Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 212

Zita The Spacegirl

by Ben Hatke
Genre: young readers, space adventure
3 vols
ISBN: 1596434465 (Amazon)

One of the biggest joys of the last several years has been all the notes of thanks I've received for recommending Ben Hatke's Zita The Spacegirl. Little emails, tweets, vines (when those were a thing), instagram photos tagged to me, people stopping me in Starbucks. Pictures of kids holding up Zita The Spacegirl. Video reviews with kids saying how good the books are and thanking me for recommending them. Stories of little girls going to sleep clutching a volume. It's amazing, and playing a part in kids finding a story to inhabit fills me with a tremendous sense of joy.

Zita The Spacegirl is a very good graphic novel series. And it gets better with every volume. When kids get to the third volume, it knocks their socks off. Zita the Spacegirl (and its follow-ups) relates the adventures of a reluctant hero, Zita, a girl sucked from our end of the galaxy to another end of another galaxy. It’s Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey—only instead of two dogs and a cat, it’s just a lone lost girl who becomes something bigger than she is. And it is a superb read for kids, and probably pretty fun for grown-ups.

And really, as much as I love hearing about how much these children love Hatke's books, the thing I love most about Zita The Spacegirl is how much my own daughter loves the series. Just as other children do, she has often been found sleeping with one volume or another of the series. Her fourth birthday party was themed around Zita. She renamed my wife Strong Strong, just because. She wanted me and her to somehow learn to fly so that she can be Five and I can be Eight for Halloween that year. And that was all before she found out that the third volume was coming out.

Somewhere around the Christmas before it released in May (five months later), I told her the news: that the third and final book in the Zita series was coming in a few months. She was awestruck. She couldn't wait. And then I suggested the impossible—that maybe, if she worked really hard, she might be able to learn to read in time enough to read it to me instead of the other way around. And that was all it took. My four-year-old daughter was alight and spent the intervening five months trying to learn to read. She had "school" every day with her mother, learning letters, learning phonemes. She demanded to learn. I was blown away by the determination Hatke's series has inspired in my daughter. By the time the final book came out, she was reading sentences and pointing out the names of stores on signs. At the beginning of that April when I told her that The Return Of Zita The Spacegirl would come out in a month, she asked if I could make it wait eight more months so that she could be totally and completely ready. She loves Zita's story so much that she's willing to put in an hour of work every day of her own initiative—just for the potential joy of being able to curl up with the book whenever she wants and not have to rely upon either another reader or memorization. I would love any book that could open the floodgates to the whole history of narrative excellence to one of my children. And so I love Zita The Spacegirl. Not only for the very cool little space adventure it is, but for the lifetime of Story that it initiated for my daughter.

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Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

3 Stars = Good
2 Stars = Ok
1 Star = Bad

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