Middle Grade Fiction 171
Cats... in... space...
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Scientists discover that rats are eating the moon, and unveil their secret weapon to stop it; a cat enhanced with microchips and a space suit with cybernetic biotechnology! The cat is sent to the moon on a space ship where there is a stowaway, Loz 400, who was created by scientists to trim toenails but seeks more purpose. The ship's computer is jealous, but Cat and Loz develop a plan to save the moon. They meet the Queen of the Moon who has a key to the Dark Side, where the rats are. It's a treacherous journey across the moon, and they seek the help of the Man in the Moon so that they can travel under the surface. He feels that Cat is destined to sit in the moon chair and save the day, so allows them safe passage. There journey is filled with all manner of quirky characters, such as a whale who falls in love with Loz's singing, meeting the pirate Captain Babybeard in the Sea of Tranquility, monsters in the shape of hands who steal the Moon Queen's key, and other characters who for some reason want to thwart the Cat as he tries to save the moon from the rats. Will he succeed? And will he ever get a decent slice of pizza?
Barnett does a great job with middle grade humor in The Terrible Two and Mac B.: Spy Kid, and The First Cat in Space has a lot of goofy moments. My favorite was when Cat and his crew found out that Babybeard was a pirate, and they wanted no part of his evil exploits, especially when he prepares to attach a boat full of wide-eyed bunnies who are "just on our way to snuggle with lonely grandmas"! Readers who are familiar with books that embrace the traditional fantasy hero's journey will chuckle at how Cat's journey mirrors those tropes while also being tremendously ridiculous.
Harris' rough drawings, heavy on penciled or charcoaled outlines, lend a feeling of otherworldliness and also humor. Cat looks rather inscrutable, and the Moon Queen looks a bit like a doll. Loz and the ship's computer both get bigger roles than one would imagine. The rats look properly evil, for creatures who are determined to eat the moon.
Despite the longer format of this book, I think that readers who enjoy Blabey's Bad Guys or Eaton's Flying Beaver Brothers will enjoy this one, and it is also closer to Pilkey's work than a lot of graphic novels I have seen; both have moments of being the James Joyce of the kidlit world in their use of stream of consciousness. Brockington's Catstronauts: Mission Moon is another good read alike for kids who can't get enough of goofy graphic novels.