When NASA announces the crew of the upcoming Mars mission, Meteor the Mousetronaut is, shockingly, not on the list.
No matter; the little mouse isn’t about to let his training go to waste. He packs his spacesuit and stows away on the Galaxy, floating out to scavenge crumbs while the human crew sleeps. After six months, the Galaxy reaches Mars orbit—but one of the landing craft’s engines fails, and the remaining one isn’t strong enough to transport even one human. Meteor volunteers for duty and, equipped with a tiny American flag, descends to the Red Planet to gather rock samples. Six months later, he returns to Earth to be welcomed as a hero with the other astronauts. While this story inevitably lacks the freshness of Meteor’s debut (Mousetronaut, 2012), Kelly’s prose and storytelling have matured, and Meteor’s enthusiasm is as infectious as ever. Payne’s delightfully regular-looking, multiethnic and gender-inclusive crew displays the same winning combination of heroism and lumpiness (the mission commander has an endearingly potatolike face) that distinguished the first adventure. Perhaps what’s most striking about this book, though, is the four-page afterword, in which Kelly summarizes the history of Mars exploration and discusses the potential for a real manned mission. His eloquence in advocating for a vigorous space program bespeaks both passion and experience.
Rodent or no, Meteor sure is one heck of a space ambassador. (Picture book. 4-8)