Have you ever looked up at a clear sky so filled with stars that you feel like you could stretch to infinity?
Have you ever spent every waking moment on a dream bigger than yourself?
Have you ever loved something so much, that the thought of loosing it takes your breath away?
Then have I got a book for you:
Life on Mars, by Jennifer Brown
Bloomsbury USA Childrens, August 5, 2014
Grade 3-6, 240 Pgs (Hardback)
The book “Life on Mars” by Jennifer Brown follows a few weeks in the life of a 6th grade boy named after two stars: Arcturus Betelgeuse Chambers, or Arty for short. Arty’s family is packing up to move to Vegas, and the City of Lights threatens to take away Arty’s stargazing forever, and take him from the only friends he has ever known. What makes this a stand out book, and not another depressing story about leaving everything behind, is the other main character: Cash. Cash Maddox is a real life Astronaut, from the time of the Apollo missions, with a real space suit, and moon rocks… When a family emergency dumps Arty at the doorstep of his scary older neighbor Cash, can these two stellar explorers find enough in common to complete Arty’s life long dream and possibly find peace in the process?
I loved this book, and I do not usually say that about books that make me cry (even happy tears). Told from the perspective of Arty, Life on Mars is filled with gentle humor and believable characters. One of those rare books that takes a fantastic dream, in this case Arty’s dream of discovering life on Mars, and makes it about more than a young boy’s fantasy, but about living life and loving those around you. The story sort of has two narratives, the one where Arty is building his machine to discover life on Mars, and the reality of being pulled up from where you grew up and those around you. Details like how Arty does not have to clean dishes, why raisins are a bad sign, or thinking up acronyms that would look good on a t-shirt were priceless. But above all else, it is in the interactions between Cash and Arty that makes this story not just a tear jerker, but one of hope.
Note to parents: This story deals with the death of a close friend, and honest fears about leaving what is safe and familiar, but does not delve too deeply into any of it. Appropriate for ages 8-12. The book is peppered with facts about stars and stargazing, and if some young person reading this is inspired to look up at the stars and dream, then even better. We need more children to look up and dream big.