Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Zita's Adventures and Ours

There is a lot of buzz in our house about the release of The Return of Zita the Spacegirl.  Today, people!  If you haven't checked it out, do it!  It releases TODAY!

It is the final book in a graphic novel series by Ben Hatke, and my son cannot wait.  I mean, sadly, he's going to have to because Amazon doesn't exactly do 2-day shipping to Nepal!  There actually is a Kindle version of this one, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  I want to hold it in our hands and watch Isaiah pour over it, page by page, for hours like he has with the other two.

Isaiah absolutely LOVES these books.  And, let's be honest, I'm kind of giddy about this one coming out as well.  We first checked out the book based on a recommendation from a friend who is a librarian when I was bemoaning on facebook about the lack of good female superheroes.  My son got hooked on comics and superheroes, and literally, before this phase started, I probably could have named Batman and Superman, and that would have been about it for my knowledge in the comic/superhero realm.  But, as with anything that Isaiah has gotten interested in, he dives in with gusto and becomes totally engrossed (some might say it borders on obsessed) in that thing and he always wants to know more.  The superhero fixation started around 4 when we were doing preschool, and he wanted to "study" superheroes for school.  He's also always been a project kid, never without a dozen ideas of huge projects to complete--or often for someone else to complete!  :)

He asked if we could do a superhero alphabet book, and as I mentioned before, I was nowhere being able to pull that off without some help.  So, I asked my brother, a comic aficionado, and within 24 hours, he had listed at least 2 superheroes/comic characters for every single letter!  Kind of blew my mind actually.  Anyway, there weren't a ton of females in the mix, and even some he included, he warned me might not be appropriate for a preschooler.  It was really hard to find very many who were actually cool AND had a reasonable amount of clothes on!

Enter Zita.  It is literally the first graphic novel I have ever read, and I was excited to find the character because of Isaiah's interest and to have a quality female , but honestly, I wasn't expecting to enjoy it all the much.  I don't really enjoy comics.  Especially the ones that seem appropriate for kids are not exactly well-crafted plots, and I thought I might lose my mind when we would get a new one (usually shipped from my sweet brother), and would have to read it for the 10th time.  I also don't really like science fiction or things along that line.  So, I had low expectations going in to Zita, but I LOVED IT!  It was after losing count after the 12th reading in the first week of having the book when I realized I was actually hoping he would pick to read it again!  I have never, ever felt that way about...well, almost any other kids' book we've read!  It is absolutely brilliant!  The characters are well-developed and not cheesy and one-dimensional like kids' comic book characters often are.  The stories are exciting, and the art is amazing!

I have since poured over both of the first two many times with both boys, and even Zeke (who is 3) will sometimes pick them now to read.  I did get a little tired after countless times of Isaiah telling me to be Madrigal while he was Zita every. place. we. went.  But, that is more about my lack of creativity with pretend play!

That note brings me to the next thing, which is that, with wrapping up our curriculum for this school year and letting Isaiah pick some things he just wants to "do" for school, we ended up with a unit on Zita for next month!  Hopefully, the Nepali postal system will come through for us, and we'll get the book from my parents by then!

Now, this is where my challenge has come.  I love these books!  I can't wait to read it and be able to just dive in and do some fun things for our Zita "unit."  But, I am neither creative nor fun naturally.  Truly.  When we got so into the books, I searched for every possible source to check out Ben Hatke's work.  He has a blog where he posts some of his great art, and he has a profile to follow on facebook.  In spite of feeling a bit like a stalker, I was totally intrigued.  And, well, I have to admit, also a bit intimidated.  While not a smidge of his stuff ever comes off as pretentious in any way, he and his family seem like those people who are uber creative and super cool--not like high school "cool kid" cool.  Like, genuinely, artsy and interesting and a little surreal.  He posted a bit of one of his daughter's art that totally blew me away.

I'm not a creative.  I'm resourceful, which some people perceive as being somewhat creative, but the truth is, I'm a total Type A, structure-loving person who is blown away by the minds of true creatives.  So, as I started to think about a Zita "unit," my initial thoughts of little Zita clip art printables just didn't seem worthy to represent such creativity.  Don't get me wrong, I am totally amazed by and thankful for all the awesome folks who create and share the wonderful printables they've made!  It is also not my strong suit, ha, but I enjoy using a lot of them!

But, it just felt like I needed to stretch myself more.  Let go.  Philosophically, I highly value exploration and open-ended tasks, but the truth is, it takes some discipline (ironically) for me because it kind of clashes with my natural personality tendencies.  So, I usually end up somewhere in the middle, trying to consciously keep it a priority to make some space for that kind of thing, but definitely ending up on the more structured side of things for our "normal."  Well, all that to say, looking ahead to this unit, I am not only excited because it is an amazing book but also because it is a really good challenge for me, and I think it will be really good for all of us!  Every time I start to shift into my natural mode and plan a whole bunch of structured activities, I've been trying to step back and just think about a few basic frames for our time instead, make lists of materials and supplies, and take a deep breath as we roll without all the little squares on my planning sheets filled out!  Still wrapping my brain around some of it, and I don't think I'll actually know the entirety of what our unit will look like (minor panic attach...still breathing) until we do it!

So, here's to Zita's final adventure and one of hopefully many for us!

Note:  We're obviously hoping it is NOT Zita's final adventure! :)

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