" into a "why not?" If, after reading one of the following selections, your present world starts to look a bit different to you, then the author has succeeded. Be careful. You may become "hooked" on the endless possibilities of science fiction.

The Worst Band in the Universe All AgesBy Graeme Base Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN: 0-8109-3998-3, $19.95

Alien fantasies come and go, but this one has focus. Base has created a universe where music, or the lack thereof, separates the planets and gives them their distinct personalities. It's all about freedom of musical expression, as Sprocc, a young Splingtwanger-player enters the annual competition for Worst Band in the Universe, a true award of honor.

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom PlanetThe Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet Ages 7-10 yrs.By Eleanor Cameron Little Brown & Co (Juv Pap); Reprint edition (October 1988) ISBN: 0316125407, $7.95

An early classic in children's science fiction, the story concerns two young boys who take off to a "nearby" planet in their homemade spaceship. The tiny planet is in dire trouble, and the boys are recruited to save it from certain galactic extinction. Mr. Bass and the Mushroom People are unforgettable, and the appeal of the adventures is timeless.

Harriet’s Hare Ages 7-11 yrs.By Dick King-Smith Random House (Merchandising); Reprint edition (February 1997) ISBN: 067988551X, $4.99

Living on a farm in the English countryside, Harriet one day discovers a perfectly flattened circle in the wheat field. She is abruptly introduced to an alien from the planet Pars, who has taken on the form of a hare. Harriet and the “hare” form an amiable bond, and the dreary summer becomes a magical adventure.

EarthbornEarthborn Ages 8-12 yrs.By Sylvia Waugh Delacorte Press; (September 10, 2002) ISBN: 0385900600, $17.99

Nesta, a 12 year old living in northern England, believes that her parents are originally from Boston. Suddenly, she learns that they are in fact from the planet Ormingat. She is an alien, and she must return to her home planet! Nesta attempts to run away from this fate. Can she remain earthbound, as she wishes?

Alien Secrets Ages 9-12 yrs.By Annette Curtis Klause Yearling Books; Reprint edition (January 1995) ISBN: 0440410614, $4.99

A young girl, traveling aboard a spaceship, befriends an alien Shoowa named Hush. The two, though alien to each other, become friends. Soon, both become embroiled in a murder mystery that takes place on the ship. Elements of alien ghosts and hidden treasure add to the suspense.

The White MountainsThe White Mountains Ages 9-12 yrs.By John Christopher (Tripods trilogy) Pocket Books; 2nd edition (October 30, 1988) ISBN: 0020427115, $4.99

Three-legged machines, i.e., Tripods, have long-ago invaded earth. Humans become their slaves, but there is a window of time before their enslavement when three young boys try to escape their horrible fate. Several mysteries and non-stop suspense carry the reader through the trilogy and the later offering of a prequel.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHMrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH Ages 9-13 yrs.By Robert C. O’Brien Atheneum; (June 1974) ISBN: 0689206518, $18.00

Mrs. Frisby, a mother rat with a sick son, is in trouble. She must ask the help of some highly intelligent rats that live nearby to help them move to their summer den. Her saviors are a strange lot, not trusted by the other rats because of their superior brains. How did they become so different? The answer involves some highly secretive scientific experiments in this stunning Newbery award-winning tale.

The Giver Ages 10-14 yrs.By Lois Lowry Houghton Mifflin Co (Juv); (April 1993) ISBN: 0395645662, $16.00

In a sterile futuristic society where crime, poverty, and sadness are not tolerated, children receive their “calling” at the age of 12. Jonas is chosen to be the “Receiver of the Memories” from the elderly “Giver.” Only one may retain the memories, good and bad, of the community. Winner of both the Newbery and Horn Book award, Lowry allows Jonas to question the wisdom of such a an “orderly” future.

CoralineCoraline Ages 10-14 yrs.By Neil Gaiman HarperCollins; 1st edition (July 2, 2002) ISBN: 0380977788, $15.99

After moving to a new apartment, Coraline's parents suddenly disappear. Able to go through a previously locked door, Coraline finds herself in an eerie alternate reality, with an "other" mother and "other" father. Though they try to please her, Coraline senses evil in her "new" parents. This modern fairy tale/gothic horror is both chilling and strangely appealing.

The Boy Who Reversed HimselfThe Boy Who Reversed Himself Ages 10-14 yrs.By William Sleator Puffin; Reprint edition (February 1998) ISBN: 0140389652, $5.99

Laura, and her boyfriend, Pete, journey to the fourth dimension, taught how to do so by Laura’s mysterious neighbor, Omar. Unfortunately, once there, they are captured and cannot return to their own world – without help. Science and math have never been as intriguing or intelligible as in this account of an “alien” universe.

The Kindling Ages 10-14 yrs.By Jennifer Armstrong (Fire-us Trilogy) Harpercollins Juvenile Books; (April 2002) ISBN: 0060080485, $15.95

A virus (fire-us) has wiped out the entire adult population of the world in a future time, or so believes a small group of children in Florida. With little memory of past lives, the children have assumed roles in their "family." They set off to discover what is left in the empty world that is their legacy.

Off the RoadOff the Road Ages 10-14 yrs.By Nina Bawden Houghton Mifflin Co; (October 19, 1998) ISBN: 0395913217, $16.00

Set in Wales in 2036, society is enclosed in walled "urbs," with the fear of encountering dragons and trolls in the Outside. 11 year old Tom Jacobs, on an outing to Memory Park with his grandfather, discovers the truth. The next decision he makes will alter his life forever.

Virtual War Ages 10-14 yrs.By Gloria Skurzunski Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (February 1999) ISBN: 0689824254, $4.99

Genetically engineered to fight a cyberwar, Corgan and two other young people bred for their specific talents, are trained for the online cataclysmic event. Corgan, however, begins to wonder if such a war is the wisest choice for the world. Is there not another way to ensure the “survival of the fittest” nations?

The House of the Scorpion Ages 11-14 yrs.By Nancy Farmer Atheneum; (September 2002), ISBN: 0689852223, $17.95

A 2003 Newbery Honor book, this novel takes place in a future where opium is grown in a country between the United States and Mexico, and the workers are slave clones. A teen clone of the old drug lord, uniquely left with all his mental abilities, finds out the secrets of this evil empire. Can he escape, or will he be running to a far worse fate?