Friday, December 10, 2010

10. A Great Adventure

The Search for Wondla, written and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi, Simon & Schuster, $17.99, ages 10 and up, 496 pages. In her 12 years, Eva Nine has never seen sunlight or even stepped above ground. As far back as she can remember, a robot guardian named Muthr has been caring for her and training her, so that one day, if she has to, she can leave their Sanctuary, a high-tech home underground, and defend herself against danger. All Eva knows is that there are bad people who would hurt her if they could and that the truth of her past has something to do with four letters "W-o-n-d," which she found on scraps of panel left in a secret tunnel in the Sanctuary. When glued together, the scraps show an image of a little girl holding hands with a robot and an adult, as if they're heading off to explore. To Eva, it's a strange yet happy thought, as she's never even been allowed to explore underground, even though other sanctuaries connect to their own. Instead, Muthr simulates what the real world might be like through Holograms and other devices. Then one day, everything Eva knows changes forever.

After a tremendous bang, her home implodes around her. A brutal huntsman, sent to track her down, attacks the Sanctuary and sends Eva fleeing above ground for her life. In this strange, unfamiliar world of walking trees that catch birds and air-whales that prey on flying crabs, Eva races to find others like herself and encode the meaning of those strange letters which she now lengthens to "Wondla." Along the way, she helps rescue Muthr and befriends Rovender, a lanky blue creature, running from his own past, and Otto, a giant armored water bear who watches over her like a guard dog. But this is not a world of humans and as the huntsman closes in, it will take all of Eva's training -- and the help of friends -- to get her through.  A joy to read, the first book in DiTerlizzi's new adventure trilogy is so imaginative, you feel like you've been beamed into his head for a look around. At every turn, a new bizarre and fun adventure awaits. And all the while, you read about high-tech toys you wish you had. My favorite: an infuser that sucks water from the air for drinking. Adding to the fun, every book is imbedded with a 3-D map that allows readers to follow the sights and sounds of Eva's journey at Give this to a child and she'll begging for the next book the following year.

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