Crown Books for Young Readers: Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

Red Rover: Curiosity on Mars

"The little rover likes to roam. It leaves long, straight tracks as it goes./ The tracks play hide-and-seek... waiting for the rover to find them again." This rover sounds like a puppy dog--it's certainly as inquisitive and tenacious as one--but in reality it's an aluminum-wheeled, camera-outfitted vehicle combing the surface of Mars. Richard Ho lays out the mixed blessing that is this rover's fate midway through Red Rover: Curiosity on Mars: "The air is thin. The storms are strong./ You might get stuck in the sand./ Everything is..."--here the reader must open a gatefold--"RED as far as the eye can see. But it is beautiful." Until this point, readers have every reason to believe that the narrator is omniscient and without physical form, but this isn't so. The text resumes, "They call me Mars. I am not like your world."

Picture book first-timer Ho succeeds with a tough assignment: imbuing a rolling pile of nuts, bolts and gadgets with personality. Illustrator Katherine Roy (How to Be an Elephant) also has quite the challenge, given that the red planet isn't known for its rainbow color scheme. While faithful to a largely peach and russet palette, Roy offers variation by importing other hues in order to create shadows and watercolor-y skies. She also incorporates lots of popping inset art that will appeal to space cases whose pulses quicken at the sight of National Geographic spreads. Red Rover is a fine launchpad for kids with a budding interest in outer space, and it can also enhance the understanding of confirmed science geeks. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author