Slade, Suzanne. Mars Is: Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, and Startling Surprises. Peachtree Atlanta. 978-1-682-63188-1. 51 p. $19.99. Grades K-3.
Sand dunes, craters, volcanoes, canyons, lava flows, cliffs, and ice are only some of the amazing landforms covering the surface of Mars. In this oversize book, each double page spread consists of a full-page landform photo that is complemented by large-scale descriptive text and a smaller, more detailed caption. One spread features “sandy, windswept dunes” and describes how Mars’s winds blow the sand into mesmerizing ripple and wave patterns. Another highlights the “stark slopes” of an impact crater formed by an asteroid or meteorite collision. The full-color images in the book were taken with NASA’s HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera. The camera was launched into space in 2005 and has been sending images back to Earth ever since. Detailed backmatter include sections titled “Launching the Mission to Mars,” “HiRISE: The Spectacular Space Camera,” “More About Mars,” and “Highlights of the Exploration of Mars.”
THOUGHTS: This title is reminiscent of April Pulley Sayre’s books which present brief and poetic nonfiction tidbits complemented by beautiful full-page photographs. Although there is not enough information in this title to support research reports, students will be drawn in by the breathtaking photos of the Red Planet. It also will be useful as an introduction to science units about the solar system and outer space.
523.43 Planets Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Holmes, Jennifer L. Lion of Mars. Random House, 2021. 978-0-593-12181-8. 259 p. $16.99. Grades 4-6.
Bell has only known life on Mars – the fake sunlight, the painted on windows, the algae. But Bell wants to know more about the other colonies on Mars and why they don’t talk anymore. When an unidentified object lands on the Martian surface, Bell and his “siblings” decide to take a rover to explore. Things go terribly wrong, and Bell discovers that the clash between countries on Earth has apparently followed them to Mars. After being rescued, Bell and the others are banned from traveling to other colonies. Feeling more isolated than ever, the American colony discovers they have a mouse living among them after the last supply drop. Bell names the mouse Muffin, and they keep it as a pet. But when adults start to get sick and the eldest of the colony dies, the kids realize the mouse must have brought a virus and they need help. Using the train system that used to connect colonies, Bell and his brother journey to the French colony for help. The French colony sends medicine and support to the adults in the American colony while hosting the American children in their home. Realizing that they are more alike than different, Bell fights to maintain contact between the two colonies after unearthing an old photo of the American commanding officer.
THOUGHTS: A bit slow to start and focused on setting the futuristic idea of colonization on Mars, Holm picks up the pace when the rover crashes and Bell is hurt. A great story of trust and companionship that will be enjoyed by middle grade readers. This novel had cliff hangers and lots of moments where the reader was cheering for Bell. The out of this world setting makes it a fun read and leaves you wondering, “what if….”.
Science Fiction Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD