Newbery Contender: “The Lion of Mars” by Jennifer Holm

Book review: The Lion of Mars by Jennifer Holm (tween fiction)

Jennifer Holm has already received Newbery honors for three previous novels – Our Only May Amelia, Penny from Heaven, and Turtle in Paradise. In addition to her novels, she collaborates with her brother Matthew on several graphic novel series: Babymouse, Sunny, and Squish. She is sure to be a Newbery Award contender for her latest novel, published in January 2021, The Lion of Mars.

This sci-fi adventure is about the life of Bell, an eleven-year-old cat lover who lives on Mars. His days are taken up with assigned chores such as collecting the extremely fine Mars dust from all the vents in the underground compound, school lessons, helping the community’s gardener with the algae and vegetable farm, and taking care of Leo, the only cat.

The Americans on Mars are not alone – there are also French, Chinese, Norwegian, and Russian communities, but because of wars and disagreements on Earth, they have been told not to communicate with the others. The children of the U.S. colony have only heard that the others are dangerous and not to be trusted. When all the American adults come down with a mysterious illness, Bell becomes an unlikely hero and manages to reach the French colony and enlist their help. He and the other children are very surprised to learn that … well, I won’t spoil the story here.

Holm has once again woven a unique and compelling tale for the adventurous middle grade reader. There is just enough intrigue to keep the pages turning, and more than enough sentiment for us to welcome Bell and his comrades into our hearts. Its speculation about what life on Mars would be like for earthlings is funny, informed, inventive – all the elements of a great book for kids.

Check out The Lion of Mars and let us know what you think – what was most interesting about life on Mars? Is it what you imagined? Were you as surprised as I was when you read the truth?

Happy Reading!

~ Ms. Laura

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