The Battle For WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

I very much enjoyed the first two books in the WondLa series by Tony DiTerlizzi (reviews here and here) so naturally I grabbed The Battle For WondLa (Book #3) when it was released:

Battle for WondLaEva Nine is at her bravest in the final book in the New York Times bestselling trilogy from the fantastical mind of Tony DiTerlizzi.

All hope for a peaceful coexistence between humankind and aliens seems lost in the third installment of the WondLa trilogy. Eva Nine has gone into hiding for fear of luring the wicked Loroc to her companions.

However, news of the city Solas being captured by the human leader, Cadmus Pryde, forces Eva into action once again. With help from an unlikely ally, Eva tries to thwart Loroc’s ultimate plan for both mankind and the alien life on Orbona.

Complete with lavish two-color illustrations and spot art throughout, and starring a host of unforgettable characters that reinforce the importance of friendship, The Battle for WondLa has all the hallmarks of a classic book—of the future.

I have to confess, I think I should have read the first two books in this trilogy before reading the third.

I did go back and read the last chapter or two of the second book to try to get my bearings but I still felt a little lost at times.

This third book, however, has all the ingredients that makes the series enjoyable: wonderful illustrations and all around design; imaginative characters and settings; and some great adventures.

I enjoyed reading it, and seeing the story move toward a conclusion and the climax was exciting. There were times, however, that I had a hard time keeping everything straight.

The history/future and all the species, races and people’s relationships between and amongst them can get a little confusing at times. And there are moments when things get a little cheesy.

But all in all it really is a great series full of imagination and creativity, a great main character in Eva, and a gorgeous package to wrap it all up.

This is a series I can see myself going back re-reading and then sharing with my kids.

A Hero for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

I was intrigued by The Search for WondLa by its unique combination of illustrations and story.  I have a hard time resisting well packaged books that offer creative art and imaginative story lines.

So of course when a sequel came out and I had to keep reading.

… Before the end of The Search for WondLa, Eva Nine had never seen another human, but after a human boy named Hailey rescues her along with her companions, she couldn’t be happier. Eva thinks she has everything she’s ever dreamed of, especially when Hailey brings her and her friends to the colony of New Attica, where humans of all shapes and sizes live in apparent peace and harmony.

But all is not idyllic in New Attica, and Eva Nine soon realizes that something sinister is going on—and if she doesn’t stop it, it could mean the end of everything and everyone on planet Orbona …

This second book in the series, A Hero for WondLa, brings all that was well done about the first and adds in more details and more depth to the characters. DiTerlizzi continues his wonderful world building and adds in a real sense of danger and menace to this book in the form of the humans Eva Nine finally meets.

Like all good world builders, DiTerlizzi has created a world filled with interesting creatures and cultures that seem to have ancient and complex histories behind them. And just when you begin to think the story might be simple he adds in a twist or a layer of complexity. And yet there is a simplicity and beauty to the story that makes it a real joy to read.

For those who read the first book this is an obvious must read. If you haven’t yet read WondLa I highly recommend it before starting the second book.

The only problem? Now the wait for the third book begins …

My Favorite Reads of 2011

I wasn’t able to post thoughts on the books I read in 2011 by the end of the year so I am doing it this week.  I noted the general statistics yesterday and today want to tackle my favorite reads.  Like last year, I am going to break in out into categories.

Young Adult Fiction

A large chunk of my reading this year was YA (30 of 79 books were roughly in this category) so I had a lot of books to chose from in 2011. So here are ten of my favorites in no particular order:

  1. Cover of "The Wednesday Wars"
    Cover of The Wednesday Wars

    I am going to cheat a little and put two books by Gary D. Schmidt on the list, Okay or Now and The Wednesday Wars.  “Great stories, great characters, imaginative settings and clear writing make these two books great reads. I highly recommend them.”

  2. I am also going to put N.D. Wilson here because I can’t choose just one of his wonderful books I read this year: The Dragon’s Tooth (start of the new Ashtown Burials series) and the entire 100 Cupboards series)  “… if you like large, complex and imaginative fantasy series this one is a must read.”
  3. Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby “Kirby weaves a great tale. There is historical detail, psychological insight, mystery, intrigue and more.”
  4. Skellig by David Almond “It is a simple and yet powerful story of friendship, family, compassion and faith.”
  5. The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi “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.”

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The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

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 …

The Wyrm King (Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles) by Holly Block and Tony DiTerlizzi

This has turned into YA fiction week here at CM.  So we might as well keep things going with another illustrated chapter book.  The Wyrm King is the final book in the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles which appropriately enough followed The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Here is a video trailer to pique your interest:

For those of you more literal and less visual here is the blurb:

In the final installment of Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, Nick and Laurie had thought they solved their giant problems when they drove all the giants into the sea. But now, the Grace kids have come back to tell them they may have more trouble coming their way!

It turns out the giants control the population of Hydra, a dragon like creature that is creating sinkholes all over Florida. But with the mermaids refusing to return the giants to the shore, the nixie’s still missing and the threat of a destroyed Florida drawing closer, the kids have to take matters in their own hands.

Will Nick and Laurie be able to stop the destruction they unwittingly caused? Can a new giant hunter help save the day? Can Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide help them out of this or are they on their own?

My quick take: for the intended audience (ages 9-12) this final installment is an action packed conclusion to a fun series.  For me, however, the series had run its course and I no longer looked forward to each new book with such anticipation.  So while The Wyrm King was well done it lacked some of the magic of the earlier series.

A bit more below.

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