The Search for WondLa

The Search for WondLa

Author:  Tony DiTerlizzi

Here’s a bit that made my class laugh, though perhaps you had to be there:

“A family of Halcyonus stood, seemingly dumbfounded in their entry room, as a panicked Eva faced them. ‘Please,’ she pleaded in between gasps, ‘I need to hide.  Can you help me?’  The inhabitants yelled and hollered as they pushed her back out the front door.”

After I finished reading Among the Hidden to my class, there was a surge of interest in science fiction–hooray!  That was my secret plan, of course.  The tricky part comes in satisfying that desire, because while there is a TON of fantasy for middle grades, science fiction is not so common.  I had about a dozen or so titles on hand, but I went in search of more.  That is when I found The Search for WondLa.  DiTerlizzi was known to me as the Spiderwick Chronicles guy, and so I took a look at this novel.  I knew right away I wanted to read it, but coming in at a reading level of 7.5-ish, I knew it would be a bit too much for many of my students.  So I decided to try it as a read aloud.  Reading two books from the same genre virtually back-to-back isn’t usually my modus operandi, but I am so glad I went with my gut.  Firstly, because WondLa is in many ways a more classic scifi story than the dystopian choices I often see in middle grade scifi–not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the difference left us with a lot of room for contrasting books within the genre (and WondLa has the dystopian thing going (sort of), just not until later in the book).  Secondly, because my class is CRAZY about this book.  The author uses these two-tone illustrations, which give just enough visually to help us imagine a different world full of alien creatures.  And thirdly, I got to do a lot of weird voices. 🙂

The story centers around Eva Nine, a girl raised underground by a robot.  When her home is invaded, Eva is forced out into the world, which is not the Earth she has been taught to survive in, but extremely alien-seeming.  Eva makes friends and enemies along the way as she searches for others like herself.  Sounds simple, huh?  It is in many ways a classic story about finding a place in the world–but this is one weird world!  And supporting characters are often as compelling as Eva herself.  Rovender, her first alien “friend”, is a wanderer who has lost his mate and family, and is now reluctant to form close relationships as a result.  MUTHR, Eva’s robot guardian, is quite robotic in many ways, but you see glimpses of something akin to humanity as the story progresses.  The bad guys are satisfyingly bad, with shady agendas and super-cool and dangerous technologies.  The pacing of the plot was a perfect for read aloud, without any of those long expositions that sometimes cause my young readers’ interests to flag.  Plenty of action, but action which serves the overall plot and character development.

If I had to predict, I’d say that The Search for WondLa will be the read aloud that sticks with my class in the future.  We’ll be finishing the story within the next week or so, and the sequel, A Hero for WondLa, drops in May.  Great timing!

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