Reviews for Laika

Booklist Reviews 2007 September #1
Classic dog-story themes such as loyalty serve as a backdrop for this fictionalized account of Laika, the first living creature launched into outer space. A charming and scruffy little dog, Laika survives an uncaring master and life as a stray before becoming part of the Russian space program circa 1956, just as the Soviet Union had achieved a huge victory over American competition. With a stilted romanticism that doesn't fit the story's tone, Laika is established as "a very special dog," but soon the focus of the complex tale turns away from the dog to Yelena Dubrovsky, the trainer responsible for preparing Laika and the other dogs for the rigors of testing. Through Dubrovsky, the progress of the program and the incredible pressure on the scientists are given effective form. The rough-hewn art, similar to the Joann Sfar's work on the Dungeon books, makes the characters appear constantly nervous and uncertain, lending immediacy to the all-pervasive atmosphere of strict formality and enforced patriotism. An extensive bibliography of sources is appended. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 August #1
Following the story of plucky Laika--the first dog in space--the reader experiences her entire life from a mongrel living in the streets to the tragic loss of her canine companion, her captivity in the government lab, her endearing relationship with the unwavering caretaker Yelena and her tragic fatal mission. The strong ties between Laika (renamed after her breed type) are exceptionally well defined; in fact, Laika has the ability to touch every character's life, even the most emotionally indifferent social-climbing Russian politicians. Evincing the cruelty and sadness of her life, Laika's striving to be loved echoes, and the strong bond between man--or woman--and his best friend resound off every page of her journey. The striking palette of earth tones works in concert with the compelling historically fictive prose. The striking palette of earth tones works in concert with the compelling historically fictive prose--a luminous masterpiece filled with pathos and poignancy. (afterword, bibliography, author's note) (Graphic novel. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2008 January #1

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.

Library Journal Reviews 2008 March #2

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.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 October #1

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.

School Library Journal Reviews 2007 November

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.