Laika, by Nick Abadzis, was a surprise for me. I picked it up because it came first alphabetically in my hunt for Graphic Novels for Grownups. I wasn’t even sure I liked the style. But as I read, I began to appreciate the simplicity and grit of the illustrations, and became fully involved in the story.
Abadzis brings us the launch of Sputnik II, the story bouncing between three main characters: Korolev, the launch director, Yelena, the woman in charge of the test dogs for the space program, and Laika, the stray who will become the first being in space. I hate to admit it, but I teared up a bit at the end — that’s how attached you get. It’s an amazing story, one I knew almost nothing about before reading, and one I’m now inspired to hunt up on Wikipedia and in the bookstore.
This is a great book not just for grownups, but also for high school (while it’s a pretty clean read, there are some adult themes — drinking, persecution, and abandonment among others). One of the ways I got through my college history classes was to find historical fiction about the period I was studying, and I think the same method can be applied here. Often it’s a struggle to get kids interested in history — this is one graphic novel that could be a solution!