With communism's triumph over capitalist science via Sputnik , Soviet Premier Khrushchev wanted an in-your-face sequel: a living creature sent into space. The lucky gal is Laika, an accommodating street mutt that captured her handlers' affections. The plucky dog survives training, and her story is juxtaposed with a flashback of the space program director's earlier hairbreadth escape from a gulag. Indeed, the director chooses Laika for launch partly because of his feelings of empathy for her. But Laika does not survive her mission, and the unsavory details are hidden initially. The entire account leaks tragedy--not just Laika's death and the director's harrowing experience but also the tragedy of the other characters and, indeed, all the Russian people struggling to maintain their humanity while enmeshed in suffocating bureaucracies. Drawn in grimy-colored naturalism, Laika is a powerfully emotional reading experience, easily the match of the starred First in Space , about chimps in the U.S. space program (Xpress Reviews, 8/1/07). Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik , both well-researched titles fictionalize turning points in the space race. While fine for ages 13+, Laika has more narrative subtlety than First in Space and would be appreciated by adults. Highly recommended for public and school libraries. The title needs appropriate nonfiction catalog entries.--M.C.[Page 71]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Triumph and tragedy comingle for the Russian space program and for Earth's first space traveler, the lovable mutt sent around the world in the Sputnik 2 satellite.--M.C. (LJ 1/08)[Page 55]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
When most people think of the space program, it's images of stalwart, clear-eyed astronauts roaring into the skies on rockets of destiny that come to mind--not Laika the dog. A Samoyed-Husky mutt caught off the streets and impressed into the Russian space program, Laika became in November of 1957 the first sentient being to leave Earth's orbit, inside the Sputnik 2 satellite. The plan was only to monitor her in her few hours of life, though, not to bring her home--a sacrifice for which one of the scientists later expressed deep regret. Abadzis's tear-inducing and solidly researched graphic novel treatment of Laika's surpassingly tragic story is a standout, not just for its sympathetic point of view but for its refusal to Disnify or anthropomorphize the undeniably cute dog at its heart. The humans around Laika--her protectors and tormentors from the fictionalized early sections, as well as the rocket scientists and her doting handler, Yelena--all try to imprint their own diverse desires on her eager-seeming face. Although the tightly packed and vividly inked panels of Abadzis's art tell an impressively complex tale (buttressed by a helpful bibliography at the end), where the dog becomes a pawn in larger political and bureaucratic schemings, Laika's palpable spirit is what readers will remember. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)[Page 60]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 7 Up -During the Cold War, Russia and the U.S. were entrenched in a battle to be first in space. Laika tells the tale of one special soldier in that battle, the dog who flew in Sputnik II . Former Gulag prisoner Korolev has ascended to the rank of Chief Designer, and, after the successful launch of Sputnik I , he is called upon to send a live creature into space within one month's time. Laika, also known as Kudryavka (curly tail), is a down-and-out stray caught by local officials and sent to the canine lab at the Institute of Aviation Medicine. Higher-ups notice the dog's special ability to withstand g-force, environments without gravity, and the special gel food given to the test subjects. When the time comes to select a dog to go into space, she is the obvious choice. Abadzis's artwork genuinely captures the Cold War atmosphere, while the youth-friendly textual take on the politically dangerous USSR compares favorably to that of Marjane Satrapi's depiction of unstable Iran in Persepolis (Pantheon, 2003). Abadzis provides enough historical content to make Laika a valuable teaching tool, but teachers using the graphic novel with middle schoolers may need to explain some of the subtle nuances of politics in the USSR. Those with a special fondness for dogs may wish to have some tissues handy.-Sarah Krygier, Solano County Library, Fairfield, CA[Page 155]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.