Life on Mars by Jon Agee is a delight to read out loud and a marvelous conversation starter on so many levels. With Life on Mars, Agee does two of my all-time favorite thing in picture books. For most of the book, the words and illustrations tell two different stories and there is a twist at the end. Agee's illustrations are immediately evocative of the surface of Mars. Swaths of black sky are paired with light grays and browns of the surface of Mars, adding to the cold atmosphere of the planet.
An astronaut travels to Mars, sure he will find life despite the fact that everybody thinks he's crazy. He wanders the planet, a somewhat mysterious white box tied with red string in one hand. Mars is a bit desolate and more gloomy than the astronaut expected. Passing a crater, a creature emerges, eyes and ears peeking out. The creature follows behind the astronaut, sometimes mimicking the movements of the astronaut. The astronaut begins to fear he won't find anybody to share the contents of his bakery box (chocolate cupcakes) with and decides to return to his spaceship. But he can't find it. A mysterious mountain appears and from the peak he finds his way back, losing then finding his bakery box. And a flower! He was right - there is life on Mars! As the astronaut heads back to earth, the final page reveals a very funny surprise.
I have been reading this book out loud to kindergartners, first, second and third graders for a couple of weeks now and there are so many things to talk about. We talk about Mars, the solar system, space travel, what is "fake, phony fiction" and what is fact. Then, if there is time, we talk about the Mars Rover. Then we read Life on Mars all over again.
Source: Review Copy