Life on Mars

by Jennifer Brown

Arcturus “Arty” Betelgueuse Chambers has been fascinated with the stars... read more

Arcturus “Arty” Betelgueuse Chambers has been fascinated with the stars and planets, especially Mars, for as long as he can remember. For years he’s been engaged in an experiment to try to signal for signs of life on the red planet. Then his dad loses his job at an observatory and his parents announce they’re moving, to light-polluted Las Vegas. Along with sisters Vega (boyfriend-obsessed) and Cassi (opeia) (cheerleading-obsessed), Arty is shell-shocked. In the coming weeks as the family prepares to move, Arty forges a relationship with their reclusive, curmudgeonly next-door neighbor, Cash. At first unfriendly and distant, Cash turns out to be a retired astronaut, one who never went into space. Cash’s lingering bitterness over this fact fades as he begins to help Arty refine and improve his ongoing experiment signaling the stars. While their relationship follows a predictable arc it is emotionally rich, and, like everything else in Jennifer Brown’s story, explored with a deft blend of humor, warmth, and pathos. When Arty discovers Cash is ill, the pending death of his old new friend becomes the flash point for grief about everything: moving away, leaving best friends Tripp and Priya, even his dad settling for a job that doesn’t relate to his passion. Brown’s story is as entertaining as it is emotionally satisfying. (Ages 9–13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2015

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