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Jennifer Brown's first book for middle-graders! Such a wonderful book, I read it in one day. First, don't let the title or cover fool you this isn't science fiction; no, Ms. Brown brings us what she does best, realistic fiction. This is about a boy who loves space, astronomy and to be specific, Mars. It's a story of friendship, all different kinds. A story of moving, of life's dreams, of family sacrifices for the sake of family. A story of death and birth. There are so many layers to this story that it is very deep when looking back upon it, but Brown has kept the story light and funny with just slight touches of pathos. A lot of issues are touched upon briefly in the story, but it isn't a book about issues; it is a story of friendship and one summer of big change in the life of a boy who is growing up and turning the corner that leaves childhood behind. A sequel has come out recently and I'm looking forward to reading it.
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2014
Artey Betelgeuse is obsessed with space. His family always has been. His father is an astronomer and everyone in his family is named after stars. Artey is even determined to contact Mars through light by signaling them nightly for the past two years. But his life gets turned upside down when his father loses his job and the family must move to Las Vegas. This is like death to an astronomer. The bright lights would ruin any view of the stars. Another wrench gets thrown into the works when he is thrust on a crabby old neighbor next door whom Artey is convinced is a zombie or alien. But when Artey finds old his neighbor's secret, Artey finds a friend, mentor, and lifeline.
This book was touching in a surprising way. When I think of a science obsessed kid's book, I don't often think of a book with such heart. While I am not entirely convinced the author was able to inhabit the voice of Artey - especially when reading the 'Fun Facts About Mars' - I enjoyed the book. I think it is the perfect addition to a school library. Boys and girls would love the characters in this book. I can see a lot of applications when using the book in the classroom - Astronomy, Mars, space, Morse Code, Samuel Morse himself, etc. with the obvious application being to build your own HUEY (Artey's transmitter to Mars) and/or testing it out. I would love to see what students come up with!
I absolutely loved Life on Mars. This book was funny, heart-warming and clever. It's populated with totally believable and lovable characters, both adults and kids, who I rooted for all the way - even the grouchy neighbor, Cash, and The Bacteria. I can't wait to read it again out loud to my kids. I highly recommend this charming and irresistible middle grade novel to anyone who loves quality children's literature served up with plenty of laughs.