Intergalactic Playground: engrossing, insightful history of sf aimed at kids

Science fiction scholar and critic Farah Mendlesohn's latest book, The Intergalactic Playground: Children and Science Fiction is a keen-eyed, affectionate, insightful and cranky look at science fiction novels aimed at kids. Mendlesohn starts with some of the earliest kids-lit, from the thirties, and surveys all they way up to the present day, looking at how changes in work, adolescence and science education have changed the sort of work that gets published for young people.

In particular, Mendlesohn looks into the way that "extreme sport readers" — kids who devour books at the rate of one or two a day — have dropped out of the modern conception of how kids read (and how many of today's adult science fiction fans were that kind of reader in their childhoods). She also takes issue with the idea that books have to sneak up on kids in order to teach them things — that kids never read fiction with the explicit goal of finding out how and why the world works — an idea that has hammered a stake through the didactic traditions of science fiction.

Intergalactic Playground combines reader surveys, extensive literature review, and a distillation of the fights waged on kids-literature mailing lists, synthesizing them into a deep, intelligent, and engrossing read.

Intergalactic Playground