The Underland Chronicles: Book One - Gregor the Overlander
Ages 12 and up
Scholastic Press, 2003, 0-439-43536-6
Gregor is feeling extremely sorry for himself. Instead of being able to go to summer camp this year, he has to stay home for the summer to look after his little two-year-old sister, Boots, and his grandmother. Of course things would be very different if his father had not disappeared, but he did. Two years previously Gregor's father simply vanished into thin air. His family has not heard from him since. Gregor does his best not to think about his father and most important of all, he does not allow himself to hope. Hope is not something he can ever have.
As if having to baby-sit is not bad enough, Gregor also has to do the laundry and it is in the laundry room that the madness begins. Boots crawls into an air vent and before Gregor can stop her she disappears down it. He has no choice but to follow her. The most extraordinary thing is that they don't just fall, but that they keep falling. It is rather like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. When they finally land they discover that there is a world beneath our world where the rules are totally different. In the Underland, as it is called, there are humans, huge rats, huge bats, huge cockroaches, and huge spiders; these are the main groups who rule. The humans and bats are closely connected. The roaches, or crawlers, are at peace with the humans for the moment as are the spiders. The rats however, are the enemy. They are always the enemy.
Gregor is eager is get home as soon as possible. This strange world he has fallen into scares him. Then he is told about a prophecy which describes the coming of "An Overland Warrior, A son of the Sun." Gregor is then told that another Overlander came to the Underland two years previously. The Overlander looked very much like Gregor and he also had something that only Gregor's father would have. Unfortunately the man is now a prisoner of the dreaded rats.
What follows is Gregor's dangerous and difficult quest to fulfill the prophecy and to seek out the man whom he knows must be his long lost father. Gregor discovers many things about himself and about the strange companions he travels with. He learns that some of the prejudices that he brought with him from the Overland have no place in the Underland.
Suzanne Collins has woven a magical and remarkable story which carries the reader away as easily as the Underlanders ride on the backs of their bats. Complete with love, loss, betrayal, loyalty, grief, and courage it has everything a powerful and well-written tale needs.
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