I have discovered a treasure, and this type of treasure only gets more valuable with the sharing. What treasure, you ask? Clearly, it is not a winning lottery ticket, because would already be living in Hawaii and I certainly would not share. This treasure is an author and illustrator. His name? Ben Hatke, and he writes the most wonderful graphic novels for young children.
He has written a series of three graphic novels about the adventures of an intelligent girl, lost, through no fault of her own, in space. The first book, Zita the Spacegirl: Far From Home tells the tale of Zita, who pushes a red button she shouldn’t have pushed and gets pulled into a strange area of space along with her best friend Joseph. Now, far from home, Zita must try to deal with aliens, a broken red button, a suspicious pied piper, and a missing best friend. Can Zita face her fears, find her friend, fix the red button, and finally get home? The titles in this series are Zita the Spacegirl: Far From Home, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl. These books would appeal to readers from third grade and up.
Ben’s newest book, titled Little Robot, also features a plucky girl character as she finds adventure. In Little Robot, we meet a young girl who just happens across a little robot, one lost from his shipment of other robots headed for a factory. The girl overcomes her wariness, and she and Little Robot are soon fast friends. As Little Robot learns about the world, he longs for friends like himself, but the girl does not want to let him go. When danger from Little Robot’s past threatens them both, can their friendship survive? This graphic novel is aimed at a younger audience than Zita the Spacegirl, with a good portion of the story being told without words. When words are used, they are simple enough that I would happily put this into the hands of a six year old. Ben’s illustrations are superb, and actions and emotions are clearly conveyed through the artwork.
As a woman with a science and engineering background, I applaud that all the books mentioned here feature girls that are bold, smart, and able to fix their own problems and technology. Boys should still enjoy the titles, as they feature wit, charm, and a goodly dash of sly humor. Well done, Ben Hatke. Well done!