Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke

Great lines, huh? Lots of attitude!

Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl

Book review by Monica Friedman

Ages 8-12

Science Fiction Graphic Novel, for Kids, with a Strong Young Female Protagonist

From page one, Zita is a take charge, rough and tumble, fully empowered girl hero, even if she's not quite as good or thoughtful as she could be, at least not to start.

Zita the Spacegirl summary and review

In this colorful, imaginative graphic novel, rambunctious Zita, while teasing her friend Joseph, comes across a fresh meteorite crater, in which she finds a curious device featuring a large, red button.

After a frankly inadequate conversation on the possible consequences, Zita, naturally, pushes the button, resulting in a rift opening in the fabric of space, followed by the shy and quiet Joseph being kidnapped through the rift by some disembodied tentacles.

Then come three pages of graphic but wordless soul-searching, after which Zita pushes the red button again, this time jumping through the rift herself, in order to save her friend.

While some of the tropes on the other side may be familiar to science fiction readers—Zita finds herself in a bustling and confusing world, populated by countless robot aliens, all desperate to leave the planet before it is destroyed by an asteroid in three days’ time—the author breathes new life into the story by framing it as a children’s tale (the power of friendship figures largely into Zita’s actions and eventual success) and by giving the female lead all the agency she needs to accomplish her mission, while the hapless and passive male character plays the role of damsel in distress, waiting helplessly for rescue.

Zita's remorse at Joseph's disappearance redirects her energies in a positive way. Since it is her careless teasing that has brought her friend into a dangerous situation, her actions upon getting oriented on the Scriptorian home world remain focused and conscientious.

Review continues below.

Zita and Joseph with some Scriptorians. (Collaged image)

Zita becomes a role model as well as a hero.

She never loses her focus, even when she's near to giving up hope, and she never gives up her belief in the power of true friendship, even when she's betrayed by one of her newfound friends.

On her journey, her unfailing kindness gains her many allies, including Strong-Strong, a "Helpful. But not so clever," monster; Piper, a con man with a magical flute; and Mouse, who is simply a giant mouse that allows Zita to ride around on its back and communicates via a device on its collar that apparently prints its thoughts.

Joining her later are Randy and One, two very different robots with very human personalities.

Along with a variety of almost magical technology, including doorpaste ("the rarest and most valuable paste of them all") and "hoppin-stomp classics," Zita can't fail to come through for Joseph.

Ultimately, what makes Zita the Spacegirl such a brilliant and magical ride is its little hero's zest for life and her forceful determination to follow through. Even when things look hopeless, Zita never forgets her mission or her standards. Her ability to care, to forgive, and to self-sacrifice when appropriate - and where doing so can make a great difference for others - make her a powerful character, belying the expectation of what a little girl on her own can achieve.

More of Monica's reviews.

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