CatStronauts Quartet by Drew Brockington, 160pp, RL 3
CatStronauts by Drew Brockington is a standout graphic novel series that is always checked out in my school library. There are so many graphic novels and series that have outer space a setting, from Jake Parker's Missile Mouse to Zita the Space Girl and Cleopatra in Space and Red's Planet, as well as stand-alones like Earthling and Space Dumplins, but few that portray travel from Earth to outer space destinations with a bit of real space science here and there as well as a little NASA history as well. In fact, Brockington even went to Space Camp (for adults) to get a firsthand experience in the world of space exploration. To all this, Brockington adds adorable, hilarious cats and fantastic cat puns administered in just the right doses.
In the first book in the series, Mission Moon, we meet the CatStronauts - Major Meowser; Waffles, a brave but always hungry pilot; Blanket, the genius inventor of the lovable Cat-Stro-Bot, and the quick-thinking science officer Pom Pom. The book begins with a look into the White House where the president is trying to read the Daily Mews, but the power keeps cutting out. A call into the World's Best Scientist informs him that, "due to all the new gadgets in the world, there is more energy consumption." But he has an idea for generating more power - solar panels on the moon. And the CatStronauts are just the crew to do it! After much training and a few suspenseful moments, the CatStronauts return to a hero's welcome - and another emergency that only they can solve.
By book 2, Race to Mars, CATSUP, the Center for Aeronautical Technology and Space Underlying Programs, has become the most decorated space program on the planet. Which means, the CatStronauts have competition! In frozen Russia, the CosmoCats, Bianca and Petrov, and SOCKS, the Society of Cosmic Kittens, are racing to be the first to Mars, as are Über and Gemelli from MEOW, Modern Explorers of Other Worlds and Uma and Yogi from COOKIE, the Center of Obvious Knowledge and Interstellar Exploration. What starts as a fierce competition ends with teamwork, unity and success. And one Catstronaut being left behind on Mars...
Space Station Situation finds Pom Pom and Cat-Stro-Bot being picked up by the crew, who are now on the CATSUP Space Station with orders directly from the President to repair the Hubba Bubba Telescope. A mishap leaves one of the CatStronauts lost in space, his confidence shaken. But, the team always comes together in the end, especially when they have to save the day.
Book four, Robot Rescue, finds Cat-Stro-Bot stranded on Jupiter's moon, Europa, when the plasma drill being used to find water on the moon, and hopefully signs of life, malfunctions. Blanket, Cat-Stro-Bot's creator, is devastated. The CatStronauts want to head into space to make the dangerous rescue, but CATSUP refuses to risk, "any cat's 9 lives to rescue a robot." Leaving behind look-alike Cat-Stro-Bot prototypes in the hopes of tricking their colleagues at CATSUP, the CatStronauts head over to MEOW where Gemelli helps them stowaway on a shuttle to the Space Station. From there, they "borrow" the prototype ion drive interstellar spaceship and head to Europa. With mixed and bittersweet success, the CatStronauts return to Earth, where their look-alikes have gone crazy after getting wet, and some surprising discoveries are made!
The CatStronauts Quartet is stellar and a must-read for fans of graphic novels, cats and space exploration. Brockington's illustrations are equal parts adorable and interesting, especially the scenes of Europa in the fourth novel. Illustrations of the rocket ships and other space-things are detailed with an air of authenticity. However, my favorite part of all four novels are the chapter breaks where, over the course of the story, a different but pertinent item waltzes through space. In Robot Rescue, a milk carton, with the missing Cat-Stro-Bot's image on the side. I hope that Waffles, Pom Pom, Blanket and Major Meowser and the rest of the gang at CATSUP have more adventures ahead of them!