Zita and Joseph see something fall from the sky and decide to investigate. It’s some sort of device, and when Zita activates it, it pulls Joseph into another world. She follows, but Joseph’s already been kidnapped by aliens. So now it’s Zita’s job to rescue him.
Let’s get the good out of the way first, because there is plenty. The artwork is very cute, very well-done. The friends that Zita makes along the way are varied and interesting and adorable. The humor hits a lot of high notes, and nothing made me groan really. It was a well-constructed story that is great for middle grade readers.
Now my problems with it. For starters, this was so fast paced, I wasn’t given a moment to breathe. No one was really developed besides some exposition and hyper-quick reveals. It felt like chewing on a lump of sugar that overwhelmed fast. This book, for this reason, actually helped me realize what it is about middle grade that I can’t get past. Authors nowadays seem terrified of writing a story for kids that lingers on anything. They are writing for the kid with the attention deficit, hoping to keep them engaged, so when I read it, I’m blinded by the swirling colors and begging them to slow down for a second. Unlike some stories, this managed to not become an overwhelming mess, but it still wasn’t great.
Here was my other major problem: Zita. The idea is that Zita is a plucky Tomboy who subverts the idea of a girl needing to be rescued. In fact, she is rescuing a boy. Very progressive. Except… her pluckiness is what started the plot moving in the first place. The boy was being cautious, reasonably so, and she jumped ahead blindly and got him kidnapped. Everything that happens is her fault. Things like that continue to happen throughout the story. She runs headlong into danger and barely survives and nearly kills everyone around her. Her “pluckiness” isn’t a virtue.
And yet that aspect of her isn’t used as a cautionary tale either. The moral of the story is not to look before you leap. Zita learns nothing. It’s just a device to bring about humor or peril without it having any impact on Zita as a character. It’s not a very good feminist model, and it’s not a very good lesson for kids. I’m too old and analytical for this book, because while it’s silly fun, I saw potential for more, and it doesn’t meet that bar.