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Laika by Nick Abadzis


by Nick Abadzis

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This graphic 'novel' tells the story of the first dog in space, launched by the Soviet Union space program in 1957, with no provisions for returning her to earth. Laika's story from a Moscow street dog to her final journey is heart-renderingly told through the pages of beautiful illustrations. Central human characters include legendary Soviet rocket engineer and Sergei Korolev and the fictionalized dog caretaker for the space program, Yelena Alexandrovna Dubrovsky. Both are complex, fully-realized characters that add to the weight of what as being done to Laika in the name of science and advancement of humankind.

Favorite Passages:
“For once, it seems there’s nothing to worry about for the time being. Of course, nothing lasts. And why worry about that? One must learn not to. Every day, every moment is a frontier to a country, that once crossed, can never be returned to. Most of the time we don’t notice. Which is just how it should be. The secret is not to worry. You can’t back. Although, those you leave behind will still think of you. Most of the time, we don’t notice the small, gradual changes only the sudden unexpected ones. But, once you understand nothing lasts everything’s all right. After all, something always comes along that changes everything. And once you realize this, you find that you’re no longer imprisoned by this truth but freed by it.” - p. 111-116 ( )
  Othemts | Dec 29, 2013 |
On Nov. 7, 1957, one month after the successful launch of Sputnik I, the Soviets launched Sputnik II. On board was a small dog named Laika. This graphic novel illustrates the courage and intelligence of Laika – the first living being launched into outer space. If you like this story, please check out Marilyn Bowering’s wonderful poetry collection “Calling All the World”, another wonderful reimagining of Laika’s story.
  vplprl | Dec 3, 2013 |
Laika is a fictionalized account of the of the first animal to orbit Earth as part of the Russian space program in 1957, a little dog named Laika. Told in graphic novel format, Abadzis brings Laika and the people she interacts with vibrantly to life with a mix of personality, emotion, and real historical events. Though much of Laika's life prior to her acquisition by the space program is imagined, Abadzis' portrayal feels authentic to the time and to accounts of Laika's personality - it is easy to imagine that she was a dog who touched many people. Her story is undoubtedly one that will continue to inspire innovation as well as an appreciation and understanding of the potentially high price of scientific progress. ( )
  Octokitten | Jun 5, 2013 |
I picked up this graphic novel at the library because I liked the cover, and I liked the idea of learning a little bit more about the Soviet space program via fiction.

So, who is Laika and what does she have to do with the Soviet space program?

Laika (Russian: Лайка, literally meaning "Barker") was a Soviet space dog (c. 1954 – November 3, 1957) who became the first animal to orbit the Earth and the first orbital death. Little was known about the impact of spaceflight on living things at the time Laika's mission was launched. Some scientists believed humans would be unable to survive the launch or the conditions of outer space, so engineers viewed flights by non-human animals as a necessary precursor to human missions. Laika, a stray, originally named Kudryavka (Russian: Кудрявка Little Curly-Haired One), underwent training with two other dogs, and was eventually chosen as the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 that was launched into outer space on November 3, 1957. Sputnik 2 was not designed to be retrievable, and Laika had always been intended to die. (Wikipedia)

Prior to reading this book I had no idea who Laika was, so I flipped to the back of this book and skimmed the ending (something I almost never do before reading a book). When I saw what happened to Laika it made me pause to reconsider reading it because I have an aversion to books about animals that die. I just don't read them if I can avoid it because they are so sad. I decided to give the book a try though anyway.

A photo of the real life Laika (found at Thunderhaven).
I thought that the artwork in the book was done well, and liked the inclusion of a secondary storyline about a Soviet official who had previously been in the gulag, but had risen to a position where he was in charge of the launch. This storyline gives the reader a simplified look at the political climate and difficulties that citizens of the Soviet Union faced at the time.

Another photo of the real Laika (from Thunderhaven).

Laika's story will pull at your heartstrings. The book follows Laika from birth up until her flight around the Earth. The author has done a great job of portraying her story in such a way that you can empathize with feelings that the dog may have had for the people around her. I also appreciated that the author portrayed the Soviet scientists and the animal caretaker as three dimensional characters who had their own doubts and sorrows about sending Laika on her one-way mission.

Memorial Statue (from Thunderhaven).

Normally I would shy away from recommending such a sad animal story, but really the focus of this story is not on the death of Laika, but rather on her life. I came away from the story with a sense of how even a small dog can leave a lasting legacy. ( )
  akreese | May 16, 2013 |
Profoundly moving story. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Abadzis's artistic style put me in mind of Tin Tin -- the little doggy with the curly tail didn't hurt -- a childlike, cartoony line that is nevertheless expressive and expansive. It nicely complements the subject matter, contributing much to the sweetness of the story, and serving as counterpoint to the exhaustive research.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Nov 19, 2007)
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This is the journey of Laika, the abandoned puppy destined to become Earth's first space traveler. With the blending of fact and fiction, this story intertwines three compelling lives. Along with Laika, there is Korolev, a driven engineer at the top of the Soviet space program and Yelena, the lab technician responsible for Laika's health and life.… (more)

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