Eisner Award Winner: Best Publication for Teens | Eisner Award Nominee: Best Reality-Based Work
Laika was the abandoned puppy destined to become Earth's first space traveler. This graphic novel follows her journey.
Nick Abadzis masterfully blends fiction and fact in the intertwined stories of three compelling lives. Along with Laika, there is Korolev, once a political prisoner, now a driven engineer at the top of the Soviet Union's space program, and Yelena, the lab technician responsible for Laika's health and life. This intense triangle is rendered with the pitch-perfect emotionality of classics like Because of Winn Dixie, Shiloh, and Old Yeller.
Abadzis gives life to a pivotal moment in modern history, casting light on the hidden moments of deep humanity behind history.
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.