Gabbing About Graphic Novels: Zita the Spacegirl…

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gabbing-about-graphic-novels

Well it’s only been a few days since I borrowed a stack of graphic novels from the library, but I’ve already chewed through a couple of them and it’s time to focus in on Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl series.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Zita’s life took a cosmic left turn in the blink of an eye.

When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet. Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero. Before long, aliens in all shapes and sizes don’t even phase her. Neither do ancient prophecies, doomed planets, or even a friendly con man who takes a mysterious interest in Zita’s quest.

Zita the Spacegirl is a fun, captivating tale of friendship and redemption from Flight veteran Ben Hatke. It also has more whimsical, eye-catching, Miyazaki-esque monsters than you can shake a stick at.

zita-the-spacegirl

Target Age Range: 

Middle grade and above

Genre:

Sci fi

Art Style:

Cartoonish and chock full of heart

Reading time:

I knocked this one over in about twenty minutes.

Let’s get gabbing:

Before I get into this book too much, I should point out that we Shelf-dwellers just love Ben Hatke.  It started with Nobody Likes A Goblin and now we are on a mission to acquire and read all of his work.  We already had Return of Zita the Spacegirl on our TBR shelf, but it was suggested that we read the first in the series before trying that one, so we were lucky enough to find this at our local library.

Plot wise, Zita and her friend Joseph are transported to another world after giving in to temptation and pushing a big red button that fell out of the sky.  The two are immediately separated and it is up to Zita to find Joseph and see them safely home, before the planet they are on is destroyed by a fiery meteor – nothing like a bit of time pressure to spice things up!.  Along the way, Zita meets some friendly and not-so-friendly folk and eventually has to make a decision about whether or not she is ready to return home.

The strength of this tale is in the characters.  From Zita herself to each and every character of whom we are given just a glimpse in the background frames, Hatke brings this story to life with all manner of weird and wonderful folk.  There’s Strong-Strong, a big, brown Domo-kun-like character with a heart of gold, Pizzicato, a mouse with some gnarly armour, and a vengeful and righteous killer robot named One, to name just a few.  Hatke has an incredible knack for drawing characters to which the reader can be sympathetic, even if they’re reasonably villainous.  They’ve inspired Mad Martha to create them in crochet before and as we were paging through Zita’s story, it was obvious that Mad Martha was ticking off on her fabric fingers which characters she would like to make next.

The story is more complicated than the basic rescue-a-friend, save-the-world plot type, with difficult decisions being thrown up along the way.  Zita also has to think on her feet and go with her gut about who to trust and who to avoid if she is to find her way home safely.  There are some delightfully creative inclusions here and there, my favourite of which is Door Paste – like a tube of toothpaste, but it creates a a door if you smear it on a flat surface.  Perfect for quick escapes!

Overall snapshot:

Hatke has done it again with Zita’s adventures.  If you are (or know of) a fan of science fiction, delightful artwork, exciting adventures, themes of friendship and loyalty and strong female protagonists, you must get your claws on Zita the Spacegirl.

And now here’s Return of Zita the Spacegirl, which is book three in the series.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Ben Hatke brings back our intrepid space heroine for another delightful sci-fi/fantasy adventure in this New York Times-Bestselling graphic novel trilogy for middle grade readers.

Zita the Spacegirl has saved planets, battled monsters, and wrestled with interplanetary fame. But she faces her biggest challenge yet in the third and final installment of the Zita adventures. Wrongfully imprisoned on a penitentiary planet, Zita has to plot the galaxy’s greatest jailbreak before the evil prison warden can execute his plan of interstellar domination!

return-of-zita

Target Age Range: 

Middle grade and above

Genre:

Sci fi

Art Style:

Cartoonish and chock full of heart

Reading time:

As above, this was about twenty minutes uninterrupted reading

Let’s get gabbing:

You may have picked up that I skipped book two in the series, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, because the library didn’t have it (boo!).  This wasn’t too much of a drama because the opening scenes cleverly work some of the key points from books one and two into the dialogue between Zita and her captor.  Yes, this book begins with Zita imprisoned and seemingly helpless, although it is apparent that in book two she had been gadding about making a name for herself across the galaxy and fostering the reputation of someone not to be trifled with.

