Zita the Spacegirl is one of those perfect YA science fiction stories that you wish had been written years ago so you could have read it as a kid — which means that you’re gonna want to get this book in the hands of a child in your life. Just make sure you get a chance to read it first.
The story begins when Zita and her friend find a strange object that has fallen from space — a square, hand-held device with a big, red button on it. Just imagine what you’d do: Would you press that button? Guess what the young child Zita does? That’s right — she presses the button. Instantly, a door of light opens before her and the arms — tentacles? — of a strange creature reach into our world and grab Zita’s friend. Zita runs away in terror to think about what she’s just seen and what she should do.
As you’d expect, she goes to talk to her parents and spends the rest of the book waiting for her parents to figure out some way to save her friend. She is then reunited with her friend at the end of the comic. They live happily ever after.
You don’t really believe a word of that, do you? Like many great adventures written for children, we never see the main character’s parents or any other adults on earth, and the young child must take on adult responsibilities. Zita decides she is to blame for her friend’s kidnapping, and therefore she must fix everything. And why not since she’s got the mysterious device? So she presses the red button once again, and steps into her adventure.
In this review, I can’t begin to do justice to Hatke’s vivid imagination in coming up with such a wide variety of creatures and machines and inhabitants of the world Zita enters. Some seem kind but are dangerous, some are boisterous but benign, and still others threaten her before becoming her closest allies. In this world we finally see adults, but they are strange and unpredictable and difficult to judge.
The story’s tension is created by several factors other than the unpredictability of those she encounters: First, she soon realizes getting back to earth is not going to be easy. Secondly, to make her being stranded even more frightening, Zita realizes that everyone is abandoning the planet because it’s about to be destroyed by an approaching asteroid. And she can’t find her friend or get off the planet herself. Finally, she finds out that the recusing her friend will require a major mission dependent upon her finding new friends and building a team on a strange planet.
Zita the Spacegirl is a delight. As you can tell, I highly recommend it. The dialogue is funny, the art is stunning, and the plot is compelling. Your kids will love it. Both my children — 8 and 11 — enjoyed it and the second volume. The third volume comes out in less than two months. Even though it’s a continuing story and you’ll want to find out what happens next, unlike some comics and novels in a series, it has enough closure to give a sense of satisfaction as you come to the final page. Do not pass this book up.