Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #1, Lost Race of Mars

This is it, folks. We've come to the last installment of this October series counting down my favorite Scholastic covers. (As those of you from my generation know, these were some of the books we grew up with. We'd get the Scholastic Book Club brochure in our language arts class, place our orders, and then anxiously await the arrival of our books.)

So here is the final gorgeous cover...

  • Title: Lost Race of Mars
  • Author: Robert Silverberg
  • Illustrator: Leonard Kessler
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Second printing, March 1964
  • Excerpt:
    "It was another hour before the Mars kitten was officially theirs. First Dr. Chambers gave the little creature a thorough examination to make sure it had no concealed poison fangs or other harmful features. Sometimes the most innocent-looking animals contain deadly poison. But the Mars kitten got a clean bill of health. It was as harmless as it looked. And it seemed to take to Jim and Sally at once. Because the air in the laboratory had almost ten times as much oxygen as the Mars kitten was accustomed to breathing, it got 'oxygen drunk' and wobbled about in a silly way."
  • Notes: What a wonderful cover this is for the grand finale! It this doesn't stir your nostalgia for Scholastic books then I probably cannot help you. It takes you decades back in time with its innocent design, straightforward approach and hilariously fabulous illustration by Leonard Kessler. ...
    The clincher is the cat. Because of course a science-fiction tale about a trip to Mars, aimed at a juvenile audience, would include a cat along for the ride. That's an absolutely logical plot development, within a framework of fantasy fun and adventure.1 ... Author Robert Silverberg, now 79, is a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master of science fiction. Even a partial bibliography of his works scrolls on and on. If you're a reader, he's a writer worth discovering. In this 2009 Los Angeles Times profile by Scott Timberg, which begins with a discussion of Silverberg's 1972 novel Dying Inside, Silverberg states, "I was getting tired of what the academics call the tropes of science fiction. I didn't want any more space battles or aliens." Also in that article, fellow author Jonathan Lethem says, "Silverberg's only hallmark is quality. And in a crowded literary world, that may be the most difficult thing of all."2 ... Lost Race of Mars, originally published in 1960s, is well loved. One Amazon.com reviewer wrote this in 2002: "This is the first science fiction book I ever read! It changed my life as I read about the expolits of two children living in a Mars colony. The young boy and girl discover that there is, indeed, life on Mars. This is an excellent book to introduce science fiction to a child. Well-written with science facts yet the two protaganists are likeable and interesting. If you love science fiction, share this with your children and spark that same love in them!" ... As far as the creator of the illustration that helped to land this book in the #1 slot, I am happy to say that Kessler has been featured previously on Papergreat. He was the topic of the May 2012 post "Kessler's sports books touted on Greenwillow Books bookmark." He remains a featured author at Purple House Press, which, by the way, has issued reprint editions of several of the Scholastic books in this series. ... Final note: I purchased this book for $1.50 earlier this year at the York Emporium. (The Scholastic title I've written about this month were acquired on the cheap at local bookstores, books sales and yard sales.)

1. I wonder if Matthew McConaughey takes a cat along on his trip in Interstellar?
2. Here are some more Silverberg links, if you want to dive into the rabbit hole...


  1. I think I may have read this novel as a kid. Was the name of the alien pet, "Yank?" So named because it had red, white, and blue fur? If so, I think I'd like to read it again.

    1. No, I don't think that is this book. There's no creature named Yank with red, white and blue fur. ... Not sure what book you're thinking of, but I'll look around.

  2. The cat on the cover is called "Mitten". He is a Mars equivalent of a cat and the kids get to keep him as a substitute for their earth cat, Chipper, they had to leave behind. Mitten comes from Mars Kitten.