cover image Life on Mars

Life on Mars

Jon Agee. Dial, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-53852-0

Dramatic irony rules this expedition to Mars, in which a young human roams the rocky environment, unaware that he is not alone. The sky is black, the landscape the color of dust. The frowning boy astronaut, who carries an incongruous white box tied with red string, delivers a dejected monologue: “It’s dark. It’s cold. I’ve brought this gift of chocolate cupcakes. I don’t think I’ll find anybody to eat them.” He fails to notice the pear-shaped, cantaloupe-orange creature—20 times his size—who is following and observing him. Agee’s (Lion Lessons) quirky humor manifests in absurd elements such as the cupcake box, which the boy temporarily misplaces, and the anxious Martian, who pretends to be a hill when the astronaut loses sight of his rocket: “I bet I’ll get a good view from the top of that mountain!” says the boy, unwittingly climbing the creature. The boy’s discovery of a yellow flower confirms his speculation about “life on Mars,” though he never notices the elephant in the room. It’s satisfying silliness from start to finish, with a gotcha ending that will prompt requests for repeat readings. Ages 4–8. Agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Feb.)