There’s nothing sexier than watching a grown man cry over a book. And every so often, there comes a book so saddening, hopeful and touching that it makes a man willing to admit he was brought to tears. Author and DJ Kid Koala’s second graphic novel is such a book.
Space Cadet, which was originally published in 2011, was coupled with a grand headphone concert combining one piano, six space pods, seven turntables and a set of headphones provided to each member of the audience to launch the book.
A smaller, more intimate concert was recently re-vamped last week as a part of Drawn & Quarterly Library’s Kid’s Day, in collaboration with Kids POP. Huddled towards the back of the store, each member was provided with a set of Ol’ Factory headphones, and a bundle of five vials of perfumes, concocted by International Flavors and Fragrances Inc.; scents varying from salty marines, to shouting sensory overload, to blissful aromas of childhood. The audience was encouraged to waft each scent as an animation inspired by scenes in the still picture book were displayed on a screen. Kid Koala – spinning and playing the piano whilst being accompanied by a theremin – combines the senses to fully immerse you in the whimsically touching and beautiful story of Space Cadet.
We meet the nameless robot, a guardian who is programed to protect a girl as she grows to independence, saying goodbye to the now sweet astronaut taking off for her first solo mission into space. He is left to deal with the question of, “what now?”
Lost in his memories and attempting to deal with life without her, he finds comfort and finality in cardboard stars and seashells. In time, the girl who dreamed of stars her entire childhood, finally graduates from Space Academy and takes off on her first adventure to discover new botanical life in distant worlds. She too is dealing with her separation from the robot, but is quickly swept up in her adventures and eventual famed contributions to Extraterrestrial Geology.
Though technically a picture book, this 136 page story reaches out to every age. Exploring themes of family and connectivity, Kid Koala speaks to every person who has struggled with losing their own “sweetest astronaut … when [they] blast off on a solo mission of outer space adventure.”
The book itself is accompanied by a score by DJ Kid Koala, provided to you in CD form in the jacket of the book. With it, a list of tracks and instructions signaling which track accompanies which section. The reading of the book is a little rocky at first, attempting to match the length of each track to the amount of pages you are recommended to read proves difficult, sometimes with the feeling you are given too much time, or too little. But with each track, Kid Koala sets the pace of the story, causing you to take more time to completely appreciate each illustration and fully develop the story of the two characters. It sweeps you up in an excited rush, and just as soon slows you into a stroll through the characters’ memories.
Space Cadet provides the reader with a truly unique experience, allowing the book to stand out in a way that has become so rare. The author vividly captures the heartbreak of moving on and the struggle to find happiness and identity. It is the true innovation of Kid Koala that makes this book what it is: a touching adventure to find one’s place in the universe.