MARS IS: Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, and Startling Surprises (+ Mars Freebies!)

Mars fascinates me!

It’s Earth’s closest neighbor in the solar system, and we can see Mars faint reddish light with our own eyes. With the recent landing of Perseverance rover, Mars seems to be in the news more than ever. So with great enthusiasm I introduce a new picture book, MARS IS, which shares jaw-dropping photos of Mars.

Three years ago, while doing an author event at Chicago’s fantastic indy bookstore, 57th Street Books, I spotted an adult title, MARS: THE PRISTINE BEAUTY OF THE RED PLANET.

The fabulous 57th Street Books in Chicago

Inside, I discovered the most gorgeous photos of Mars I’ve ever seen. They took my breath away!

Huge Mars Crater

The images were color enhanced to allow scientists to see details on Mars their eyes couldn’t ordinarily detect. The photos were taken by a camera called HiRISE, and they were public domain! (Beautiful words to a nonfiction author, especially a space-geek like me.)

Slabs of carbon dioxide ice near Mars’ frigid South Pole

So I began researching HiRISE, the most powerful camera ever sent to another planet. It launched from Earth in August 2005, soared through space for 7 months, then began orbiting Mars in March 2006.

HiRISE is riding on a spacecraft called the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (or MRO for short.)

Artist rendering of MRO (with HiRISE aboard)

HiRISE has taken 69,000 photos of Mars in the past 15 years and is still sending new ones today.

Each image is transmitted roughly 140,000 miles to Earth, which takes about 15 minutes.

Fresh, impact crater on Mars

I couldn’t wait to share these photos and fascinating Mars features with young readers, so I considered various book ideas. This brainstorming process involved lots of scribbling on papers: title ideas, Mars features I wanted to include, a list of descriptive words, book organization outline, etc.

After much consideration, I decided “Mars Is” worked great as a title and a text repeater line to drive the story and introduce these amazing pictures.

Of course, there was much more information I wanted to include. So sidebars and an extensive back matter came to the rescue!

After studying Mars while working on MARS IS for three years, I believe the last spread of the book says it all:

* * * * * * * * * MARS FREEBIES FOR EVERYONE! * * * * * * * *

NASA’s Mars Photo Booth – Take a photo of yourself on Mars (or in mission control)

Sounds of Mars – Record a message and hear how your voice sounds on Mars

Send your name to Mars – And get your own Mars Boarding Pass!

MARS IS book trailer – See amazing HiRISE photos of Mars

HiRISE Catalog – Check out all of HiRISE’s phenomenal Mars photos

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Last month’s blog post winner of June Almeida, Virus Detective! was Terry Jacobsen! 🙂

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at:


  1. Congratulations, Suzanne! You is amazing!

  2. Carole Calladine

    What a gorgeous book. I will look for it. Thanks for sharing your passion.

  3. Wow! Suzanne! What a goldmine!!! And you are just the person to make it accessible for younger readers. So great having a peek at your brainstorming. Mars looks beautiful. Congratulations!!!

  4. Thanks for a peek into your process. What an amazing planet and amazing journey for you as an author, Suzanne. I need to get some of your books!

  5. A-MAZ-ING and BEAU-TI-FUL! And thank you for all the fun toys. I’ve never seen such an interactive and educational Picture Book Builder post.

  6. I’m so glad you like all the fun Mars activities. NASA creates some awesome resources, so I enjoy sharing them with others!

  7. All I can say is WOW! I absolutely love the pictures and all the fabulous information.
    Just like earth it’s a patchwork quilt of landscapes.

  8. That is so fascinating. Congratulations, Suzanne! Gorgeous pics and beautiful writing!

  9. Wow! This book is perfect for kids…and adults.

  10. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    Oh, this book looks awesome!

  11. How amazing how you found this Mars idea! Congratulations!

  12. This is great! And public domain images! Yay! Congratulations!

  13. You’re so right Deb! Mars is full of landscapes and features just like Earth: volcanos, deserts, cliffs — it’s just missing our wonderful water.

  14. This is SO COOL Suzanne!! Thank you for sharing about this awesome book and I just love hearing how the strike of that idea and the process of making it. Congrats!

  15. Cynthia Wyszynski

    The Mars ticket is the coolest.thing.ever.

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