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Monday, 3 September 2012

Review: The Search for WondLa

Author: Tony DiTerlizzi

Release date: 1st October 2010
Genre: Sci-fi
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster


The Search for WondLa is an imaginative sci-fi adventure story written in the tradition of classic children’s literature.

Eva Nine is a rebellious twelve year old girl who has grown up in the Sanctuary. She has never met another human and her only companion is robot Muthr – her surrogate mother. Eva dreams of escaping the sanctuary and seeing the world above. She wonders what it would be like to see trees stretch up to the sky. But Muthr will not let Eva leave the Sanctuary until she is ready. At the beginning of the story Eva fails her survival simulation exercise and storms away from her robot caretaker. Whilst she is hiding with her toys, a great blast sends a shock wave through the compound leading to Eva’s adventure into the world above.

This book is a challenging read for target age group. The language is more complex than I’d expect to see in a book with this type of adventure story. Words like pastoral and confluence stood out to me as being particularly difficult for a ten year old reader. The Search for WondLa is written in a traditional style and reminded me very strongly of the classics. I don’t want to say too much because it will spoil the reading experience but homage to a certain classic children’s book was definitely the author’s intention.

The illustrations in this book are incredible. They are charming and really bring the characters to life. The book explores a world which is largely alien to the reader – plants, animals and landscapes are transformed – the concept is so otherworldly that I don’t think I could have visualised it without DiTerlizzi’s beautiful drawings. The vast world that is built within this book is a wonder and it without doubt the book’s greatest strength.

The plot of the book follows Eva’s journey into the world beyond Sanctuary. She is searching for WondLa and the other humans that. The author explores themes of loneliness, loss, family and friendship. My favourite part of the book was when Eva felt insignificant looking up at the stars. I loved the way the author managed this feeling. It made me think about our place in the universe in an entirely new way. Sadly I am not fond of stories which follow the journey plotline. I struggle with the slow pace and the inevitable movement across the landscape. I just can’t engage with that. And for me personally, reaching a destination isn’t a strong enough goal (even if it is to find out if there are more humans left in the world). But that is me as a reader and I know children who love this type of story.

The Search for WondLa is full of inventive world-building and quirky characterisation. The sparky illustrations bring the breath-taking concept to life.

Recommended for fans of classic children’s fiction including: Journey to the Centre of the Earth / Around the World in Eighty Days / The Wonderful Wizard of Oz / Peter Pan

Source: Review copy sent by the publisher. Thank you.

1 comment:

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

Well, it sounds like I really need to get around to reading this! I love the idea that it's a homage to the classics.