This graphic novel is an unusual book, combining nonfiction and fantasy in a unique format. Leonid, or Leo Geo, is on a quest to travel to the center of the earth. In his generator-powered drill, he travels down through the crust of the earth and breaks through the mantle to land near hot magma. There he discovers the first of many fantastic creatures – a monstrous centipede – and discovers mysterious thermal generators…tunnels…monsters…crystals and diamonds…and is netted by Subvisors and taken to their king, Uglichest! Leo Geo convinces them to let him escape and, after more adventures, narrow escapes, finding a magic dagger, and having to calm himself down with some good equations, he finds a tunnel to the center of the earth. In the interests of science, he continues through and after a terrifying encounter with the evil counterparts of the Subvisors, the Malvisors, he emerges near the city of Taipe!
The book is formatted in a long rectangle, which you hold vertically and read from the top down, until Leo Geo hits the center of the earth, when you flip it and read from the bottom up until he completes his quest. The art is intricate black and white drawings with thousands of tiny details, skeletons in the strata, monsters, equipment, and Leo’s ever-present equations.
The book is a confusing blend of fantasy and science – one minute Leo Geo is telling us about crystals “From the Greek Krystallus meaning clear ice…most crystals are created through high pressure and heat, but there are some animals that can produce their own!” The next minute he’s been captured by cave people and they are telling him to find a magic dagger. Although he spouts off equations frequently, there’s no way of telling if they’re just random numbers or symbols or actually mean something (at least there isn’t if you’re mathematically challenged as I am). Of course the whole journey is a fantasy – Leo Geo is a rounded stick figure, but presumably represents a human and humans can’t survive a trip through the earth. But the lengthy infodumps (Leo lectures on landslides while he’s caught in one for example) are a bewildering contrast to the fantastical creatures and monsters he encounters.
It’s difficult to think of an audience for this book. The kooky adventures will most likely appeal to a younger age group, but the difficult vocabulary will be above their heads. Geology-obsessed fans might find this of interest, but the odd format, which is very difficult to read without bending the spine, lacks sources for the nonfiction elements. The cluttered blend of fantasy and fact make this an additional choice at best for any library.
Leo Geo and his miraculous journey through the center of the earth
by Jon Chad
Roaring Brook, 2012