All the Zita the Spacegirl Books - Middle Grade Graphic Novel Series

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Zita the Spacegirl (Book 1)

Zita the Spacegirl - Cover of middle grade graphic novel
Book 1 in the series of Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels. First Second, An Imprint of Roaring Brook Press

Summary

It's no wonder the character Zita the Spacegirl and the books about her are so popular. The Zita the Spacegirl middle grade graphic novels by Ben Hatke feature engaging art, exciting stories and a strong and appealing female main character. I recommend the books for ages 8 to 12 and think a lot of Ben Hatke's young readers hope Hatke will continue to expand his Zita the Spacegirl series.

Zita the Spacegirl (Book 1): Summary

There's a lot of action and adventure in Book 1, Zita the Spacegirl, although it is only 192 pages long. Like all the Zita graphic novels, the color illustrations stand out for their detail, movement and life. The story begins when Zita and her friend Joseph find a big hole  in the ground and Zita picks up the big red control button that's in the hole.

When Zita ignores Joseph's warning and pushes the button, there's an explosion and long tentacles pull Joseph into space. Zita feels responsible and goes after Joseph. The story revolves around Zita's efforts to rescue Joseph from the planet Scriptorius, which is full of monsters (some fierce, some friendly), a giant mouse and Piper, a magical musician, and get them both back to Earth.

To do this, Zita must find and use a magic crystal. However, she is only partially successful, and in fact, we later learn she was not successful at all. On the plus side, she does manage to help save the planet Scriptorius.

Awards and Recognition

Zita the Spacegirl has received numerous honors. They include:

  • The Amelia Bloomer Project Book List
  • ALA Notable Children's Books List
  • IRA-CBC Children's Choices
  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
  • School Library Journal Best Graphic Novel of the Year
  • Numerous state Children's Choices Master Lists

(Source: Macmillan: Zita the Spacegirl)

Extras

For an inside look at the book, see the Zita the Spacegirl slides and book trailer. For related activities for your child, see the Zita the Spacegirl Activity Guide. Kids interested in drawing will also especially enjoy the page of early Zita sketches by Ben Hatke at the end of the book.

(First Second, An Imprint of Roaring Brook Press, 2010. Hardcover ISBN: 9781596436954, Paperback ISBN: 9781596434462; also available in several e-book formats)

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Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (Book 2)

Legends of Zita the Space Girl - Cover of Book 2 in the series of middle grade graphic novels
Book 2 in the Zita the Spacegirl series. First Second, An Imprint of Roaring Brook Press

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (Book 2): Summary

Life has changed a lot for ZIta, who is still on Scriptorius, in the second Zita graphic novel, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, which is 224 pages long, Zita the Spacegirl is hailed as a hero, "The Girl Who Saved Scrptorius," which she finds very uncomfortable. When a robot remakes herself to look just like Zita, Zita is thrilled to have the robot deal with all of the public events involving her while she goes off with Mouse.

However, things quickly go downhill. The robot wants to be a hero and when a plea for help comes from the planet New Lumponia, which is being targeted by a swarm of Star Hearts, the robot wants to be the hero.

In order to get to the planet, Zita highjacks a spacecraft. There are all kinds of problems when Zita joins the robot on the other planet and works to help the Lumponians. The robot alternates between being friendly and unfriendly, helpful and combative. Zita is seen by some as a hero and some as a villain and many don't even think she is the real Zita the Spacegirl.

Ultimately, the robot actually becomes a hero. Zita ends up safely back on Scriptorius but still without the crystal that will get her back to Earth. The book ends with Zita getting ready to go off into space on her own to save her friend Mouse who was captured as she was leaving New Lumponia.

Extras

Eight pages of preliminary sketches for the book provide insight as to Hatke's creative process. For an inside look at the graphic novel, see the Legends of Zita the Spacegirl slides and book trailer.  If you plan to use the book for a middle grade book club, see the Legends of Zita the Spacegirl Reading Group Guide.

(First Second, An Imprint of Roaring Brook Press, 2012. Hardcover ISBN: 9781596438064, Paperback ISBN: 9781596434479; also available in several e-book formats)

03
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The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (Book 3)

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl - Book 3 in the middle grade series of graphic novels
Book 3 in the Zita the Spacegirl series. First Second, An Imprint of Roaring Brook Press

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (Book 3): Summary

The story of Zita the Spacegirl comes full circle in Book 3, which may or may not be the final book in the 240-page graphic novel series of Zita the Spacegirl books. According to to the graphic novels creator Ben Hatke, "Only time will tell..." but the ending certainly seems to indicate more to come.

As The Return of Zita the Spacegirl begins, Zita finds herself charged as a criminal and thrown into a dungeon while Mouse is sentenced to execution. In the dungeon, Zita meets a talking skeleton who helps her escape.

A mysterious figure in a blue cape comes to Zita's aid but she is recaptured and must work in the mines to keep Mouse from being executed. Zita gets zapped several times and her captors are a frightening bunch, but I don't think it's too much for young readers because they know it's a fantasy.

In the mines, the search is on for the crystal, not so Zita can get home, but instead, so it can be used for the planet's inhabitants to invade and take over Earth. Zita finds out that the mysterious figure in blue is her friend Joseph. He did not get back to Earth but instead ended up on "a pretty bad world" and was picked up by slavers before escaping.

There are some surprising twists as Zita and Joseph, helped by their friends, fight to save themselves and Earth and get back home. When they return home, it is as if no time has passed, but one more surprise is in store.

Extras

At the end of the book, there is an interesting six-page illustrated essay by Ben Hatke on The Origin and Evolution of Zita the Spacegirl. There readers will learn that the initial idea for Zita the Spacegirl came from his college girlfriend Anna, whom he later married. There are also nine pages of sketches, a few with color or dialogue, which will be of particular interest to kids who want to create their own comics or graphic novels.

To learn more about the story and illustrations, see the The Return of Zita the Spacegirl slides and book trailer. For related activities for your child, if you haven't already used it, use the Zita the Spacegirl Activity Guide.

(First Second, An Imprint of Roaring Brook Press, 2014. Hardcover ISBN: 9781626720589, Paperback ISBN: 9781596438767; also available in several e-book formats)

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Ben Hatke Plus Other Recommended Graphic Novels and Graphic Memoirs

El Deafo - Book Cover of Graphic Memoir by Cece Bell
ABRAMS

The Creator of Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke

While Ben Hatke is known for writing and illustrating comics, he has also become known as the creator of children's books with strong female characters, five books thus far. What's his inspiration? Well, Ben Hatke  has four daughters of his own. In the acknowledgements of the first Zita book, he refers to his children (three at that time) as "my every-inspiring daughters." In addition to the ZIta the Spacegirl trilogy, he is the author of Julia's House for Lost Creatures, a picture book with elements of comics and graphic novels, which was published in 2014, and the graphic novel Little Robot for ages 6 to 9, which was published in 2015.

Other Recommended Graphic Novels and Graphic Memoirs

There are a lot of very good graphic novels and graphic memoirs (What's a graphic memoir?) available for middle grade readers. Some of the graphic novels I particularly like are Rapunzel's Revenge, Roller Girl, Hidden and A Wrinkle in TIme: The Graphic Novel, an adaptation of the classic by Madeleine L'Engle. Among the graphic memoirs, I particularly like are and Little White Duck: A Childhood in China.