- Laika: Astronaut Dog by Owen Davey
In 1957 Russian scientists launched Sputnik 2 into Earth’s orbit, and perhaps the best-known legacy of that particular mission is the story of its doomed passenger Laika, the stray terrier whose vital signs were monitored to shed light on the reaction of life forms to space travel. Here Davey pares down and anthropomorphizes [End Page 146] the tale for a young audience, outlining Laika’s experience from a little orphan longing for a family, to proud astronaut in training, to a space traveler who found her life in her capsule as lonely as life back on Earth, to the inevitable end: “Back at mission control, the screens went blank. Laika’s rocket no longer showed any signs of life.” Yes, the dog died. For those who find the sad truth just too hard to take, though, Davey weirdly rewrites a happier ending: “She had been rescued from the broken spaceship and taken far away from the lonely life she had known … by a loving family that she had always dreamed of finding.” And if you still have doubts, just trace the diagram that shows a UFO rendezvousing with Laika’s rocket ship and swooping out of the solar system to a land where a conspicuously blue-tinged happy family of aliens cuddles their new pet. This bizarre mash-up of history and fantasy comes attractively tricked out in a deftly composed homage to Soviet visual art design, and it could, in the hands of a creative teacher and a mature classroom of students, be repurposed as an object lesson on how and why researchers verify suspect information. This is, however, emphatically not the story of Laika.