Our third middle-grade book for this year’s NEA Big Read Lakeshore 2022 is Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. Zita the Spacegirl is a graphic novel series and can be considered our more traditional middle-grade heroes’ journey story.

The story follows a girl named Zita Danielson. On Earth, Zita is a normal twelve-year-old girl middle school girl. She is athletic, fun-loving, and loves to play with her friend Joseph. But then, a button falls to Earth, and like any inquisitive person, Zita and Joseph decide to press it, though the button opens up a portal to another dimension and whisks Joseph away. 

Now, this is not where our story ends, it is actually where it begins. Having her friend taken into an unknown universe forces Zita to do everything in her power to get him back. That includes taking on any space creatures in her path and becoming Zita the Spacegirl. 

Not only does the story of Zita help to keep readers intrigued in this space hero journey, but the story of author Ben Hatke and the art style also helps. In an interview with MacMillan Publishers, Ben Hatke explained that being a writer and an artist are not things that can be separated:

“I work a lot on the structure of my stories and I get a lot of joy out of that, but my art is not just in the service of the story, it’s very much a part of the storytelling. I find things like characters’ body language to be a wonderful storytelling tool.”

Ultimately, the goal of choosing a graphic novel like Zita the Spacegirl is to show that a hero can come in any form and that there are many different styles of hero’s journey books. Though in addition to this the team at the Big Read Lakeshore hopes that you will give Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke a try and even complete the series.

-Written by Nancy Gately

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