Tag Archives: Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack (Graphic Novel)

Author/Illustrator: Ben Hatke

Colorists: Alex Campbell & Hilary Sycamore

Mighty Jack, vol. 1

My rating: 5 of 5

Jack’s summer promises to be anything but enjoyable–his mom’s working extra this year to support her kids, so Jack’s left to take care of his sister Maddy who never talks and needs extra-special care. He can’t even spend the time he’d like making friends . . . and that girl who lives down the street and practices swordplay in the yard sure does look like she’d be an interesting friend. A family trip to the flea market  changes everything, however, as an unusual man sells Jack a pack of weird seeds, promising they’ll change his life. They certainly do that! For one thing, Maddy gets remarkably excited about these seeds, pouring herself into planting and taking care of them. For another, well, the seeds sure do seem to be magic–as in, some of them get up and move, some have faces, others explode or give you special abilities if you eat them. Crazy cool stuff, but pretty dangerous, too. Enter the sword-swinging girl from down the street. Lilly is entranced by the incredible things Jack and Maddy have growing in their back yard, and she knows how to deal with the more dangerous stuff. Maybe this summer won’t be so bad after all.

Wow. I have loved Ben Hatke’s work ever since I first read Zita the Spacegirl, and Mighty Jack was certainly not a disappointment. It sort-of plays off the whole Jack and the Beanstalk story, only it’s re-imagined to such an extent that it doesn’t really feel like a retelling at all; it’s brilliantly original. As with the Zita stories, the characters, art, and story are all fresh and rich, colorful and inviting. It all just draws the reader in in such an enjoyable way. I loved all three of the main characters, the way they fit together, the way they grow throughout the story, the way their flaws influence the progression of the story, all of it. Extra perks to the author for strong female characters, for a cool homeschooler, and for including a character with autism, all of whom are a rich part of the story. I loved Jack and Maddy’s mom and Lilly’s brother as well–yay for developed and interesting supporting characters. Bonus points for the cameo of characters from the Zita stories–the guy who sells Jack the seeds and basically jump starts his whole story is a crossover character, and his placement in this story was fun. Regarding the art in particular (besides the obvious fact that it’s awesome), I loved Hatke’s skill in giving subtle expression to the characters, especially in the way he showed so clearly how Jack is just at the age where girls are becoming interesting and how he totally has a crush on Lilly, but how their relationship grows to be so much more than that. It’s powerful, how much he can express with so little. Also, I totally love the color palette used in this graphic novel. Mighty Jack is a graphic novel that I would highly recommend for anyone, regardless of age, although it’s technically children’s fiction–great story that I’m looking forward to continuing in future volumes.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Little Robot

Author/Illustrator: Ben Hatke

My rating: 4.5 of 5

A box tumbles out of a moving truck, only to be discovered by a little girl exploring outside. She opens to box to find a little robot, just the right size to be her friend. These two develop an understanding and a growing friendship, although like any friends they must work through their share of misunderstandings. All is not well, though, as those that made the little robot come searching for it–whether or not it’s willing to go.

The creator of the adorable Zita the Spacegirl has brought us another excellent children’s graphic novel in Little Robot. This is a perfect story for basically anyone; it’s charming, creative, simple, yet engaging. It would actually make a pretty solid easy-reader for children learning to read for themselves. Most of the text is reasonably simple–I actually love that in a few instances where a more difficult concept was being expressed, Hatke actually used a picture in the text bubble rather than trying to use too many words to explain or worse trying to oversimplify the idea. There’s a mild amount of peril, but the ending is happy and satisfying. The little girl in this story (who is never actually named) seems to only be about 5 or thereabouts, although she’s surprisingly precocious in some ways for that age. She’s got a fun personality. Also, points for making her not white and giving her a wrench to carry around and fix stuff. The art in this whole story is Hatke’s typical style–in other words, it’s fabulous. The colors, the lines, the textures, and the angles are all just perfect. Basically, I loved Little Robot and would highly recommend it to anyone of any age.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Author/Illustrator: Ben Hatkethe return of zita the spacegirl

My rating: 5 of 5

Zita the Spacegirl, vol. 3

After being wrongfully accused of crimes she didn’t commit, young Zita has been tried and imprisoned on a dungeon world along with her friend, Mouse. She finds herself in a cell with a living ragpile and a talking skeleton–a skeleton whose fingerbones can open any lock. Befriending these two, Zita takes her first opportunity to break out and try to rescue her friend Mouse. Along the way, Zita finds unexpected help as the friends she’s made and people she’s helped along her journey join forces to help her escape.

