cover image There’s Nothing to Do on Mars

There’s Nothing to Do on Mars

Chris Gall, . . Little, Brown, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-316-16684-3

Davey and his pioneer parents may live on the Red Planet, but conditions are far from rosy. “The nights were very cold. The dust storms were terrible.... 'I’m bored!’ Davey shouted one day.” Davey and his leaky robot dog glumly explore the dry, rocky terrain, where they dig up “an old toy”—a six-wheeled object that space buffs will recognize as a long-lost NASA Rover. All Davey’s activities emphasize the lack of water (and the promise of it): He climbs a desiccated tree and plays with amphibious-looking Martians who “had not been able to take a bath in a very long time, and... smelled worse than skunks.” Davey accidentally stumbles upon a gushing water source, thereby alleviating his boredom and radically changing his planet. Gall envisions Mars’s surface as an austere Sedona landscape, carved with rust-red, pumpkin-orange and wheat-gold canyons. He produces his linocut-style compositions with hand-engraved, clay-coated boards, and the smooth results are striking but impersonal. Where these stylized images imply an almost corporate aesthetic, the endpapers present “Davey Martin’s Mars Journal (Top Secret!),” in a chalky white scrawl on terracotta paper; ironically, the comic first-person approach here tells more about Davey’s personality than the story itself does. Ages 3-6. (Feb.)