Review of Dogs in Space

Dogs in Space
by Vix Southgate; illus. by Iris Deppe
Primary    Kane Miller    32 pp.
3/19    978-1-61067-824-7    $14.99

With a happier ending than that of their legendary predecessor Laika, dogs Belka and Strelka became, in 1960, among the first animals to return, alive, from orbital flight. That does not, however, deny the suspense with which Southgate and Deppe tell and show their story. The book opens in a dark Moscow alley where a man is luring stray dogs with food, and even the type placement gets in on the drama. But turn the page and not to worry: “Oleg” is a scientist recruiting canine cadets for the Soviet Union’s space program. Belka and Strelka pass all the tests and endure all the training (try getting your dog to stand at attention on a vibrating mat) to succeed at their mission: to blast off, orbit Earth several times, and come back down unharmed. The story is told with much enthusiasm and little anthropomorphism, with the automatically appealing narrative bolstered by useful scientific facts — Strelka’s later maternity isn’t just a feel-good anecdote, as “Strelka’s puppies prove spaceflight is not harmful.” With a zip equal to the story, the pictures use well-outlined, simple forms in depicting the dogs, placing them, as the occasion demands, in easy-to-follow panels, or playfully tipping their orientation for the double-page-spread illustration of the launch. The back matter includes a timeline of space flight from Belka and Strelka to the International Space Station.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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