The Lion of Mars

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Lion of Mars Book Poster Image
Tween sci-fi adventure shows value of community.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some conversational phrases in French are translated. Author's Note explains some of the real science and technology behind planning a settlement on Mars. A short bibliography offers websites and books for learning more about settling on Mars.

Positive Messages

We need other people in order to survive and thrive. Left on our own, we wouldn't last very long. Working and playing together, sharing ideas and resources, can make life better for everyone. Holding on to hurtful and angry feelings from the past will cause you to miss out on a lot of life's rewards and pleasures. Make sure you understand all the facts before you judge someone else's actions. Bravery is keeping going, doing what needs to be done, even when you're scared.

Positive Role Models

Bell is a great role model for empathy, curiosity, bravery, and teamwork. He's very thoughtful and helpful to others, and likes to make other people happy. Everyone works hard and contributes to the settlement's success. Bell describes the Americans as having a range of skin tones from pale to dark, and he falls somewhere in the middle. Other settlements on Mars are from Finland, Russia, China, and France. A couple of adults are gruff but all are good, responsible role models and caregivers who love the kids.

Violence & Scariness

Narrator Bell discovers a dead body. All the adult settlers come down with a serious, contagious, viral illness. A past accident caused the death of an American settler. A pet mouse has to be exterminated. It's put out on the surface of Mars, with a brief comment that it was like he just fell asleep. Characters are in danger from a rover-driving accident and from being stuck outside the settlement. Someone breaks a collarbone and pain is mentioned. There's also a long, dark, scary tunnel where the narrator sees glowing green eyes.



What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Lion of Mars is a tween science-fiction adventure about the first people from Earth to colonize Mars in 2091. There's some sadness from two settlers dying, one in the past and one who was a grandfather-figure to the narrator. All the adult settlers come down with a mysterious, contagious, viral illness that causes hardship and worry but has a safe resolution. Tween narrator Bell sees teens kiss once, and adults kiss once. There's a rover-driving accident that causes a broken bone, and some scariness from a long, dark tunnel and green, glowing eyes. "Fart" is used a couple of times. A pet mouse has to be exterminated and is described as going right to sleep.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 15-year-old Written byKaris M. October 29, 2021

Great all around!

The Lion of Mars is a fun story with likeable characters and good messages. The author deftly connects the importance of a lion's pride to the importance... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bycole 2920940940... March 26, 2021

What's the story?

THE LION OF MARS is the story of 11-year-old Bell, the youngest kid in the American settlement on Mars in the year 2091. Keeping a new settlement going takes a lot of hard work, but there are chances for fun, too. Until all the adults in the settlement come down with a mysterious illness one by one. The kids try to keep things going as best they can, but the burden eventually becomes too much for them. Their only hope is to somehow make it to the nearest settlement from France and ask for help. But the Americans cut off communication with all other settlements because back on Earth, several of the countries are on the brink of war. If Bell can even make it to the French settlement, will they turn him away?

Is it any good?

Tween science fiction fans will enjoy this realistic-feeling adventure that has humor, warmth, and lots of food for thought about what it would be like to actually live on Mars. Veteran middle-grade author Jennifer L. Holm balances emotions, adventure, and the day-to-day in an engaging and sometimes funny way. Bell is a likable narrator for The Lion of Mars, and kids will easily relate to his feelings as he learns about community, friendship, weird teens, and what bravery really feels like. Other characters are well developed, and Holm creates a solid sense of place that readers will enjoy picturing in their minds. Overall the tone is gentle and heartwarming, ending on a feel-good note.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of community in The Lion of Mars. How does life improve for the American settlers once they start communicating with the other settlements? How does your community help you, and what can you do to help others in your community?

  • Do you think one day we'll send people to Mars? If you had the chance to go, do you think you'd want to? Why, or why not?

  • Why is science fiction so popular in books, movies, TV, and games? What do we love about it? What can it teach us about ourselves and our planet?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

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