Great Illustrated Books

You Are the First Kid on Mars

By Patrick OBrien

Putnam Juvenile, 2009
Pages : 32
Suggested Ages: 7-10
ISBN: 0399246347

"This book will tell you what would happen, and what you would do, if you were the first kid on Mars." The author posits that someday, scientists, engineers, astronauts, and their families might set up a colony on Mars. Follow an unnamed young male space traveler (referred to in second person as "you"), clad in saffron space gear and boots, as he travels up a space elevator and into the space station. From there you take a Nuclear Thermal Rocket that builds up to 75,000 mph and travels the 35 million miles to the red planet. After four months, the rocket docks with the Mars orbital base, and you take the Mars Lander to the surface. The accompanying digital illustrations are serious, somber, and realistic. A large double-page spread of the boy walking across the barren brown landscape to the habitat where he will be living will make kids gasp. Clad in spacesuits, the scientists and the boy go on an expedition to view the first unmanned Mars rover, which explored the planet way back in 1997. A quick flight in the MarsPlane takes him past Olympus Mons, three times taller than Everest, and the Valles Marineris, five times deeper than the Grand Canyon. Then it's time to head home. A final page of facts include one that will make the distance more real to kids: "If you could travel to Mars in a car, driving at highway speed, it would take more than 60 years to get there." Yikes.

Compare O'Brien's journey with Touchdown Mars!: An ABC Adventure by Peggy Wethered and Ken Edgett, a similarly-themed nonfiction picture book, where a group of eight space-suited ethnically diverse kids and a pet cat set off for a three-year mission to Mars. Take another kid-centered you-are-there trip in space with Faith McNulty's If You Decide to Go to the Moon. O'Brien is also the author/illustrator, with Kevin O'Malley, of the sci fi dinosaur picture book, Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates. It would be fun to have kids compare his writing and illustrating styles in the two very different books.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Aldrin, Buzz. Reaching for the Moon. HarperCollins, 2005.

Brown, Don. One Giant Leap: The Story of Neil Armstrong. Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Burleigh, Robert. Earth from Above for Young Readers. Abrams, 2002.

Burleigh, Robert. Flight: The Journey of Charles Lindbergh. Philomel, 1991.

Burleigh, Robert. One Giant Leap. Philomel, 2009.

Cole, Joanna. The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System. Scholastic, 1990.

Floca, Brian. Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11. Atheneum, 2009.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. Blast Off!: Poems About Space. HarperCollins, 1995.

Krupp, E. C. The Moon and You. Macmillan, 1993.

Leedy, Loreen. Postcards from Pluto: A Tour of the Solar System. Holiday House, 1993.

McCarthy, Meghan. Astronaut Handbook. Knopf, 2008.

McNulty, Faith. If You Decide to Go to the Moon. Scholastic, 2005.

O'Brien, Patrick. Mammoth. Henry Holt, 2002.

O'Brien, Patrick. Mega tooth. Henry Holt, 2001.

O'Malley, Kevin. Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery. Illus. by Patrick O'Brien. Walker, 2005.

O'Malley, Kevin, and Patrick O'Brien. Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates. Illus. by Patrick O'Brien. Walker, 2007.

Reeve, Philip. Larklight. Bloomsbury, 2006.

Ride, Sally. To Space and Back. Lothrop, 1986.

Simon, Seymour. Mars. Harper Trophy, 1990.

Thimmesh, Catherine. Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon. Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

Wethered, Peggy, and Ken Edgett. Touchdown Mars!: An ABC Adventure. Putnam, 2000.

Critics have said

Indeed, by involving the reader directly in the story, O'Brien helps ensure that they won't even realize they're learning all sorts of wonderful things about gravity, distance, geology, and life along the way. As strong as the narrative can be, though, it's really the visuals that will drop the most jaws.