Sometimes you accidentally come across something that you never knew existed that is strange, wonderful and totally different. Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth by Jon Chad was one of those books, that I found by chance at my local library. The book is fun but at the same time educational, teaching children about geology. Although, what makes the book unique is the manner in which it is read while unconventional works great in the context of the story.
Published in 2012 by Roaring Brook Press, Leo Geo starts off quite normal with the protagonist, Leo Geo, attempting to travel down to the centre of the Earth, although things take turn for the strange. After a handful of pages underground monster begin to appear and eventually an race of underground dwellers. This is where the pace picks up a bit with Leo dodging giant monsters and traps in order to reach his goal.
On his travels Leo is narrating the whole experience as well as giving some much well researched geology facts at the same time. While a lot of these facts might be geology basics, they are facts that easily digestible for kids. The vocabulary used in the book is very different to many aimed at a younger audience. Scientific words are used but also Leo’s general vocabulary is much wider than many of the books for age group it is aimed at, although I believe this give Leo more character and make him different. Younger children reading this on their own might struggle with some of the bigger words used so it might be best to read with an adult.
As mentioned before, Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth is read in an unconventional manner in which the book is turn 90 degrees. As the book is presented in a wide format, turning the book in this manner works well to emulate the depth of travelling underground. The inside cover, where the book really starts, gives reading instructions in order to make the process much easier. At first holding the book in this manner might feel a little weird but you will get used to it. I suggest placing the book on a bed or table might make the reading experience a little easier.
While Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth isn’t sectioned into panels it uses many sequential storytelling techniques in order to tell a narrative. This is shown through multiple Leos progressing down the page. This may be confusing for some to start with, but you will get used to after a a few pages.
Jon Chad has a great style that is detailed but at the same time uses empty space well. As can be see by the image above, the amount of detail used to render the rocks is impressive and gives a fantastic impression of being underground. Additionally, there has been lots of detail put into the backgrounds where bones, precious stones and ancient artefacts can be found. Leo himself is rendered rather plainly, although this works well as it allows for the reader to keep track of him as he progresses down the page.
Overall, Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth is an inventive and fun read, which children should enjoy. I’d recommend this to children 8 years and older and adults who enjoy a fun read.
Additionally, keep your eye out for the sequel Leo Geo and the Cosmic Crisis, which will be out in November, 2013.