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Exclusive Book Trailer Premiere: LIFE ON MARS by Jon Agee

Life on Mars

I like Jon Agee’s latest book, Life on Mars, a lot. Today we have a trio of premiere-iness:

1. An interview with Jon Agee about the book (and snacks and civilian space travel).

2. A giveaway (five copies – click the link below to enter).

3. The trailer.

First up, let’s talk to the man himself . . .

Travis: What was the spark for this story?

Jon Agee: Life on Mars began with doodles of a boy wandering an obscure, distant planet, looking for signs of life. The text was his dialogue with the team of grown-ups at NASA. They would ask: “What do you see now?” He would reply: “I’m approaching what looks like a hardware store.” They would reply: “Proceed with caution!” He would see some odd, inanimate things, but not the actual living things, that were right under his nose.

Eventually, the dialogue became a monologue, the obscure planet became Mars, and the variety of alien life forms was narrowed to one.

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Life on Mars 3

How did it change from the first draft (or did it not)?

The early drafts were similar to the final story, with the exception of the box of cupcakes. This was an important addition for several reasons: in a practical way, when arriving on a mysterious planet, why not bring a gift? And if you were a kid, you’d probably assume that everybody – including Martians – likes cupcakes. There was also something funny about the scale contrast between the enormous creature and the tiny box. And finally, the cupcakes set the book up for a surprise at the end.

What was the trickiest part in getting this story to work?

After the boy drops his box of cupcakes and walks away, the creature picks it up. The trick was how and when to reunite the boy with this box without having him retrace his steps, disturb the flow of the story, or tip off the surprise at the end. I figured, if the creature – a seemingly gentle Martian with a conscience – can’t resist eating these cupcakes, it might also feel guilty (or confused), and carefully place the empty box further on, where the boy can find it. It was also important that the boy find the box on the heels of his discovery of the yellow flower. This made the box seem almost incidental. Which added to the eventual surprise.

What is your favorite snack while working?

Favorite snack? That’s hard. Nuts, raisins, dried coconut, dried mango. Crackers and cheese. Almond butter on toast. Left-over broccoli with lemon mayonnaise. Left-over anything. The list goes on.

When civilian space travel becomes a reality, will you go?

Since Trump became president, I’m hoping this civilian space travel hurries up. Yes, I’m ready to go!

Thanks for taking my questions, Jon!

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Life on Mars 1

We’re giving away five copies of Life on Mars. Click here to toss your name into the hat.

And finally, here’s a first look at the book trailer for Life on Mars:

Thank you Bridget at Penguin Young Readers for making this post happen.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. “Wonder if he’ll ever know he’s in the freakiest show…”