cover image The Lion of Mars

The Lion of Mars

Jennifer L. Holm. Random House, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-121818

Peppered with such intriguing scientific details as the pervasive nature of Mars dust, Holm’s (The Evil Princess vs. the Brave Knight) absorbing speculative novel is anti-isolationist at its core. Though 11-year-old Bell has always lived on Mars, he’s a pretty regular kid: he loves cats, worries about friendships, and asks a lot of questions. Bell and four teenagers live with six adults and cat Leo in a homey, self-sustaining underground settlement “held together with duct tape,” sharing chores (harvesting algae to manufacture toilet paper, for example) and learning about a perplexing Earth through digi-reels and the adults’ memories. There are only a few rules in the Mars Settlement Mission, the most important being “no contact with foreign countries, ever,” the result of a deep rift between various countries’ settlements. When a serious virus strikes the adults, though, Bell and the other kids realize that the policy might become deadly. Holm’s science fiction setting is rendered with a keen sense of place grounded by identifiable sociofamilial relationships (as the youngest, Bell is occasionally pressured into dangerous situations) and a clear philosophy about the power of cooperation: “Lions who are rejected by their pride do not survive long.” Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Jan.) [/em]