“Life on Mars” by Jon Agee
Doing something despite the odds and despite what the crowds of people around you say takes some real courage. That is what this little astronaut does when he heads out on a mission to Mars to prove his theory that there really is life there. Outfitted with nothing but his hope and a box of chocolate cupcakes as a gift to whatever lifeforms he may meet, he headed out on his mission.
Once on Mars he does some exploring to see if he can find what he believes must be there. The text is sparse and the illustrations simplistic which creates an open, mysterious and even lonely feeling to the book. The real twist and fun comes when you as the reader notice a large, shy alien that curiously follows our little astronaut friend around. However, the astronaut doesn’t seem to notice. In fact, he still doesn’t notice when the alien picks up his box of cupcakes left on the ground beside him and carries it off to inspect and then eat them.
The ending is my favorite when the little astronaut discovers a flower and heads home with it as his proof of life on Mars. On this journey home he decides to open up his returned cupcake box and is surprised to find only crumbs inside. Children will get the biggest kick out of knowing what happened to them, especially because they are in on a delightful secret the main character knows nothing about.
Galaxy Cupcakes inspired by “Life on Mars”
As soon as I heard that our little astronaut friend took cupcakes as his gift with him to Mars I knew that this was a book after my own heart. I mean, if you were headed to Mars to search for lifeforms, wouldn’t you choose chocolate cupcakes as your “nice to meet you” gift?!
It is interesting to note that the cupcakes are never really shown in the illustrations, just the box and the leftover crumbs after they are gone. This meant that I could really take some liberty in creating the type of chocolate cupcakes I would take on such an expedition. In the end I decided that galaxy chocolate cupcakes would do just the trick.
I didn’t really create a recipe for these cupcakes because I wanted to keep them simple and basic so they were “kid cook friendly”. I’m so glad I did because my toddler was thrilled to help me make these and was so proud of the results. We used a basic chocolate cake mix and a basic buttercream frosting recipe. I have the steps for creating the galaxy frosting below. It is so easy and fun to do. After the frosting is piped on in a swirl you just sprinkle on some star sprinkles (we used these silver ones from Wilton and loved them) and you are good to go.
- Mix up your favorite batch of buttercream or cream cheese frosting. (Or just pull out some store bought frosting, I won’t judge!)
- Separate your frosting into three portions in three bowls.
- Using food coloring, color one blue, one purple, and one silver. (I just used red, blue, pink and black gel food coloring in mine until I got the shades I wanted.)
- Prop your piping bag up in a tall glass and using a standard dinner spoon, spoon in dollop sized amounts of each color of frosting in an alternating pattern. They should all just clump and gather inside the piping bag without really mixing.
- Next, pipe your frosting on your cupcakes in a swirl pattern that starts in the center and then builds as it goes around. Use a closed start piping nozzle and keep you tip relatively close to the top of the cupcake at an equal distance the whole time.
If you give this Beyond the Book activity a try I’d love to hear how it goes! Share it on Instagram using hashtag #beyondthebook (I’m on Instagram as @book.nerd.mommy) or even just comment here with your thoughts. It would make my day! Or to simply save for later pin the image below.