Elementary: Great For All

, Elementary: Trends Older

, Middle School

The Lion of Mars

Jennifer L. Holm









It is 2091, and humans have been living on Mars for twenty years. There are grown-ups who have come from several different countries on Earth to establish the settlements, and there are kids who were brought there as babies. There’s even a cat – Leo – fondly referred to as the “Lion of Mars.”  

The American kids only know life on Mars, living underground in their small enclave, only able to go above ground in bulky environmental suits that protect them from the Red Planet’s harsh elements. To Bell, our main protagonist, life on Earth is portrayed in “digi-reels” and seems odd and hard to grasp.  

Sometimes when the grown-ups talked about life on Earth, it felt like they were remembering dreams. Water falling from the sky. Earth animals flying. Places called libraries, where you could simply walk in and take books home. It all seemed so fantastic.  

What does make sense to Bell is making toilet paper from algae, waiting two years for the resupply ship, and never visiting the other international settlements.  

But when the grown-ups fall ill and the settlement is in jeopardy, the kids make a decision to head out through the long-abandoned underground train tunnels to find help in the other settlements, breaking one of the strict Settlement Rules: No contact with foreign countries, ever. What they find when they arrive at the French settlement (including a wedding filled with bisou-bisou!) will upend all they thought they knew of their lives on Mars.  

Jennifer L. Holm builds a realistic world for our space settlers, filled with opportunities to learn about space travel and our solar system. This is a science book wrapped up in beautiful storytelling. As in The Fourteenth Goldfish (another Read to Them selection), sweet and gentle Bell is surrounded by a supporting cast of characters who are distinct and memorable. And while the setting may seem like science fiction, the relationships, struggles, and joys will ring true to students and families, inviting deep conversations about family, community, understanding the past, and embracing the future.