The Green Book by Jill Patton Walsh, 1982.
The Green Book is a fascinating science fiction novel written for lower Middle Grade readers. Pattie’s family leaves Earth along with a group of colonists to start a colony on an alien world. Each member is allowed to take only one book with them. Patty chooses a book of blank pages. (The cover is green, hence the name of the novel). The people think this an odd choice, even for a young child. As the youngest member of the party, she gets to name the new world when they arrive, and chooses Shine. The colonists test every plant they can find on the planet Shine, but none of them appear eatable to humans. If they can’t find food they can digest, they will die.
The novel reminds me of Little House on the Prairie. It’s through the viewpoint of a young girl, who faces similar challenges. The families must find shelter and learn how to farm the alien soil. Just as the Ingalls had to deal with local Indians, the colonists of Shine must learn how to deal with the intelligent aliens on this world. What’s different is, while Laura Ingalls is a spectator, watching her father and mother struggle to survive, Pattie and the children take an active role. They discover trees that produce a kind of edible sap. They are the first to encounter an alien species on the planet. Finally, they discover wheat grown in the alien soil can be made into edible cakes. In the end, the colonists discover the reason Patty brought a book of blank pages– so she can write the history of the colony in it.
What I found fascinating about this novel is the age level it is directed at. The story of people trying to survive on alien worlds is a common theme in science fiction, but it is not common to tell this story to such a young readership. It demonstrates quite well any subject can be covered at any grade level. The Green Book is a great story for introducing science fiction to very young readers.