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Review: Terra Tempo, vol. 1: Ice Age Cataclysm

Jenna and Caleb have always looked up to their Uncle Al, an explorer and scientist. One day, while visiting their relatives’ house, the twins get the ultimate opportunity—they’re left alone in their Uncle’s study. Thanks to a little digging, they find his journal, but instead of pure science, it has tales of time travel! Jenna and Caleb can’t quite believe that time travel is real, but they and their friend Ari are willing to give it a shot and before they know it, the three kids are thrown back to the Ice Age. But the past will take all of their resources to survive, and that’s only if they can figure out how to get back to the present day!

Terra Tempo, vol. 1: Ice Age Cataclysm!
Written by David Shapiro; Illustrated by Christopher Herndon; Colors by Erica Melville
Ages 8-12; Grades 4-6
Craigmore Creations, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9844422-1-8
146 pages, $14.99

It’s not a criticism to say that the first Terra Tempo book is educational. After all, writer David Shapiro is a naturalist, so it is to be expected that he would stuff his kids’ graphic novel full of scientific details. The wonderful part is how relatively smoothly he adds those details to the story. Almost all of the nonfiction elements are revealed by the children, each of whom has his or her own skill set and area of interest. Most of the Ice Age information comes from the twins’ friend Ari, the child of paleontologists who has never met a fact he didn’t love. Jenna and Caleb are more down-to-earth, but Jenna’s map know-how and Caleb’s survival skills are both very handy. There is only one science info-dump towards the end of the book that is jarringly educational, but even that is salvaged by Herndon’s eye-catching illustrations.

Throughout the book, Herndon shows that he has a good grasp on the graphic novel medium. The action flows at a rapid pace, which helps keep readers moving along, but Herndon is careful to stop and pull the view back for a long shot when the story requires it. One beautiful page is a loud “BOOM” layered over a collapsing ice dam. Since readers had been admiring said dam for four double-page spreads before the collapse, the effect is as breathtaking for the readers as it is for the characters. Even small details are not neglected, such as the chapter headings, which are shown as ragged pages that look like they were pulled from Uncle Al’s journal, complete with hints of the first pages of the chapter showing behind them. All of Herndon’s work is supported by Melville’s vibrantly realistic colors, which give depth and life to the world the children have discovered.

There is some violence, mostly of animals being caught up in a cataclysmic flood, but nothing inappropriate for an older elementary school or middle school reader. The creators deserve a pat on the back for not shying away from showing Caleb deftly hunting, skinning, and cooking a rabbit for the kids’ dinner, an additional touch of realism that only strengthens the story. Fans of action and fans of science, especially budding naturalists, paleontologists, and archeologists, will find a lot to enjoy here. And, luckily, book two should be out later this year.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Craigmore Creations.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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