Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Search for Wondla, by Tony DiTerlizzi

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."
Albert Einstein - quoted in the beginning of The Search for Wondla, by Tony DiTerlizzi.
When I was a child of about 9 or 10, I used to pour over illustrated fairy tales like Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book and Blue Fairy Book. My favorite was Old French Fairy Tales, by Sophie Rostopchine, Comtesse De Segur. These were long, complicated tales rich with illustrations that captivated me. I was delighted recently to read Tony DiTerlizzi's newest novel, The Search for Wondla, a highly illustrated adventure which draws as its inspiration old illustrated fairy tales, modern quest stories and creates a richly drawn science fiction world.
Search for Wondla
by Tony DiTerlizzi
NY: Simon and Schuster, 2010
also available on audio
Teri Hatcher, narrator
ages 9 - 13
available on Amazon and at your local library
Young Eva Nine has grown up entirely within the confines of her underground Sanctuary, under the watchful guidance of Muthr, a robot charged with her upbringing. Now twelve years old, Eva Nine yearns to explore above ground and meet other humans. Her dreams are fueled by a scrap of paper that has the words "Wond" and the letters "L" and "a", showing a picture of a young child walking hand in hand with a robot - her "WondLa". But Muthr (pronounced "mother") insists that Eva must wait a bit longer so she is truly prepared.

One day, the Sanctuary is attacked by a vicious beast and Eva escapes with only the clothes on her back and her Omnipod, a handheld computer device. Suddenly Eva is thrust above ground and must survive on her own. All around her are strange plant forms and living things which her Omnipod cannot identify. She meets Rovender Kit, a strange, blue creature who ends up becoming Eva's trusted friend and guide, and she is ruthlessly pursued by the beast who destroyed her Sanctuary. Together, Eva, Rovender and Muthr search this strange, fascinating world for other human life forms.

Tony DiTerlizzi, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, has created wonderful illustrations to highlight his richly imagined world. Each chapter begins with a double-page illustration that captured my interest. I actually listened to this as an audiobook, but each night found myself pouring over the illustrations in the book. In some places, I found the text did not provide quite enough description, as it assumed readers were also looking at the illustrations. But Teri Hatcher's narration captured the voice of Eva perfectly, combining an annoying Tween girl's attitude with her mother's restrictions, with her wonder and fear as she explored this new world. DiTerlizzi has also created an interactive visual map which you access online through WondLaVision. This intrigues some students, but I found it hard to break away from my reading habits, bring the book to the computer, and explore this world.

Several students in my elementary school have started this but not finished it. Its length is definitely daunting. But for those who want to get lost in another world, I'd highly recommend this. Another excellent science fiction series is Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve. Several of my 5th grade students have loved Fever Crumb and are thrilled that the Mortal Engine series is being re-released in paperback this spring.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

1 comment:

  1. This is the book I will read today, on my "ice day" off of school! Thanks for the review!

    (Hope all is well in the new job -- sure sounds like it is going swimmingly!!)