Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke (2011 in paperback form, First Second Books), came home with us from the bookstore on Monday. By close of play that evening, my ten year old son had read it three times through. On Tuesday he read it twice more. I have only read it once myself, but that was enough to fall hard for it.
Zita and her friend Joseph find an enigmatic device deep in a mysterious crater. There's a red button on it, and Zita, being an adventurous type (unlike the more cautious Joseph) presses it....and a portal opens, out of which comes a monstrous tentacled being that grab her friend! Zita blames herself, so she presses the button again, leaps through, and finds herself on a very alien planet, full of all manner of strange alien beings.
Daunted, but undeterred, Zita sets out to find Joseph, meeting friends, enemies, and things in between...but will her rag-tag bunch of companions (a giant rodent, a know-it-all battle bot, a squeaky robot, and the alien Strong-Strong), a bit of magic courtesy of the enigmatic Piper, and the courage of her convictions be enough to save Joesph from the aliens who captured him, and bring the two kids back home to Earth?
Here's a group shot from Zita's website (Strong-Strong is the big brown one; I dunno why their white cards aren't labeled).
It's fun, fast, and inspiring, scary enough to grip the reader while not being the stuff of nightmares. Hatke's illustrations (which you can preview in the trailer) are charming (except for the scary creatures, which aren't). Zita is my favorite heroine of the year to date (not only is she cute as a button, she is fiercely caring), and if you want your boy to read a book with a strong girl front and center, here's the book you're looking for.
Zita's been around for a while; I'm so glad she got her own book and a chance to make new friends! And I'm glad that there seems to be another book on its way...