Life on Mars by author and illustrator Jon Agee is an silly and engaging story about a daring boy’s quest to find life on Mars. The book begins with the character stating, “Everybody thinks I’m crazy. Nobody believes there is life on Mars. But I do. And I just know that I’m going to find it.” I love this introduction statement because it immediately sets the determination of the character and passion for finding life on Mars. As he carries around his small box of cupcakes, he walks around Mars and comments on the landscape calling it “gloomy, cold and dark” (great descriptive words for kids!). Each time he walks around Mars looking for life, he misses seeing the large friendly looking alien following him. The alien curiously follows him but doesn’t interact him at all with him. He is interested in the small box of cupcakes that the boy left behind though!
Throughout the story the boy becomes disheartened because he gets lost and still can’t find any living thing on Mars until he finds a yellow flower growing in between two rocks. As he carries the flower towards his spaceship, he is filled with excitement about showing the flower to others when he returns to Earth. Since he had no one to give his cupcakes to, he decides to take them home with him. After opening the box on the spaceship, he discovers no cupcakes! Who ate the cupcakes? The alien of course!
Life on Mars is an excellent book for teaching many different basic concepts with children. Reading this book to both typical children and children with special needs, I have found many different language and learning tips to use with Life on Mars. As you are reading the book, point to the two different characters and discuss their role in the story. For example, point to the boy and say, “This is a boy that is looking for life on Mars.” Ask “wh” questions such as “What is the boy looking for?”, “Why did he travel to Mars?”. Discuss the emotions of the characters which are concrete in the story and easier for children to discern, specifically those with disabilities where reading social cues is more difficult. How does the boy feel when he find life? He feels sad. How does the alien feel? The alien and the boy have different emotions throughout the story which makes this goal easy to target as you are reading it aloud. The concept of “big” and “little” can be targeted throughout the book as well. The boy is little and the alien is big. The cupcakes are little and the alien is big. Throughout the story, there are examples that you can use to help reinforce size concepts. Work on problem solving by discussing, “Why doesn’t the boy see the alien if he is so big?” Discuss reasons why the alien doesn’t interact with the boy. Is he scared? Is he shy? There are also some novel vocabulary to work on such as gloomy, obvious, wonder, discovery and adventure. This book is an ideal book for repeated readings since there are many different concepts to work on each time the book is read aloud.
To check out more of Jon Agee’s books, click here.
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