Nick Abadzis, Illustrated by the author

First Second



Trade Paperback

208 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

A YALSA Great Graphic Novel for Teens
Winner of the Eisner Award

Nick Abadzis blends fiction and fact in the intertwined stories of three compelling lives. Along with Laika, there is Korolev, once a political prisoner, now a driven engineer at the top of the Soviet space program, and Yelena, the lab technician responsible for Laika's health and life. This intense triangle is rendered with the pitch-perfect emotionality of classics like Because of Winn Dixie, Shiloh, and Old Yeller.  Abadzis gives life to a pivotal moment in modern history—when the race to conquer Outer Space drove the wedge deeper between East and West—casting light on the hidden moments of deep humanity behind the cold hard facts. It is so much more than history—Laika's story will speak straight to your heart.


Praise for Laika

"Abadzis has a soft, reserved style, a rare gift for subtlety and understatement. In an age of overcrowded pages and panels stuffed full of long dialogue balloons, it’s refreshing to read a graphic novel that is not overwhelmed by wordiness. It’s clear, too, that Abadzis has done his research. Laika is filled with fascinating details on the Russian space program and the people inside of it . . . It’s a tender and engrossing work that deserves praise for shedding light on one of the most noble and steadfast victims of the Cold War."—John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter

"Following the story of plucky Laika—the first dog in space—the reader experiences her entire life from a mongrel living in the streets to the tragic loss of her canine companion, her captivity in the government lab, her endearing relationship with the unwavering caretaker Yelena and her tragic fatal mission. The strong ties between Laika (renamed after her breed type) are exceptionally well defined; in fact, Laika has the ability to touch every character's life, even the most emotionally indifferent social-climbing Russian politicians. Evincing the cruelty and sadness of her life, Laika's striving to be loved echoes, and the strong bond between man—or woman—and his best friend resound off every page of her journey. The striking palette of earth tones works in concert with the compelling historically fictive prose—a luminous masterpiece filled with pathos and poignancy."Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"During the Cold War, Russia and the U.S. were entrenched in a battle to be first in space. Laika tells the tale of one special soldier in that battle, the dog who flew in Sputnik II. Former Gulag prisoner Korolev has ascended to the rank of Chief Designer, and, after the successful launch of Sputnik I, he is called upon to send a live creature into space within one month’s time. Laika, also known as Kudryavka (curly tail), is a down-and-out stray caught by local officials and sent to the canine lab at the Institute of Aviation Medicine. Higher-ups notice the dog’s special ability to withstand g-force, environments without gravity, and the special gel food given to the test subjects. When the time comes to select a dog to go into space, she is the obvious choice. Abadzis’s artwork genuinely captures the Cold War atmosphere, while the youth-friendly textual take on the politically dangerous USSR compares favorably to that of Marjane Satrapi’s depiction of unstable Iran in Persepolis. Abadzis provides enough historical content to make Laika a valuable teaching tool."—Sarah Krygier, Solano County Library, Fairfield, California, School Library Journal (starred review)

"With communism's triumph over capitalist science via Sputnik, Soviet Premier Khrushchev wanted an in-your-face sequel: a living creature sent into space. The lucky gal is Laika, an accommodating street mutt that captured her handlers' affections. The plucky dog survives training, and her story is juxtaposed with a flashback of the space program director's earlier hairbreadth escape from a gulag. Indeed, the director chooses Laika for launch partly because of his feelings of empathy for her. But Laika does not survive her mission, and the unsavory details are hidden initially. The entire account leaks tragedy—not just Laika's death and the director's harrowing experience but also the tragedy of the other characters and, indeed, all the Russian people struggling to maintain their humanity while enmeshed in suffocating bureaucracies. Drawn in grimy-colored naturalism, Laika is a powerfully emotional reading experience."—Martha Cornog, School Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Nick Abadzis is a British comics creator whose work has been published across the globe--from the U.S. to Japan.  He based his book on the true story of the Sputnik 2: there was really a dog named Laika, and she touched the stars before she died.  In writing his graphic novel, Nick Abadzis did thorough scientific and historical research, including traveling to Russia, visiting special Sputnik 2 archives, and interviewing experts in the field.  He lives in London with his wife and daughter.
Read the full excerpt


  • Nick Abadzis, Illustrated by the author

  • Nick Abadzis creates words and pictures for a living and loves both equally. He has authored many books, won some awards, and also works as an editorial consultant for several British publishers. He lives in London with his wife and daughter. 
  • Nick Abadzis