During the early days of the pandemic, Mac Barnett, a prolific author of children’s books from picture books to chapter books, joined up with relative newcomer Shawn Harris, an award-winning illustrator, to create a comic book story that they presented live to kids each weekend, ending in 12 episodes.
The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza is that story, edited and refined into a cohesive and hilarious narrative alongside Harris’ chunky and colorful art. The story begins with a series of alarming events culminating in the realization that the moon is being destroyed! Scientists send their secret weapon, First Cat, to the moon to combat the space rats who are eating it. Along the way, First Cat picks up a stowaway robot, LOZ 4000, and once they arrive they join up with the queen of the moon. Together, the three friends will face many perils, meet strange creatures, and answer difficult questions like, “Will the first cat in space ever get to eat pizza?” and “Will LOZ ever find a purpose besides clipping toenails?”
Barnett and Harris blend their styles of humor seamlessly and each new imaginative addition is ably brought to life by Harris. His thick, colorful lines show movement and activity in each panel with details large and small adding humor, from a panicky scientist whizzing through the scenes on a desk chair to the “old ones” of the moon, caterpillar-like creatures, chilling on a moon beach underground. The first cat in space is an expressionless gray tabby, its face marked by an X forming eyes and mouth, which matches its monosyllabic dialogue, consisting solely of “meow”. LOZ is a perky box of a robot, with endlessly extendable arms and a usually cheerful expression on its screen. The queen of the moon is a small, dramatic woman with flowing white and blue hair, robes, and an imperious manner, shown in her many pronouncements and constant hurrying of the oddball crew.
Although the publisher, with their usual fine abandon, recommends this to fans of Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney, and Raina Telgemeier, three completely disparate authors, they do hit the mark in their recommendation of Dav Pilkey. Barnett’s sense of humor, though more eccentric than Pilkey’s with less potty-humor, has the same episodic nature and Dog Man fans will eagerly devour this new epic adventure. It’s also a great match for fans of such madcap adventures as InvestiGators, Agent Moose, and Bad Guys. There are enough mild lessons on friendship and listening to others to please adults with all the wacky adventures a dedicated graphic novel fan could desire. This book is sure to fly off library shelves.
The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza
By Mac Barnett
Art by Shawn Harris
Harper Collins, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)