Remembering Laika the Soviet Space Dog, a Reading List for Children and Fans
Sixty years ago on November 3rd a mongrel mix with a bit of Siberian husky shot into space, becoming the world's first cosmonaut. Laika travelled to an altitude of almost 2,000 miles and orbited the earth aboard the Soviet spacecraft, Sputnik 2. She also died only several hours into orbit, but she remains alive in our imagination in books and film. In the lovely 1985 Swedish coming-of-age film, My Life as a Dog, the character of Ingemar consoles himself when his life is difficult by telling himself repeatedly that things could be worse, he could have been Laika, the dog who was sent into space. British comics artist Nick Abadzis carefully researched Laika's story, even traveling to Russia and visiting Sputnik 2 archives, producing a beautiful, award-winning graphic novel in 2014 about the intrepid dog whose life ended so tragically, and was a pawn in the space race between the Soviet Union and the US during the Cold War. That same year UK publisher Fuel launched the book Soviet Space Dogs featuring all the paraphernalia designed and produced around the Soviet Union's canine cosmonauts, including matchboxes, stamps, cigarette packets and posters.
Following is a list of five books for young readers and Laika fans alike to remember the stray dog who was not only the world's first cosmonaut, but also a symbol of patriotic sacrifice. On a happier note, three years after Laika was sent into space, two strays also in the Soviet space program, Belka and Strelka, orbited the Earth and came back alive. One of Strelka's puppies, Pushinka, went on to live in the White House, after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave her to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.