Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl

Zita is a pretty typical 10-year-old who spends her time doing average 10-year-old things. Unlike her more reticent best friend, Joseph, Zita revels in leaping before looking. So when the duo stumbles upon a smoking crater with a strange-looking device, Zita’s impulses get the better of her and she pushes the big, red button in the center. Before she can say “oops,” a portal materializes out of thin air, pulling Joseph into its embrace before winking out of existence once more.

Her immediate response is one even grownups are familiar with: to run, panicked, in the other direction. But then a different sort of emotion kicks in. Recovering the device, Zita reactivates the portal, plunging headfirst into the breach. When she finally comes to on the other side, it’s on a brave new planet, one that shares more in common with Tatooine than Oz or Narnia.

Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke
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Ben Hatke has a gift for conveying a range of human expressions with a few deft strokes. For all her bravado and impetuousness, there’s little doubt from the uncertainty in her face that Zita’s been thrust into an impossible situation.

For all her bravado and impetuousness, there’s little doubt that Zita’s been thrust into an impossible situation.

But Zita’s mission doesn’t leave a lot of room for getting over her culture shock. She’s already on the clock: an oncoming asteroid threatens to reduce everything—and everyone—into cosmic dust.

Together with a charismatic rogue named Piper, a giant mouse that communicates via ticker tape, a cantankerous “mobile battle orb,” and a simple-minded giant who calls himself Strong-Strong, Zita sets out to rescue Joseph from becoming the prophesied Messiah (or was it the sacrificial victim?) of a doomsday cult.

Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke
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Zita’s journey from frightened little girl to the Spacegirl of subsequent legend isn’t an easy one. Aside from a pair of quake-making gravity boots she borrowed from Piper, Zita possesses nothing that sets her apart from the ordinary. But children are nothing if not resilient. And despite numerous setbacks, Zita grows in self-assurance, mettle, and compassion as she forges her own path.

Zita grows in self-assurance and mettle as she forges her own path.

The ending of Zita the Spacegirl doesn’t bring us closure but rather expands upon the promise of a wider universe. Although Zita is estranged from Earth, she’s far from alone.

“What are we waiting for?” she chides her companions as she races toward a nearby spacecraft. “I’ll just have to take the long way home.”

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Zita the Spacegirl
Written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
192 pp. First Second. $12.99.
(Graphic novel; ages 9-12)

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