Two canine cosmonauts make history.
Not to be confused with Nancy Coffelt’s 1993 storytime staple of the same name, this look back to the space race’s early years follows the careers of Soviet “space dogs” Belka and Strelka—the first living creatures to survive a journey into orbit. With considerable embroidery, Southgate describes in some detail how the two strays were enticed off the Moscow streets, carefully tested and trained for their 1960 flight, monitored through multiple orbits, then brought back to Earth to become world celebrities. Along with giving the dogs anthropomorphic smiles, Deppe adds fanciful details, such as bubble helmets for both, and makes no effort to depict the Sputnik 5 spacecraft accurately. Still, the flat, bright images of blastoff and the use of headlines and poster type add plenty of visual drama, and as they take their star turns the two space travelers positively glow with doggy personality throughout. The fact that Belka and Strelka were actually accompanied by a large menagerie of rodents and other creatures is relegated to a comment in one of the two closing timelines, where the fates of the “more than 50 dogs” launched into space before Belka and Strelka also go unmentioned.
Quibbles aside, a space achievement well worth commemorating, with a less tragic outcome than Laika’s mission. (Informational picture book. 6-8)