Zita the Spacegirl

Book Reviews

Zita the Spacegirl.
Hatke, Ben (author). Illustrated by Ben Hatke.
Feb. 2011. 188p. Roaring Brook/First Second, hardcover, $17.99 (9781596436954); Roaring Brook/First Second, paperback, $10.99 (9781596434462). Grades 3-6. 741.5.
REVIEW. First published November 15, 2010 (Booklist).

For no reason at all, a little red button crashes to earth while Zita and her pal Joseph are out cavorting around. Of course, no one could resist pushing a mystery button, which pops open an interdimensional portal that whisks Joseph away. Zita follows and lands on a delightfully bizarre alien planet, where she sees Joseph being captured by a tentacled, scuba-headed creature. She makes some allies, takes off after him, and zany mishaps and dashing adventures ensue. Any story in which one can escape prison with a tube of “doorpaste” (just like toothpaste, except that it makes magic doors appear when smeared on a wall) obviously puts more stock in wowing imaginations than satisfying logic, and it needs solid cartooning chops to back it up. Fortunately, Hatke’s got them, and he doles out an increasingly loony and charming array of aliens, robots, and unclassifiable blobs and hairy things for Zita (herself a cross between Ramona Quimby and a Matt Phelan waif) to encounter. It’s fun, plenty funny, and more than a little random. Kids will love it. — Ian Chipman
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Hatke, Ben.  Zita the Spacegirl; written and illus. by Ben Hatke.  First Second/Roaring Brook, 2011.  184p.
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-59643-695-4 $17.99
Paper ed. ISBN 978-1-59643-446-2 $10.99           R Gr. 3-6

While heroism may have always rested inside of Zita, she’s never really had much reason to act on it. That is, until her best friend, Joseph, is sucked into a vortex Zita accidentally creates (by pressing a button on a tiny box she finds), and she makes an instantaneous decision to send herself in after him. The planet where they both land will be destroyed by an asteroid in a few days, and Joseph is apparently part of a myth that the Scriptorians believe will save their planet (though it won’t go so well for Joseph himself). Zita frantically tries to find her friend, gathering a motley crew of human, animal, and robot allies as she slowly heads toward the castle where he is being held. Zita’s allies, brilliantly developed, are as neurotic, frightened, brash, and morally complex as Zita is staunchly heroic. Hatke’s muted landscape in this graphic novel works in perfect contrast with the often garishly colored alien life that skitters around this seemingly doomed planet. The amount of background detail fills out the story, inviting examination of the endless number of monster, alien, and robot inhabitants, even while the pace of the text itself is as fast as Zita has to be to save her friend before the world explodes. Varied panel sizes impact tone and control the pacing, for example slowing the reader with a sudden full-page spread to emphasize the daunting nature of a particular task. While the conclusion clearly insists on a sequel, readers are likely to be quite satisfied with an end that suggests many more adventures for Zita and her alien friends.  AS


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