The plot focuses on Zita’s attempts to escape her prison by finding a jump crystal with which she can power up the red-button thingy and take herself back home.  Along the way she is helped out by a mysterious masked boy and her cellmates, a skeleton named Femur who possesses some very interestingly shaped digits, and Ragpile, an animated pile of rags.  I absolutely loved the little twist at the end concerning Ragpile and Femur and it encapsulates the ingenuity and humour that is woven into these stories.  Old friends also make an appearance, including Pizzicato, Strong-Strong and One, as well as some folk from the second book who I hadn’t met before, most interesting of which being a space-pirate type lady and her mysterious cat.

Zita’s adventures eventually find her back on Earth and even though it is claimed that this is the final story in the series, the ending holds a little hope that there might be more.

Overall snapshot:

This was an action packed way to finish the series, full of escapes, ingenious ideas and teamwork.  Themes of betrayal and forgiveness loom large and the ensemble cast of characters ensures that there’ll be something for everyone in Zita’s final adventure.

I’m submitting Return of Zita the Spacegirl for my Mount TBR Reading ChallengeMount TBR Reading Challenge for 2017! You can check out my progress here.

Also, I can’t find a space to fit them on the blog, but I have also read and reviewed Livingstone Volume 1 and Bloody Chester from my stack of borrowed graphic novels.  Click on the book titles to see my reviews on Goodreads.

Until next time,

Bruce

TBR Friday: Book Uncle and Me

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TBR Friday

Welcome to my first TBR Friday for 2017!  I have made it a goal to read at least one book from my TBR stack each month, with a goal of completing Pike’s Peak level – 12 books – on Bev’s Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017 by the end of the year.  Today’s book is not only going to count toward that challenge, but also Bev’s Colour Coded Challenge, the Epistolary Reading Challenge AND the PopSugar Reading Challenge in category five: a book written by a person of colour!  Boom!

Today’s book is Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Nine-year-old Yasmin intends to read a book a day for the rest of her life. Book Uncle, who runs a free lending library on the street corner, always has the perfect book for her. But when Book Uncle seems to be in trouble, Yasmin has to take her nose out of her book and do something. With the elections coming up and the grown-ups busy with their own affairs, what difference can Yasmin and her friends possibly make? Will they get help from Karate Samuel, the eccentric superstar who’s standing for Mayor? Yasmin gets to work, ideas begin to fly like feathers, and soon everything starts to spin – out of control.

book uncle and me.jpg

Ten Second Synopsis:
Yasmin has a goal to read a book a day for the rest of her life, ably aided by Book Uncle, the man who runs a free little lending library on the corner of Yasmin’s street. When Book Uncle receives a notice from the Council that he must close his book stand, Yasmin must find a way to change Council’s mind and bring books back to her community.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

About six months or so.

Acquired:

Purchased from Booktopia’s bargain section after recently having put it on my TBR list.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

It’s short, easily readable and therefore easy to ignore.

Best Bits:

  • Even though this is a short book, it’s chock full of underlying social issues and culturally interesting elements just ripe for discussion by young readers
  • Yasmin is delightfully flawed and determined and compassionate and an all around charming heroine.  She speaks without thinking, then feels guilty for it, then tries to rectify her mistakes, then manages to mobilise a whole lot of strangers to her cause simply through her passion for it. If you are looking for realistic female protagonists in early chapter books, then look no further!
  • This book celebrates books and the people who read them.  It celebrates the power of books to change people’s lives in big and small ways, and to bring people together who otherwise have little in common.
  • This book wasn’t written to be a “diverse” book, but if you aren’t an Indian person reading it, it certainly fulfills that criteria.  The story itself is completely transferable to any Western classroom in which civic education is a priority, but there are also lots of parts of the story that will inspire discussion about difference – particularly issues of access to free lending library resources and election processes.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • None.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Yes.

Where to now for this tome?

I may donate this one to the mini-fleshling’s school library.

If you would like to check out my progress in each of my various challenges you can check them out in the links in the header, under 2017 Challenges

 colour-coded-reading-challenge epistolatory-reading-challenge-2017

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Mount TBR Challenge 2017: I’m Climbing On Again!

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Even though I only discovered this challenge this year, I have found it so useful that I’m hopping on board again for 2017.  Bev at My Reader’s Block is a challenge queen and hosts this one yearly to get people motivated to start tackling their ever-growing TBR piles.  This year I signed up at the lowest level, Pike’s Peak, or 12 books and I have just recently achieved it, with a few extras added to the tally by the end of the year hopefully.  If you are interested in the challenge, just click on the image above to be taken to the sign up page, where you can find all the information about rules and restrictions and, most importantly, challenge levels.

