In Dana Petrovic’s second book, a girl visits her grandmother’s farm and meets Mother Earth, who leads her on an exploration of the natural world.
Vana’s stay in the country includes eating special breakfasts, gathering chicken eggs, and frolicking across the orchard. And her grandmother always gives the burgeoning artist a new drawing journal.
One day, while Vana studies a tree, a woman materializes and introduces herself as Gaia. Telling Vana she admires her curiosity and love of nature, she invites Vana to see her underground castle and meet some of her “children.” She shows Vana glittering gems embedded in her castle wall, but mourns that humans have killed to own them, wishing they would appreciate, instead, her “crystal-like dew drops” upon blades of grass.
The book is structured like a trip to a museum or zoo, where one stops to study an exhibit and moves on. Gaia takes Vana to see the giant Sequoias, meet Bizzy the bee, view desert dunes and other wonders. At each stop, she opines about their importance to earth’s health and asks Vana questions, hoping to lead her to deeper understanding. Gaia also discusses humankind’s destruction of the planet (killing off species, creating global warming) and its incapacity to appreciate the simple beauty of earth’s offerings.
Petrovic ably defines the two characters: Gaia, earnest and worried; Vana, young and sensitive. And she offers some lovely descriptions; for example, a falling seed reminds Vana of “dancing ballerinas gracefully performing pirouettes in the air.”
However, conversations can also be stilted and wearying, often with didactic undertones. In a discussion about water pollution, for instance, a mussel remarks: “Well, that’s easy for me to explain but maybe not so easy for others, except for you Vana perhaps, to understand.” More problematic, the narrative lacks an immersive, evolving plot line to keep readers engaged.
Although a well-intended primer on the interconnectedness of life, Vana’s Adventure requires some revision to captivate an audience.
Also available as an ebook.