CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 6 . . . .November 9, 2007
Wild Ride. (A Graphic Guide Adventure).
Liam O'Donnell. Illustrated by Mike Deas.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2007.
64 pp., pbk., $9.95.
Survival after airplane accidents, shipwrecks, etc.-Juvenile fiction.
Survival skills-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
If the river looks like it's flowing back on itself - watch out! There's probably a strong undertow that could trap you against the rocks.
Liam O'Donnell is the author of the enjoyable "Max Finder" series of graphic mystery books and, with Wild Ride, O'Donnell begins another series of graphic books, to be known as "Graphic Guide Adventures." It is a series intended for 8-14 year olds and aims to combine comic book/graphic novel action with step-by-step guides that teach readers various skills.
In Wild Ride, the instructional content has to do with teaching outdoor and survival skills. The brief excerpt that I include above is extracted from a series of panels in which one of the principal characters is discussing things to be aware of when trying to walk across a river. Elsewhere, there are tips on things such as how to build a campfire, fixing a splint to a broken limb, constructing a lean-to shelter, important survival gear, and how to make a Hudson's Bay pack to carry one's gear. While the instructional tips might prove useful, I found them a touch patronizing or overbearing, and I thought they distracted from the main narrative action.
The main story in Wild Ride sees three children survive an airplane crash in the British Columbia wilderness. The pilot dies in the crash, and the other adult in the party suffers a broken arm. The children, Marcus, Devin and Nadia, must then make their way to a high spot from which they might be rescued. Along the way however, they escape a forest fire, encounter a grizzly bear and, worst of all, they need to escape the murderous designs of Mr. Wiley, a corrupt government official.
O'Donnell and the illustrator, Mike Deas, have also included a strong environmental message within the book. They make it clear that they find the logging of British Columbia's forests to be distasteful. Deas' artwork is obviously influenced by Japanese Manga and Anime. Brother and sister, Devin and Nadia, both appear to be Asian-Canadians, and I expect this is a deliberate nod toward the Japanese influence on the wild popularity of graphic novels in North America. Each illustration is presented in full colour. Each page generally contains 3 to 5 panels, but the panels range in size, shape and positioning. Wild Ride is divided into six chapters. The design features of the book and the colourful, glossy paper are sure to appeal to young readers.
For those (and there certainly are many) upper elementary and middle school students who have been caught up in the graphic novel craze, Wild Ride will provide them with the excitement, artwork, drama and, very importantly, the reading ease that they are looking for.
Gregory Bryan teaches children's literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.
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