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Review: The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl Ben Hatke First Second, 2014The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Ben Hatke
First Second, 2014

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl really couldn’t be published fast enough!

I couldn’t wait to read the last of Zita’s space trilogy. I love Zita. I want to be Zita. Her outfit is utilitarian but practical. She’s spunky without being annoying; determined without being bratty. I truly wish I had had Zita to look up to when I was younger. She couldn’t be a better role model for doing one’s own preteen thing with bravery, resourcefulness, and thoughtfulness.

My own hero worship aside, I have been so excited about the new Zita book because it’s such a good overall story. The art is engaging, the characters distinctly voiced, and entire societal structures are instantly recognizable.

returnofzitathespacegirlThe fluidity of the artwork is simply stunning. Whether a star is traveling through the galaxy or the first wobbling dance steps of skeleton and rag pile, the reader can easily sense all the motion implied in between panels. The mostly pastel color palette allows the whimsy of even a terrifying character to come through, keeping Zita’s journey tame enough for even the most timid reader. All of these visual accomplishments are pretty fantastic. What I find most impressive is the approachability of Zita’s journey; yes, across the universe, but more importantly her journey of figuring out herself. That is the very relatable kernel of truth at the heart of all three books. That a young girl who’s rough around the edges can find her place. A place she’s stomped through space to find.

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl Ben Hatke First Second, 2014After a couple of pages of impressive establishment shots, we finally focus on Zita the Spacegirl’s anguished face. She’s in chains and being tried, very unfairly, by a cloaked judge. Her beloved Mouse cowers above her in a cage suspended from the ceiling. She is found guilty of crimes she (mostly) didn’t commit and promptly thrown by giant robots down a hole in the floor. During her imprisonment, Zita makes new friends, alleviates the suffering of fellow prisoners, and uses her creativity to hatch an escape plan. When the dastardly master plot of a full Earth invasion is revealed, Zita, as well as beloved characters from this and the previous two books, join together to foil that plan. Galactic hijinx ensue!

Zita the Spacegirl Ben Hatke First Second, 2012The Return of Zita the Spacegirl is a very fun read and a great continuation of the series. However, as cinematic and engaging as this installment is, there is very little back story included. Therein lies my one problem with The Return of Zita the Spacegirl. The reader is thrown directly into the action of the trial, which is very thrilling… although for those of us who dearly love Zita, but can not clearly remember the closing note of the last installment off the top of one’s head, also confusing. From that first moment’s of disorientation, there are more and more references to past characters and events. It’s cinematic, which is very attention grabbing. However, the book lacks the point of reference many readers seek at the beginning of an children’s serial installment. For those who may pick up this book entirely unversed in Zita lore, I fear the entire plot would be lost.

Be sure to pick up the first two books and read them right before The Return of Zita the Spacegirl. Why not put on your green cape, snuggle up with a mouse, and make an afternoon out of it?