Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reader's Diary #683- Liam O'Donnell (writer), Mike Deas (illustrator): Wild Ride

I've learned a lot through fiction, I really have. I don't set out to learn anything from such books but sometimes it's the gravy. You have to be able to determine which facts are facts, of course, but that's part of the fun.

However, when a novel sets out to teach, it's icky. It's boring, it's forced, and annoying. It feels like the author is trying to pull a fast one over on me. "I would have written non-fiction, but you never would have read that, so I've cleverly disguised it as something entertaining."

I don't think kids are any less attuned to these attempts either. Sure they'll tolerate it. Aunt Rosalyn gave it to them for Christmas. Mr. Greenham read it to them in school. But it's never going to have the appeal of say Harry Potter, nor the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, and they'll learn more from both of those titles because they are genuinely interested!

O'Donnell and Deas's Wild Ride is basically a Danger Bay episode with all too frequent interruptions about how to survive in the woods. Devin, Marcus, and Nadia are siblings on their way to visit their environmentalist parents in the BC wilderness when their plane crashes. Their pilot is killed and their only adult companion is a government official named Wiley who... here's how you make an arm sling... carries a brief case. Devin's father has told them never to trust a guy who carries a briefcase into the woods, and it turns out, he's right! Fat, bald Wiley's been taking bribes from those mean ol' logging companies, don't you know. Maybe predictable has become the new unpredictable, I'm not sure... and here's how to walk safely across a stream... and here's how to signal a rescue plane... here's how to fend off a bear... Yes, it's full of great advice, but good Lord, so are Girl Guide/ Boy Scouts handbooks. And they're far more entertaining.

As for Deas's illustrations? Average comic book fare. I suspect overzealous teachers thinking they'll be hip to the graphic novel craze will think this book is the cat's pajamas. But just like all novels are not created equal, nor are all graphic novels. Kids know. Graphic novel fans know. Anyone not pushing an educational and/or environmentalist agenda knows.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

On the plus side, now I know not to trust anyone who carries a briefcase into the woods.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: When I lived in Rankin Inlet, I had a few elders who made me prove that I wasn't taking any cash or credit cards in my pocket before they'd escort me out on the land.