We’ve been fans of Zita since the first one came out – I hopped right in line for this one as soon as I saw it in the library catalog.
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. First Second, 2014.
This is the last Zita book, at least for now, following Zita the Spacegirl and Legends of Zita the Spacegirl. Zita is imprisoned on trumped-up charges – every good deed from her past adventures held up as a crime. Still, she’s got the charm and determination that have served her well in the past. She starts befriending her cell mates and trying to escape (again and again) right away. There’s a mysterious cloaked figure who might be trying to help her, and a whole mine full of prisoners for her to help as well. All her friends from previous adventures make an appearance, which was a little confusing as it had been a while since I read them, but cool all the same. The adventures are a little darker and more personal this time, what with the prisoners forced to work in mines and a bad guy who’s got it in for Zita especially. But Hatke’s illustrations, with Zita both adorable and determined, keep things feeling lighter. It has a great ending that makes it clear that Zita’s adventures aren’t over, even if the books may be.
This book was read through very quickly and with much enjoyment by all three independent readers in my house. I’m disappointed that despite all the diversity of species in Zita’s friends, all four of the humans have the same skin tone. That being said, this is a series that I recommend to library patrons on a regular basis, and that’s often not on the shelf when I try. It is a great one to give to boys who maybe think they don’t want books starring girls – I’ve yet to find a kid who doesn’t like Zita. It was also fun to get a little more of the history of the Zita stories, including Hatke’s wife in college in her own Zita costume. I was (again) sad that we didn’t get autographed copies of the first two books when Hatke was at Kids Read Comics last year, but these are definitely on our family wishlist. If you haven’t read Zita yet yourself, now is a perfect time to start! It also pairs wonderfully with Dave Roman’s Astronaut Academy.