A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that all kids may enjoy this book (which was made into a movie in 2011), though it seems aimed at kids older than recommended by the publisher. Parents may need to explain the more obtuse language as well as some of the darker cartooning. Also, the idea that Martians could kidnap a kid's mother might unnerve some.
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What's the story?
Milo can't figure out what makes moms so special. To him, they seem like ogres whose main intent is to make his life miserable. However, a mom-nabbing attempt by Martians, a rocket trip to Mars, and a near-death experience teaches him an important lesson and answers his question once and for all.
Is it any good?
Told in language that is clever though at times too sophisticated for small kids, this book is offbeat and captivating, and the ending is a sentimental tearjerker. Older kids may relate to Milo's unhappiness with his mother, though younger kids probably won't get it. Older kids also will enjoy the mom-nabbing attempts and the rocket ride. However, the part about why the Martians need moms seems written for parents themselves.
The cartooning has the typical fun and engaging Bloom County look for which the author is famous. The darkness of the illustrations with the first section, though intriguing, may be unsettling to younger kids. But the cartooning in the rest of the book is lighter, brighter, equally as expressive, and perhaps more entertaining. The very things that make this book complicated and uneven also may make it a book that will remain of interest through many readings.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the book's complicated language with smaller kids. Why does Milo think mothers were "giant, summer-stealing, child-working, perfumy garden goblins" or "broccoli bullies" or "carrot-cuddling cuckoos"?
Kids will enjoy talking about the depiction of the colorful Martians and their world. Do you think creatures really live on Mars? What would they look like? Would you ever want to go to Mars? What do you think it would be like?
And finally, what do you think makes moms special?
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