I’ve said it before, but Ben Hatke’s graphic novels are fantastic. I absolutely loved the first two Zita stories, and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl is the perfect conclusion to this delightful trilogy. While being perhaps a bit darker than the first two (being set almost entirely in a prison setting), the story remains consistent in its emphasis on friendship, courage, and doing the right thing. Zita’s an amazing girl, no question, and the friends she makes are delightful, unexpected, and heartwarming. The art is fabulous, full of quirky originalities. I also love that the story is rich enough to be fun for an adult reader while being clean and simple enough for an elementary-grade reader to also enjoy. Additionally, I liked that the ending of this one was conclusive enough that I’m not searching for a continuation while still being open enough that there could potentially be more volumes in the future (unlike the earlier volumes which absolutely demanded a continuation). I think I would highly recommend The Return of Zita the Spacegirl to pretty much anyone–just read the first two volumes first.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

Author/Illustrator: Ben Hatkelegends of zita the spacegirl

My rating: 5 of 5

Zita the Spacegirl, vol. 2

Being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, you know? Zita quickly finds this out after she and her friends save Scriptorius. Soon her picture is plastered on walls everywhere she goes, and everywhere she is greeted by huge crowds wanting to meet her and get her autograph. Sometimes she’d really just love some time to herself, right? So when Zita encounters a robot that almost-perfectly mimics her, she decides to take advantage of the situation for a while and let this robot take her place–just long enough for her to get a break. The only trouble is that robot-Zita sees itself as the real hero, as Zita herself, and volunteers the crew to go save a planet . . . leaving the real Zita and her friend Mouse behind!

I absolutely loved the first Zita graphic novel, and I think Legends of Zita the Spacegirl is a strong follow-up, consistently portraying the things that I loved in the first volume. Zita is a strong character, and she encounters a lot of strong individuals along her journey–several of whom have a huge impact on her. I really loved the introduction of Madrigal in this volume; it’s clear she and Piper have a history, and I’m really curious to see that developed more. And I appreciated that robot-Zita, although wrong for a good part of the story, has redeeming aspects to her as well. The plot is exciting and full of adventure, but definitely ok for elementary-age kids. It even highlights important character traits like loyalty and self-sacrifice, while avoiding being “preachy” in the slightest. And I just love the art; it’s gutsy and adorable, whimsical and eclectic. Actually, it reminds me a lot of the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Kazu Kibuishi, while still having its own unique quirks that are just fantastic. I would highly recommend Legends of Zita the Spacegirl to just about anyone of any age; it’s a wonderful story!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Zita the Spacegirl: Far From Home

Author/Illustrator: Ben Hatkezita the spacegirl

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Zita the Spacegirl, vol. 1

Zita had to push the big red button–I mean, come on, wouldn’t you? Trouble is, her best friend Joseph got sucked into some warp-hole portal thing when she pushed the button. So now she’s responsible, and being who she is, Zita is determined to follow her friend and get him home safely, whatever it takes. Pushing the big red button again, she finds herself in a busy alien metropolis–one full of all sorts of creatures and robots she’s never seen before. Also, a metropolis doomed to be struck by an asteroid in only three days. Everyone is trying to get off-world as quickly as they can, and Zita’s got a daunting deadline in which to find Joseph. Actually, finding him turns out to be easier than expected; he’s been kidnapped to use as a sacrifice to stop the asteroid. But rescuing him is something Zita couldn’t possibly do alone, so it’s a good thing she’s been busy making friends in this new world.

Wow. I’d heard good things about this graphic novel, but I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much. Zita and her friends are wonderful characters, full of individuality, experiencing conflicts, and growing as they go along. I especially enjoyed the Piper’s character, even though he seems like a bad guy at times. And Zita herself is so perky and indomitable and ready to befriend anyone that she’s quite captivating. I’m definitely looking forward to how the group as a whole develops over future volumes of the story. The art really fits the story as well–attractive, interesting, and just rough enough to support action and movement well and be kid-friendly in feeling. Which is something I love: the story is definitely a great one for kids to read, even elementary kids. Yet the plot and characters are developed enough to be fun to read for grown-ups as well. Oh, and the art is full-color throughout; it fits nicely with the general style. Actually, the whole style is pleasantly reminiscent of Kazu Kibuishi’s work Amulet without feeling “copy” like at all. I would definitely recommend this first volume of Zita the Spacegirl, and I will certainly read the following volumes myself.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review