Laika, the Russian space dog, gets uneven handling.
Back when the Cold War was going strong and Nikita Khrushchev wanted to give JFK the yips, the Russians plucked a stray dog off the streets of Moscow—figuring the stray would be well-versed in survival tactics—and shot the dog into space in Sputnik 2. The spacecraft failed; the dog died. This last part is background information supplied in an author’s note. In the main narrative, Davey rewrites this part, sweeping Laika aboard a flying saucer and whisking her to a planet of people with red hair and blue skin. Otherwise, he stays close to the known history but with clunky prose for so romantic a story. “She trained very hard and had to pass many tests until finally... / Laika was ready to go into space. She climbed aboard her spaceship and waited.” It all comes up daisies in the end for Laika and Davey, the whole soft-pedaling given amplified sweetness by the artwork, a highly stylized gathering of strong color and shadow, loopy lines and angles, and for much of the book, the illustrations speak for themselves.
Half-cooked, with superior artwork trumping a drab, cowardly narrative. (Picture book. 5-8)