Simon, Seymour. Planet Mars. Chronicle Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0811854054 32 pp. $6.99
This repackaged version of Simon’s Destination Mars (HarperCollins, 2000) is a fact-filled photographic journey to the red planet, updated with the most current Mars research findings. The 32 pages explore the possibility of life on Mars, unmanned scientific missions to the planet, and statistics about it’s size, distance, topography, and satellites. Information for the most part is related simply, comparing Mars’ qualities to Earth counterparts such as Mount Everest and the Grand Canyon. Short straightforward sentences don’t leave enough room to explain or define concepts such as early Rome and it’s polytheistic religion, polar ice caps, or the impact of discovering bacteria fossils in meteorites from Mars. Most words contain fewer than two syllables, and proper names appear with in text pronunciation guides. The levels on the back mark this volume as for readers in grades Pre-K to 1; this seems to be a bit unrealistic.
The text is large and lettering is high contrast for beginning readers, but the design technique of placing a colored block that matches the tones in the photo, rather than contrasts them, give a dull and static tone to the images. The photos, courtesy of NASA and ESA, are beautiful and majestic, but the small format doesn’t do them justice. There are no source notes, glossary, or index–although not traditional in easy readers, this is a work of nonfiction, and should contain a bibliography at the very least. Purchase in paperback.