The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm

In The Lion of Mars, when the adults succumb to illness, the kids of the space colony must find a way to survive.

The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm. Random House, 2021, 251 pages

Reading Level: Middle grades, 8-10

Recommended for: ages 10-14

All the grownups in the U. S. Mars colony remember life on Earth, but the kids arrived as babies in the care of adult volunteers. Bell, age 11 in Earth years, is content with helping Phinneus tend the algae farm. In his spare time he hangs out with the kids watching old digi-files and playing games. But then, he’s the youngest. All the other kids are teenagers now and (except for Albie, whose placid disposition never changes) they’re all acting weird. For instance, why did his former bet friend Trey move out of the room they shared with no explanation? But the colony has greater challenges. Conflict on Earth is reflected by conflict on Mars, where Commander Sai is not allowing visits to the other colonies. Supply deliveries are few and often incomplete and there’s dissention among both grownups and kids. When a mysterious sickness brings down all the adults, the kids have to take charge and try to get help. Otherwise the colony is doomed.

There are some gaps in the narrative, such as an event in chapter 2 that seems significant but isn’t followed up. Also, why send babies to Mars, instead of couples? There’s only one married couple among the grownups, and they married after arriving. The story hinges on a decision by the commander that seems ill-considered in a man who appears otherwise responsible, and the colony is almost destroyed by it. The reversal of fortunes, though welcome, seems a bit contrived.

Still, it’s an entertaining and uplifting story, especially for sci-fi fans who will love all the minutia of life on Mars. In her author note, Jennifer Holms explains her interest in space (inspired by her father) and how she did her research, including a brief bibliography and links.

Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)

Worldview/moral value: 3.75Artistic/literary value: 3.75Also at Redeemed Reader:

Reviews: Other books by Jennifer Holm are Turtle in Paradise (a Newbery Honor book), The Fourteenth Goldfish, and the Sunny Side Up graphic novel series. She is also the author of Our Only May Amelia (another Newbery Honor Book) and, with her brother Matt, co-author of the popular Babymouse series.Reviews: Space Case explores life on the moon while solving a mystery (note that later volumes in this series have some problematic elements). In *We’re Not from Here (starred review), a human space colony encounters aliens.Reflection: Read Betsy’s thoughts on The Need for Science Fiction. We are participants in the Amazon LLC affiliate program; purchases you make through affiliate links like the one below may earn us a commission. Read more here.

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