Review by Ian Keogh
Ben Hatke’s charming cover illustration surely goes a long way to attracting the desired audience. Zita herself stands large and confident, her pal Joseph rides what seems to be a giant mouse behind her, and they’re surrounded by strange, but not too intimidating creatures. Even more oddities are to be found on the back cover. It’s a job very well done, and isn’t one of those deceptive illustrations by a different artist to conceal poorer work within. Hatke delivers on the expectations that cover prompts.
Zita is far more confident than her pal Joseph, and has a fundamentally sound heart despite teasing him. When both are transported separately to an alien planet, her first task is to rescue him. It takes longer than she anticipates, but she’s persistent, and her character is such that she makes a lot of friends along the way simply by being nice and helping them. For this project at least, Hatke presents the do as you would be done by worldview.
The pages are drawn as simple and uncluttered, ideal for the children Zita is intended to enthral, but the designs of some creatures Zita meets indicate Hatke’s capable of more complex work. The humane nature of the story extends to the art, where it’s rare that anyone is a threatening as they look, Hatke flying in the face of generations of children’s books where readers are taught to fear the strange and unknown.
Zita’s task is given an even greater sense of urgency because the planet she’s chanced on is three days away from being hit by an asteroid. Anyone who can is looking to leave as quickly as possible, so it helps that among her friends are an inventor capable of the magical and a selection of others whose talents might seem limited, but each is capable of contributing something useful to the bigger picture. There’s a great twist toward the end, and there’s no point in calling a series Zita the Spacegirl if she heads back to Earth at the end of the adventure. Her thrilling new life continues in Legends of Zita. This is a job very well done, but the suspicion is that having fictionalised one of his daughters for this adventure Hatke will be getting pelters from the other two.