Book Review: Nin And The Wonderic Discovery by Heather Wilson

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Updated February 23, 2019

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Nin studied Michael with bright eyes. “You should accompany me on my Expedition. You are an Explorer. Why else would you arrive at the exactical moment of my departure? I will cross the threshold of Onestria and explore the mystical lands beyonder.” Nin reached a massive arm around Michael’s shoulders and squeezed him in a gleeful hug. “This is splendiferous!”

Michael could never have imagined that at the end of an ordinary weekend he would find himself exploring a fantastical world “Over the Edge” with a giant guinea pig and a flying sleigh as his travelling companions.

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Nin and the Wonderic Discovery by Heather Wilson
(Updated: February 23, 2019)
Overall rating 
This new children's fiction title published by Onwards and Upwards Christian Publishers is an interesting and adventurous title. "Nin and the Wonderic Discovery" is a title that immediately stands out because it doesn't scan and leaves you wondering if you are right in believing that "wonderic" isn't a real word! The cover of this book shows that you are going to get something different, a boy and a furry creature on a packed sleigh on wheels held aloft by a large punctured balloon.

There is a long tradition of making up allegorical stories that contain Christian truth in literature. Pilgrim's Progress, The Chronicles of Narnia and even The Lord of the Rings all contain pictures of Christianity in their narrative. The prologue sees one of the main characters of the story, a giant Guinea Pig called Nin, approaching his father to ask for money to fund a quest to make a great discovery over the edge. An adult with a fair knowledge of the Bible will quickly identify from this that this is a retelling of the parable of Jesus known as The Prodigal Son. In the first chapter though we suddenly get reset to the real world and we are introduced to Michael, a boy who is starting a new school and not enjoying being the new kid. Through his worries about the next week, he notices a letter addressed to him propped up against his wall. Opening it and reading it he thinks it is a puzzle or game set by his parents, but when he follows the instructions given and pulls a cord a doorway to another world swings open and he finds himself on a mission to help make sure that Nin gets home safely, only he has no idea who 'Nin' might be, but the letter appears to be from his father!

The world that he enters is known as Onestria and his first guide to that world appears to be a station master who advises him about many places that he might want to visit. Many of the towns and directions that are mentioned are plays on words and phrases which I am pretty sure will go over many kids heads unless they are explained to them. At the same time, there will be children who will enjoy working out these place names and what they mean and how they relate to the descriptions given. As Michael begins his adventure and tries to get his head around what he is seeing there are some things that make little sense, he ends up being chased by a cloud called Nimbus who also just appears to be a child, and then he meets Nin, the giant Guinea Pig who is the adventurer that he is meant to help. Despite having the letter he never lets Nin know that his Father has sent him to ensure his safe return and then the adventure starts as they head to a sleigh to make their journey over the edge so Nin can make a discovery and become famous.

Needless to say that along the way the pair meet some questionable characters and Nin seems to be a little more gullible than Michael. Their adventure does indeed take them over the edge and on a quest that one of their questionable contacts gives them. The story, although based on the prodigal son, is quite different from the story that Jesus told, but the teaching points that we discover at the end are very similar. It is hard to create a fantasy world where you bring a 'real' character into, C.S. Lewis draws his world brilliantly in the Narnia series and the gradual discovery of the world is given to us from the perspectives of the characters that the children meet. Here though we really just have one perspective and it doesn't quite sit right for me. While the adventure is fun, most of the characters that we are introduced to seem to be quite flat, in such a mystical world of talking Guinea Pigs and other forms of magic it seems a shame that there isn't more time taken to explore. There are descriptive passages and elements but it never seems to leap off the page. If I were to give some constructive criticism the author needs to inhabit the world of this story that she has created. It is a fantastic world but what would a boy transported to that place really be thinking and feeling? his might slow down some of the plot, but it would allow us to become more invested in the characters too, giving a richer tapestry for the story to unfold in. 

I applaud that Heather has taken the time to put this book together, to try and retell a classic parable in a new and exciting way. It's a very creative story in many ways and there is a land here that has been created and crafted but it needs to be explored further to give the whole framework context. In Nin we have a character that seems to like to use words that aren't real words, but we don't really know if that is just a personality trait, or if other Guinea Pigs also speak like that, his Father doesn't seem to. We have very little backstory to the places in Rottany, or Onestria as to why they became this way. Why is the town of Lyes called that? What happened to the area and the people, especially when they are so close to the castle? There is a lot to be explored and a rich history that could be written and expanded upon and I do hope that Heather does take the time to bring us other stories from these places.

I think this book is probably aimed at those readers around 9 - 10 years old, those who can pick up on the wordplay that is used throughout the story but particularly in the early chapters. They may also be able to get to grips with the dilemma that is facing Michael as the main character and not really wanting to go to school because of the way that he expects to be treated. I think that more could have been made to deal with this very serious issue of bullying and peer pressure that is introduced in the first chapter. The takeaway at the end that we can call on God at any time, good or bad, is a good ending, but also a great conversation starter if you read this to your child and that's got to be a good thing!

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