Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Search for WondLa - Tony DiTerlizzi

Title: The Search for WondLa
Author: Tony DiTerlizzi
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Kids, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 466 pages
Genre: Children's Science Fiction/Dystopian
Started: September 29, 2010
Finished: October 7, 2010

From the publisher's website:
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.

This is one of those books that is destined to become a classic purely because of the magic and brilliance that went into its creation. Picture a plot similar to The Wizard of Oz with various alien characters similar to Star Wars, and you've got WondLa. This is a great modern fairy tale because it incorporates the sci-fi and dystopian literature that kids and teens love and turns it into a classic story. Twelve-year-old Eva Nine (I tended to pronounce her whole name as one-Evanine- since she is so often referred to by both her names) lives in an underground Sanctuary cared for by her robot caretaker, Muthr. Eva grows up questioning where all the other humans are, and treasures a ratty photo of a robot, an adult, and a little girl and refers to it as WondLa because of the fragments of words she can decipher on it. Muthr always promised her she could seek out other humans once she is ready to survive outside the Sanctuary. She is forced to leave prematurely when Besteel destroys her home, and encounters Rovender Kitts and Otto on her journey to escape the hunter and discover what happened to the other humans on the planet.

I love the descriptions of the technology Eva uses. She wears a tunic that is wired to her body to control body temperature, read vital signs, and administer basic first aid. Heck, it even tells her when to go to the bathroom. She also carries around an Omnipod, a device that looks like a hand mirror that literally does everything: it's a communication device, message center, encyclopedia, and first aid kit...think a suped-up version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy device. The alien life-forms and world building around them reminded me so much of the early Star Wars movies, the creatures are so unique and fantastical. The Augmented Reality feature of the book enables people with a webcam and the downloaded program to scan specific images throughout the book that result in 3D pop up maps that track the progress of the characters throughout the book. It's such a cool bonus, and even though I haven't actually tried it yet I've seen videos of it online and it looks amazing. The author's skill as an illustrator really shine here too, each chapter opens with a sepia coloured picture double-page spread of which all of them are gorgeous and wonderfully detailed. This story has the charm of The Wizard of Oz and the technology and type of story that's been upgraded for a more modern set of kids. For hubby and I who plan to raise our kids on sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian lit, this is a keeper that's going on the "save for future kids" bookshelf.

Sci-fi version of The Wizard of Oz with insanely cool aliens, what's not to love? Definitely something kids will be attracted to in their reading, but there are dystopian themes with some minor violence and threats of ever present danger, so be aware if you've got a younger, sensitive kid as the reader. Most kids over the age of 10 should be perfectly fine with the content though.

Thoughts on the cover:
Very nice. I like how all the main characters are placed almost in a coat-of-arms layout with Eva at the top with her hair flowing around and everyone else fitting in nicely beneath her. The dust jacket is made of paper instead of plastic, so the colours have the softer appearance of paintings and watercolours rather than the photo finish look that most plastic dust jackets have.

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