Berkeley Breathed's Mars Needs Moms
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
It's hard for me to believe that it's been nearly 30 years since Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County premiered.
Bloom County was a comic for the ages - as funny, intelligent and relevant as Doonesbury, but a little more bizarre, and with a bit more heart. Berkeley Breathed scored a Pulitzer Prize for his work...then decided after a mere nine years that he'd had enough.
We thought we were all the poorer for the loss. We did, that is, until Berkeley started writing children's books.
Take, for instance, Breathed's 2007 Mars Needs Moms.
You might spot a hint of Breathed's old visual sensibility, though run through a computer for delightful modernizing and incredible detail.
(To quote: "The illustrations were created with virtual acrylics and virtual watercolor on 100% rag archival virtual illustration board.")
Think High Def Bloom County, right down to every nick and scratch on a brick wall, every lavender blemish on a martian's face.
But let's not let this focus on the visual suggest that Breathed has created anything less than a terrific and bizarre story with a soft, slightly warped heart.
Meet Milo (named for Breathed's own son - himself named for the main character in Norman Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth). Milo is kind of down on moms...particularly his own.
Milo sees his mom as the author of his misery. She's the person who makes him eat his carrots and take out the garbage and go to bed and stop dipping his sister in vats of purple paint.
Across the gulf of space, critters messy and unmothered regarded this planet [earth!] with envious eyes...
Yep - Mars NEEDS Moms...because martians don't have moms. As everyone knows, martians grow from the ground..."like potatoes." So all those eager martian kids are just waiting for a mom to get behind the wheel of their great big martian SUV and take them to a martian beach.
And so it's Milo's mom - perhaps since she seems so particularly unappeciated - that the eager martians choose to kidnap.
And, truth be told, Milo actually has a gem of a mom. Maybe Milo senses this as he witnesses her abduction and stows secretly aboard the getaway spaceship.
There are a couple surprises toward the end, and I choose not to give them away. Suffice to say that I found Mars Needs Moms! thoroughly satisfying - heartwarming AND fresh - and that I'm eager to explore Berkeley Breathed's other children's books, including:
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.