Review of The Lion of Mars

The Lion of Mars
by Jennifer L. Holm
Intermediate, Middle School    Random    272 pp.    g
1/21    978-0-593-12181-8    $16.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-12182-5    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-12183-2    $9.99

Eleven-year-old Bell is the youngest resident of the American settlement on Mars. Along with the older kids — like Bell, all orphans transported from Earth — and the settlement’s adult staff, Bell spends his days in a colony constructed within the lava tunnels of Mars, going to class, working on the algae farm, cleaning up dust, and staying far away from the French, Finnish, Chinese, and Russian settlements, which are firmly off limits following a fatal rover accident many years earlier. Bell is closest to Leo, the settlement’s cat, and Phinneus, who oversees the farming operations, and he misses fourteen-year-old Trey, who seems to be avoiding him in an effort to fit in with the older kids. When a disease carried by stowaway mice on a supply ship infects all the settlement’s adults, Bell and Trey team up to seek help from the other settlements, and discover that the Americans have cut themselves off from a vibrant international community of settlers over a series of misunderstandings. The kids’ determination to stay in touch with their new friends brings fundamental changes to life on Mars. Although the messages are less subtle, and more pointed, than in some of Holm’s (Full of Beans, rev. 7/16) previous books, the well-wrought setting, including thoughtful depiction of lowish-tech Martian life, and a strong cast of well-developed characters make for an intriguing and compelling read.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Rettger
Sarah Rettger is an independent bookseller in Boston.

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