Friday, April 10, 2020

Review - Mara the Space Traveler

Mara the Space Traveler
by An Leysen
Date: 2020
Publisher: Clavis Publishing
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 56
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Mara’s biggest wish is to become an astronaut — to discover new planets. Sometimes dreams and wishes come true . . . She lands on the most beautiful planet she has ever seen. But the planet is in trouble and only Mara can help.

A wonderful space adventure about a small girl with big dreams and a big heart. For astronauts and explorers ages 6 and up.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've seen this premise done a number of times (wherein a child envisions themselves as an astronaut and visits faraway worlds), so at this point, a book of this nature really needs to wow me. Unfortunately, this one didn't. While it has lovely illustrations, it misses the opportunity to impart an environmental message, instead resorting to mythology that has no relation to the real world.

One night, Mara imagines herself going into space in her ship. She lands in a garden on a distant planet, where she encounters a group of chameleon-like aliens who tell her that the Sun King--a god-like creature--has turned the rest of the planet into a desert by getting too close and burning everything up. The little aliens are powerless against the Sun King, so Mara goes to confront him. In the process, she gets knocked into a big lake that's filled with a different type of alien. These ones churn up the water, create a giant wave, and chase off the Sun King. Mara is then, for some reason, hailed as a hero (even though it was the water creatures that actually did all the work).

The illustrations are this book's strongest part. I recall enjoying Leysen's work in another book of hers (one where I also wasn't enamoured with the story). It's a shame that the writing side of these books isn't as strong as the aesthetic side; if the two could come together, the books would really be something special.

I'd probably recommend this one to fans of the artist. As a book about imagination and encouraging girls to pursue STEM activities, it doesn't quite work.

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis Publishing for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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