More and more every day, we’re seeing a push to get kids involved with STEM. From children’s coding classes to summer camps dedicated to mathematics, the threshold for the hard sciences is skewing younger every year. But how do you get kids involved with subjects that have a bad reputation for being “boring?”

To try and answer that problem, many educators are turning to reading. Breathtaking chapter books and action-packed graphic novels help bridge the gap between reluctant students and STEM curriculum. As kids find a passion for the books’ topics, educators can foster an interest in real-world subjects.

We’ve picked seven science fiction books that help middle grade readers learn more about the world around them. This blend of chapter books and graphic novels has it all; from stories of intergalactic travel to a race to save space-time continuum, there’s no shortage of adventure.

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor
By Jon Scieszka
Illustrated by Brian Biggs

Boy wonder Frank Einstein has a knack for all things inventive, so when he gets home from school he camps out in his garage-lab and tinkers with his latest projects. But when a lightning storm strikes during an experiment, some of Frank’s creations come to life! Now Frank has to deal with Klink and Klank, his two new less-than-helpful lab partners. But when an evil scientist snatches Klink and Klank for use in his doomsday plot, Frank needs all his scientific and mathematic knowledge to formulate a rescue mission for his two new friends.

Each of the six Frank Einstein Series books tackle a specific topic in math and science but balance the real-life knowledge with an abundance of humor. In this opening story, author Jon Scieszka focuses on the concept of “matter,” and encourages readers to seek out science — and silliness — in their everyday lives.

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Sal and Gabi Break the Universe
By Carlos Hernandez

As an amateur magician and all-around prankster, Sal Vidón is no stranger to the principal’s office. Fellow classmate Gabi Reál is determined to find out how Sal has managed to carry out his latest scheme and won’t rest until she finds out. His crime? Stuffing a raw chicken in Gabi’s friend’s locker.

The problem is that Sal can do more than just stage magic. He can reach through time and space itself — and while it makes things convenient for sleight-of-hand tricks, no one else has noticed his abilities until now. As Gabi joins Sal on his adventures, they realize that with every trick, Sal might be doing more damage to the space-time continuum than he thought. This smash hit from Rick Riordan Presents blends the thrill of a science fiction adventure with the humor of middle grade, plus a whole lot of heart.

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Veronica Viggle and the Bubble Gum Machine
By Louis Goldman
Illustrated by Charbak Dipta

This imaginative graphic novel tells the classic tale of “good versus evil” with a sugary sweet twist. A talented builder and inventor, our main character — referred to as The Little Boy — is hard at work constructing a new rollercoaster with his friend The Little Girl. But unbeknownst to our heroes, the devious Veronica Viggle is on the prowl. She’s been sent by her boss, the Mad Scientist, to capture his inventive rival and have him turned into bubblegum. When The Little Boy is taken, his friends — the Little Girl, Normandy Junior and Gus the Inventor — are going to have to work together to devise a rescue plan. If they don’t find a solution in time, their friend will end up suffering a sticky bubble-gum demise.

Louis Goldman’s hilarious graphic novel showcases the creativity that young children have in spades, and encourages them to use their imaginations. For more information about Veronica Viggle, read our full review here.

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The Friendship Code
Written by Stacia Deutsch

Most people join after-school clubs to make friends and share interests — but not Lucy. She’s had a special idea for an app for a while, but she’s never had the opportunity to create it. Now that a new coding club is opening at her school, she is thrilled — that is, until she realizes that club members are put into groups. Lucy barely knows these girls and doesn’t want to share such a personal idea for an app. Why can’t she just code in peace?

When mysterious messages start popping up in her code, Lucy will need all the help she can get to decipher them. It seems that, with some projects, it’s nice to have a helping hand.

Described by Parents.com as “Baby-Sitters Club for Gen Z,” The Friendship Code is a stellar series debut. This engaging read encourages young girls to get interested in coding and other STEM disciplines.

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Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth
Written and illustrated by Judd Winick

Hilarity ensues when D.J. and Gina, two normal Earth-dwelling kids, see a boy named Hilo fall from the sky. Hilo looks like a normal kid, but he acts like something completely out of this world! He doesn’t know anything about where he came from or how he fell from the sky in the first place. But even more than that, Hilo doesn’t know the first thing about life on Earth. Gina and D.J. are going to have to show him everything — from the deliciousness of cereal and milk to why you should show up to school in more than just your underpants.

When something else follows Hilo’s path down from space, the stakes get a lot higher. D.J., Gina and Hilo will have to band together to protect the planet from outside forces. This zany graphic novel takes fun to a new level and shows us that, in the face of adversity, the power of friendship is truly out of this world.

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A Problematic Paradox
Written by Eliot Sappingfield

Nikola Kross has never felt normal, and that was before her dad was abducted by aliens. When a band of extraterrestrials tries to capture her too, she’s sent to hide out at a special boarding school for talented kids. But this isn’t just any old school — it’s for children with special abilities in math and science who can manipulate physics to their will and use wormholes to teleport to class. 

Soon Nikola’s enrolled and learning to balance homework and friendships with non-humanoids. But when her newly unlocked abilities prove to be different than her classmates’, will Nikola have to deal with being on her own once again? And what happens if her new powers draw attention to the school that’s supposed to be keeping her safe? 

Described as “Harry Potter but with science instead of magic,” A Problematic Paradox balances a dazzling plot with a cast of lovable characters you can’t help but root for.

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Zita the Spacegirl
Written and illustrated by Ben Hatke

When her best friend is abducted by aliens, Zita launches into action in the form of an intergalactic rescue mission. She’s not exactly a professional spaceship pilot, but Zita knows she needs to hurry: the aliens who took her friend are part of a strange doomsday cult, and their anticipated day of reckoning is coming soon. Through her travels, she has to dodge giant alien monsters and crumbling planets — all while strange prophecies and her ever-present time limit hang over her head. As Zita gets a hang of this “hero” thing, it seems like creatures from all over the galaxy are starting to pay attention to her.

The first book in Ben Hatke’s graphic novel trilogy, Zita the Spacegirl is an extraordinary tale of bravery and adventure. Full of charm and whimsy, this book will be sure to make you Zita the Spacegirl’s newest intergalactic fan.

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