"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · series

wondla

Oz has become a post-apocalyptic space adventure. Fans of these kinds of stories will want to pick up The Search for Wondla for their younger reader—and join in on the fun.

The Search for Wondla

written and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi

Simon & Schuster, 2010.

466 pages, hardcover.

Age 12, Eva Nine thinks she is ready to venture out of the Sanctuary into the unexplored world above. She tires of the holographic simulations and the lessons her Muthr (Muti-Utility Task Help Robot zero-six) insists she review over and over first. But when an alien hunter from the outside invades the Sanctuary, she is forced to the surface into the beautiful and perilous above ground—and finds she is not ready; worse, she is unprepared.

In the spirit of The Wizard of Oz and Dorothy, Eva Nine emerges from her house to discover a strange and enchanting world. Armed with incredible futuristic technology, Eva Nine’s adventure has begun. Where she might be lost in the wonder and peril of the mobile/sentient landscape, she finds companions to help her along her way as she searches for her own Wizard in WondLa.

Believed to be the only human on the planet, Eva Nine is certain that WondLa has the answers to Who she was and Where, and what happened to the others of her kind. Now to just find what it is she is searching for.

Part Fantasy and part Sci Fi, Tony DiTerlizzi writes a story both magical and logical in explanation. DiTerlizzi world-builds around the protagonist and her fascinating companions as the story progresses, balancing travel-narrative with heart-thumping action sequences. He begins on a high-adrenalined note, a brilliant beginning to invest the reader and show off his writerly skills. The writing is clean, fluid, and the story unfolds with pieces slowly sliding into place while yet maintaining enough of a mystery for the series to sustain itself. (Yes, The Search for Wondla is book one.) The creatures and the gadgetry are well-presented, not underestimating the clever brains of middle-school readers. Indeed, the vocabulary in The Search for Wondla is not a 3rd grader’s level (bless him). [yes, I know this aspect will alienate several adults.] If you love Kate DiCamillo for her diction, you will love DiTerlizzi.

The illustrations alone are worth picking up The Search for Wondla. DiTerlizzi is a fantastic illustrator. I first met with his work in The Spiderwick Chronicles and his work in Wondla is marvelously familiar. Each chapter begins with a two page illustrations while single pages and images are littered throughout. This should make the page length less daunting, but not shorter. I was drawn to stare at the pictures. They spoke volumes, true, but they were also that enchanting.

Like all Sci Fi/Fantasy, The Search for Wondla has the challenge of holding the active reader interested while providing the necessary details for this new and wondrous place. Tony DiTerlizzi uses enough of the familiar to offset the strange languages, terms, and gadget capability. His imagination creates wonder without overwhelming or boring the the reader. Just the same, I think for some readers, patience or intense interest is required for The Search for Wondla; especially those unused to Sci Fi or Fantasy. Fortunately for these readers, DiTerlizzi is gracious with his action sequences–riveting would be an apt description.

The Search for Wondla would be a fun read for those TAG Readers whose curriculum includes Eco-Criticism (Natalya’s was fairly humdrum). Conversations about the interconnectedness of nature and the consequences of the destructive (domineering) spirits are woven into the adventure. It isn’t message-y, but appropriate to Eva Nine’s desire to not be alone, and to not be at constant odds with her environment and its inhabitants.

Loss and loneliness and survival infuse the text, important ingredients in a journey quest and compelling adventure. The Search for Wondla will entertain readers of all ages, boy and girl alike.

*********

“Inspired by stories by the likes of the Brothers Grimm, James M. Barrie, and L. Frank Baum, The Search for Wondla is a new fairy tale for the twenty-first century.” ~publisher’s comments

The Search for Wondla would desire the same timeless quality of Grimm, Peter Pan, and Wizard of Oz (what wouldn’t). It doesn’t immediately strike me as probable*, but I would like to see it so. I would like to see something so evidently sci-fi in take find itself resting in said company—as an equal, rather than a remnant. When the next book comes out, I will read the first through (by myself instead of the partitioned read-aloud) and revisit the thought of comparisons.

As for the assertion of “The Search for Wondla is a new fairy tale for the twenty-first century,” I would like to hear another reader’s opinion on this first. Fairy Tale didn’t immediately spring to mind, then, I don’t think about Oz or Wonderland in that way either. I missed Grimm somewhere along the way. While I am visiting the descriptor for the Once Upon a Time Challenge, maybe something will come to mind.

******

Breathtaking two-color illustrations throughout reveal another dimension of Tony DiTerlizzi’s vision, and, for those readers with a webcam, the book also features Augmented Reality in several places, revealing additional information about Eva Nine’s world. ~The Search for Wondla website

The Search for Wondla has to have one of the best book sites. The FANTASTIC website. The “Wondla-Vision” is marvelous fun. Get the book and check it out on their site!

*********

I believe Paramount has shown interest if not more in The Search for Wondla, but as I read this novel, all I could think was what Miyazaki & Studio Ghibli could do with this! I think it right up his/their alley.

*That Tony DiTerlizzi will be known for ages to come is very probable, and thus, Wondla as his work…

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