I have decided in 2017 that I am going to once again attempt the lowest level of Pike’s Peak.  Twelve books was manageable this year, and I think committing to one book a month isn’t so daunting that I’ll feel too much pressure, but will nonetheless make a dint in my TBR stack.  I’m actually so motivated to keep at this challenge that I’ve already chosen the twelve books I’d like to tackle!

2017-mount-tbr-challenge-books-2

They are, in no particular order…

The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

A middle grade fantasy romp that I wanted to read for ages, so decided to chuck it in with a laybuy I was putting on at Big W.  I really wanted the edition with the prettier cover, but I saw my chance to own it and took it.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

A middle grade historical mystery that came out slightly after the first book in the Wells & Wong series by Robin Stevens.  I finally scored this one as a birthday gift, but haven’t got to it yet.

Takeshita Demons by Cristy Burne

A middle grade yokai story.  I stumbled across the first three books in this series at the Library cast-off book shop and picked them up because I just couldn’t walk past any book featuring Japanese ghosties.  I’ve been desperately wanting to have at this series, so I’m making the time in 2017. Hopefully I’ll finish the three books I’ve got, not just this first one.

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

A middle grade mystery featuring smugglers!  I first put this on pre-order back in mid 2014, when it was originally released.  I put the pre-order on the paperback, which was releasing in the middle of 2015.  I figured I could wait that long.  Then the release date got pushed out to September of 2015.  I was tetchy, but accepted this.  THEN the release date got pushed out to September 2016!  Needless to say, I was cheesed.  It finally arrived last month, so since I’ve been waiting on it so long, it’s going in the challenge.  It has since won some awards though, so it should be worth the wait.

Home to Mother by Doris Pilkington

This is the children’s edition of the story of Australia’s Stolen Generations, immortalised in the book and film Rabbit-Proof Fence.  I spotted this one in an op-shop last week and snapped it up.

Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Ritter

This is the second book in the Jackaby fantasy mystery series.  I pre-ordered this one a while back, since I enjoyed the first book.  My anticipation has waned somewhat during the wait (and I think the third book is out now too), but if I don’t add this one to the challenge, it may continue to be overlooked.

Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Sideways Stories from Wayside School from so many different bloggers that when I saw this one at the Library cast-off bookshop I snapped it up.  Louis Sachar is always a fun read, so I don’t think I can go too far wrong here.

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant

I bought this one from the BD when I was in need of some bookish retail therapy.  Just haven’t got around to it yet.

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami

I had seen this little early middle grade title on a couple of “recommended” lists and then it popped up at Booktopia for two bucks or some other ridiculously cheap price so I had to have it.  I initially thought this was set in Japan, but on closer inspection, it’s actually India.  Not sure how I made that error, given the author’s obviously Indian (and super awesome!) surname.

The Bromeliad by Terry Pratchet

This is the omnibus edition made up of Truckers, Diggers and Wings.  I have read Terry Pratchet’s Discworld books before but never loved his work, but when I heard about this trilogy (maybe from SteJ at Book to the Future?) I thought I might investigate.  After reading a preview of the first chapter and finding myself guffawing after the first page, I decided I had to have it.

Henry and the Guardians of the Lost by Jenny Nimmo

We shelf denizens looooove Jenny Nimmo.  It started many years ago with the Snow Spider Trilogy, when we were fascinated by all things Welsh, and we have devoured a good section of her back catalogue since.  This one is a late 2016 release, so we grabbed it from the BD in one of those “retail therapy” moments.

The Fourteenth Summer of Angus Jack by Jen Storer

This is an Aussie middle grade fantasy/mythology tome that I had had my eye on since its release.  It came up in the bargain section of Booktopia ages ago and I grabbed it.  Having re-read the blurb, I noticed it’s by the same author as Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children which I found a bit tropey and pedestrian, but hopefully this one will be more up my street.

So there you have it!  My goals for TBR tackling for 2017.  A couple of these books are quite short, so I may be able to sneak in a few extras – I’ve got plenty to choose from! – but we’ll see how we go.

Are you participating in this challenge this year, or are you thinking about it for next year?  Have you read any of the books that I want to attempt?  Let me know!

Until next time,

Bruce