It has long been a trope in literature to view the world from the perspective of someone hyper-intelligent. A twist on this theme is the use of a child prodigy main character, a child who excels in one or more fields very early on, even as they must continue to grow at varying developmental rates in the other aspects of their lives. Much like the appeal of superpowers, books about child prodigies may awe and inspire us, but they have human issues and concerns like the rest of us. Here are just a few books about child prodigies.
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
Jade’s smarts get her into a private school on scholarship, but they aren’t enough to change the way the people at her school react to her. Watson does a subtle job of showing how the way people treat you based on where you are from can affect your opportunities as well as the attitudes of those around you.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
An iconic magical-realism book for children, Matilda’s tough childhood and incredible brain combine as she gets into school and discovers some remarkable powers. While the characters are often caricatures, Dahl does capture some of the wonder of seeing children do amazing things.
The Way Things Look to Me by Roopa Farooki
This book takes a great look at what family life is like with a child prodigy. Youngest child Yasmin Murphy can remember more than most of us have ever known. Her siblings and family learn a lot through the process of getting to know Yasmin and both her needs and her abilities. Without overly glorifying being a child prodigy, Farooki shows us a beautiful picture of neurodiversity.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Books on child prodigies often focus on their time of being prodigies. This particular saga, however, chronicles how a now-mostly-just-smart teenager who once was considered a prodigy goes about a summer adventure. Coping with changing identity happens to us all. It is a relatable journey even for those of us who haven’t experienced child prodigy–level success.
Alex Detail’s Revolution by Darren Campo
Exciting science fiction meets child prodigy fiction in Campo’s exciting tale of interplanetary war. Alex Detail no longer has his mega-smarts that get him kidnapped by aliens, but he must rise to the challenge to defeat them nonetheless. Fun and engaging, fans of science fiction will love this new twist.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Stewart’s team of remarkable children in The Mysterious Benedict Society go on surreal and fun adventures. They solve puzzles and evade capture in this story that feels perfect for both elementary school children and adults. Along the way they learn teamwork, which can be hard for children who have been the star of the show for much of their lives.
Gifted by Nikita Lalwani
This novel follows 10-year-old Rumi Vasi, and later her 14-year-old self. The story contrasts her own concerns as a very intelligent child with regular childhood and teenage desires, with her parents’ desires for her to make history and be a very young college student who studies extensively. The pros and cons of being a genius are well laid-out in this book that really addresses parent-child relations of all kinds.
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
Jinks creates the rollicking world of evil-genius-in-training Cadel Piggott. Piggott loves systems and information, and channels his energies into not-so-moral pursuits from a young age. His first close friendship, however, teaches him to doubt his general moral ambiguity for the first time. The heartwarming twist on a villain’s earlier years will charm and delight you.
Can’t get enough of the books about child prodigies? Check out our recent list of books that includes both novels about and books written by child prodigies.