I am excited to join Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn of A Year of Reading; Alyson Beecher of KidLit Frenzy; and Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan of Assessment in Perspective in their October Graphic Novel Celebration with a post every Thursday.
Laika by Nick Abadzis is a fictional account of the dog Laika, the first living creature to orbit Earth. She was sent up in Sputnik 2 by the Soviet space program on November 3, 1957. The purpose of this early experiment was to see whether humans would be able to survive such a flight. Sadly, Laika died of overheating just a few hours into the flight, a fact which did not come to light until decades later. The Soviets did originally admit that she expired during the mission but exaggerated the length of time she remained alive.
The book is a mix of facts and story. Although it is true that Laika was a stray dog that caught the attention of scientists when they saw her out on the streets, in the graphic novel, Abadzis fashions a poignant back-story for Laika which emphasizes her friendly nature and desire to please that led to her selection for Sputnik 2. Much of the information about Laika’s training is accurate and will give young people insight into the rigors of detail to prepare for her spaceflight.
The book tells Laika’s complete story in a way that provokes thought about the use of animals for research purposes, yet at the same time celebrates Laika’s contribution to history. And the end of the book? So heart-wrenching yet hopeful that I dare you to try reading it without a box of tissues standing by.