Growing up Octavia

Sara Rebman, Librarian, Children's Literature Department,
Octavia E. Butler at the Central Library in 1995.
Photo courtesy of the Estate of Octavia E. Butler, [HM 80670]

This week we are exploring Octavia E. Butler’s childhood and some great science fiction books for children, as we continue to celebrate her birthday and the first anniversary of the Octavia Lab.

Octavia Estelle Butler was born on June 22, 1947, in Pasadena, California. Her father passed away when she was a baby, and she was raised by her mother and grandmother. As a child, she had a difficult time connecting with other children and preferred the company of adults and books. She remembers beginning to tell herself stories when she was four years old.

In an interview, Butler said,

“I discovered the library back in kindergarten, I guess. We didn't have a library at the school, but we were not that far from the main city library in Pasadena. The teachers would have us join hands and walk down to the library together. There we would sit, and someone would tell us—or read us—a story. Someone would also talk to us about how to use the library. When I was six and was finally given books to read in school, I found them incredibly dull; they were Dick and Jane books. I asked my mother for a library card. I remember the surprised look on her face. She looked surprised and happy. She immediately took me to the library. She had been taking me home, but now she immediately took me to the library and got me a card. From then on the library was my second home.”

As a child, Octavia enjoyed fairy tales and books about horses. It wasn’t long before she was ready to move on from the children’s section to more advanced books. Unfortunately, children were not allowed in the adult section of the library at that time. However, children were allowed to browse the magazine section, which is where she discovered science fiction. By age 12, she was writing her own science fiction stories and not too long after she began submitting her work to magazines.

Octavia was inspired by the time she spent at the library as a child, and her love of reading and learning continued throughout her entire life. Below is a list of science fiction that will hopefully inspire children to dream of other worlds and ask what if?

Science Fiction for Kids

Book cover for Ambassador
Alexander, William

Gabe Fuentes’ life is turned upside down when he becomes Earth’s ambassador for an alien galaxy.

Book cover for Oddity
Cannon, Sarah

Ada’s twin sister is missing, in their search to find her Ada and her friends encounter aliens and zombie rabbits!

Book cover for The Lighthouse between the Worlds
The Lighthouse between the Worlds
Crowder, Melanie

Griffin lives a quiet peaceful life taking care of a lighthouse on the coast of Oregon until his dad disappears and he learns that the lighthouse is a portal to other worlds.

Book cover for The Last Last-Day-of-Summer
The Last Last-Day-of-Summer
Giles, Lamar, Adeola, Dapo

Two brothers are dreading summer being over until they meet a mysterious stranger with a camera that stops time.

Book cover for Zita the Spacegirl: Book 1
Zita the Spacegirl: Book 1
Hatke, Ben

Zita comes to the rescue when her best friend is kidnapped by an alien doomsday cult in this graphic novel.

Book cover for Fun Fun Fun World
Fun Fun Fun World
Mercado, Yehudi

In this graphic novel, when aliens mistake a theme park for the earth and attempt to conquer it, hilarity ensues.

Book cover for Dactyl Hill Squad
Dactyl Hill Squad
Older, Daniel José

Imagine dinosaurs walking the streets of New York during the Civil War! Magdalys Roca and her fellow orphans are just trying to survive the war, but they have a bigger role to play that includes learning to ride pterodactyls.

Book cover for Ninth Ward
Ninth Ward
Parker Rhodes, Jewell

Lanesha, who can see and communicate with spirits, and her guardian, who can see the future, fight to survive Hurricane Katrina.

Book cover for Project Terra: Crash Course
Project Terra: Crash Course
Walker, Landry Q.

Elara is on scholarship at the Seven System School of Terraforming Sciences and Arts, where she is learning to create new worlds that can be inhabited. Her first year is filled with new classmates (one is a mute sponge), trouble, and saving the universe!

Book cover for Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy
Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy
Wronski, Gareth

Holly Farb, a seventh-grade know-it-all, is kidnapped by space pirates who mistake her for the princess of the universe.