As I mentioned in the last Fiction Friday, I recently began reading James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake and it's just about as impenetrable as I expected. While I'm continuing to read it, very slowly, I took a quick break and spent the other day reading a children's graphic novel that I bought when it came out. It sat on my shelf for years, and little did I know that in the meantime, it has become kind of a phenomenon. After reading it, I can see why.
Zita the Spacegirl: Book One Far from Home by Ben Hatke
(First Second, 2010)
Some of my favorite stories are ones where children accidentally find themselves in middle of a chaotic situation only to discover that they are the hero the story has been searching for. When a mysterious device transports Zita to another world on the brink of disaster, she must rely on her own instincts and courage to rescue her friend.
Despite the obvious peril looming over this strange new place, Zita remains determined to save her friend who has been captured by a group of aliens who believe the little boy is destined to save the planet. Her kind spirit wins over other outcasts like herself, and with a bit of luck and a lot of grit, the reader is never in doubt of her ability to succeed. But that's not to say the action isn't any less enthralling.
This is easily one of the best graphic novels targeted to children that I've encountered. Unlike much of the releases in recent years, this was obviously conceived of as a graphic novel and relies on the interplay between the art and the text to tell a deeper, more complicated story, which is what graphic novels do best. The story is adventurous, suspenseful, and witty...three perfect ingredients for a children's book. Though the main character is the clear star, each of the major characters are well developed and lovable. Superb storytelling in every way!