I picked up this middle grade focused story because I have a hard time resisting well packaged books that offer creative art and imaginative story lines. The The Search for WondLa certainly fits the bill. A great sci-fi/fantasy adventure with elements of the graphic novel thrown in.
Publishers blurb? Publishers blurb:
When a marauder destroys the underground sanctuary that Eva Nine was raised in by the robot Muthr, the twelve-year-year-old girl is forced to flee aboveground. Eva Nine is searching for anyone else like her, for she knows that other humans exist, because of an item she treasures—a scrap of cardboard on which is depicted a young girl, an adult, and a robot, with the strange word, “WondLa.” Tony DiTerlizzi honors traditional children’s literature in this totally original space age adventure: one that is as complex as an alien planet, but as simple as a child’s wish for a place to belong.
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.
As is often the case where more than one book is planned, this book introduces the characters and explores the world they find themselves in without always revealing all the details or developing secondary characters fully.
The pace and tension don’t necessarily ratchet up but instead move in fits and starts. But the main character, Eva Nine, and her quest to understand the circumstances of her life keep the story moving forward. DiTerlizzi’s artwork adds to the joy of the story and to the underlying mystery. The world DiTerlizzi has created is captivating and mysterious enough that you want to keep reading; not just to see the next illustration but to dig a little deeper into the mystery.
As you move along the ground shifts in subtle and not so subtle ways and as you are soaking up the details you are trying to get a handle on the bigger picture (Where exactly are we? What happened to the humans? What exactly is going on with a planet that seems like an ocean without the water?). This sense of unknown adds its own kind of tension and supsense.
With all of this the tone and style were rather interesting. It was in many ways a bright and cheery story – Eva is remarkably upbeat for the most part and the story has little violence and few dark undertones (I never really felt like Eva was in real danger – too integral to the story for that – but Rovender and Muthr are a different story). But Rovee adds a stoic or semi-tragic perspective and the overall arc of the story gives the sense that life for Eva will never be the same. This seemed like a nice balancing act given the audience (although I understand kids these days read all sort of dark stories).
The ending, however, certainly elevates the tension and leaves readers wanting to read the next book immediately if not sooner. And so we wait for the second book …