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This is one I’d been meaning to read for a while, and only put an actual hold on it when I flipped through the newly published sequel on our backroom new book shelf.
Zita the Space Girl
Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke.


When we meet Zita, she’s running through the woods being chased by her friend Joseph, whose notebook she’s stolen. Then something falls from the sky and crashes. She climbs into the small crater it left – it’s a large silver disc with a big red button. The timid Joseph urges her to leave it alone, but Zita is not the cautious type. She pushes the red button, which opens up a portal to a different planet. The terrified Joseph is sucked in immediately, and after some hesitation, Zita jumps in afterwards to rescue him. She finds herself in a crowded alien marketplace, with no sign of her friend. She is bright and friendly, so though this is clearly not a safe place for unattended children, she befriends a large porter, a giant mechanical mouse, and a somewhat shifty minstrel named Piper. It turns out that the planet they are on is going to be destroyed by a large asteroid in the near future. Everyone who can get out, is, while the aliens who own the planet believe that Joseph is the child of prophecy who is key to stopping the destruction. Even as Piper tells her that the castle where Joseph is being held is too far and the aliens too fierce for one girl to possibly make a difference, Zita sets out. Can she save both Joseph and the planet??? While Zita’s got courage in spades, it’s her kindness and friendliness that will win the day in the end. While you already know there are sequels (one just out, one due next fall), the story arc wraps up nicely in this book, even as it leaves room for Zita to still be the Spacegirl. Hatke both writes and illustrates this full color graphic novel. Zita and her friends are simply adorable, while the alien planet is populated by a wide array of aliens and robots that range from also adorable to adorably creepy. There are some short Zita webcomics up at for you to get a feel for it. This is the kind of wonderful all-ages story that’s perfect for both boys and girls, with action and character enough to satisfy a broad range of ages. Try Giants Beware for another scrappy girl hero and her friends in a fast-paced graphic novel adventure, or Korgi for slightly sweeter adventurous fare. I’m expecting Zita to end up on our permanent book shelf.

Drama

Oct. 5th, 2012 05:00 pm
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“Did you want to read this?” I asked my love, waving this as part of a stack of library books I was done with. I of course was on the hold list as soon as it was in the library catalog system, because I am in love with Raina Telgemeier, as I’ve mentioned before.
“No,” he said. “I was a band geek, not a drama nerd. Besides, that cover looks like a love triangle.” Then he picked it up and read the first couple of pages while scrambling our breakfast eggs. “I changed my mind,” he said. Over breakfast and after dinner that day, I heard him chuckling over it. He was done before breakfast the next day.

Drama
Drama by Raina Telgemeier.
Raina Telgemeier is back after 2010’s Smile. Where that was autobiographical, Drama takes us to a fictional middle school inspired by Telgemeier’s experiences. Eighth grade Callie, a winsome lass with long purple hair, loves musicals, and is thrilled to hear that her school will be putting on “Moon over Mississippi.” She doesn’t aspire to the stage – she knows she has a terrible voice. She and her group of nicely ethnically diverse friends, including best friend Liz, work backstage. Now that she’s in eighth grade, she’s put in charge of set design. She has grand dreams, the biggest of which is building a real exploding canon for the stage. But there’s plenty of drama of the middle school romance type as well. Her longtime crush Greg was has long been dating a snotty girl, but kisses Callie after they break up. Then Callie is crushed when he immediately starts avoiding her at school. Disappointment is short-lived, though, when two cute twins join the drama group. Outgoing and talented Justin tries out for a major role in the musical, but is up-front with Callie: he’s gay, so while he likes hanging out with her, he’s never going to be interested in her that way. Callie’s never met anyone gay in person before, so this takes a little mental adjusting. Shy Jesse, however, might still be available. He joins Callie in the backstage crew and bonds with her over beautiful books about the golden age of musicals. It’s a great balance of deep thoughts and laugh-out-loud funny moments. Even when lovesick, Callie throws herself wholeheartedly into the theater project, falling asleep over her canon experiments in the garage. On top of those two major themes, she still has to deal with regular homework and an overly curious little brother. Telgemeier presents serious topics in an engaging, light-hearted but never flippant way. Her drawings are a nice mix of Western and Japanese style, expressive and easy to follow. There is nothing more explicit than a little kissing, making this perfect for older middle grade students and up.

I thought really hard about readalikes for this and came up with a blank. Novels that address homosexuality for teens, sure – but middle schoolers are I think still not supposed to have any sexual feelings at all, straight or gay. That’s too bad, because I have vivid memories of some intense crushes at that age, but the more explicit teen romances would have been too much. If any of you, dear readers, can think of a book that would be a good fit, please let me know.

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