A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there is much to discuss here, especially the family relationships and the Underland parallels to Overland racism. There's also a strong anti-violence message, and Gregor wonders if he couldn't have succeeded without even the enemy rats being harmed.
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What's the story?
Gregor and his toddler sister, Boots, fall through a grate in their laundry room and land in the Underland, a world far beneath the earth's surface populated by humans, as well as giant intelligent bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders. Taken in by the humans who live in an underground city, at first they only want to find a way back home. But then Gregor learns that his father, who disappeared years before, is in the Underland too, held prisoner by the rats, who are about to launch a war on the humans.
The humans are allied with the bats, and the spiders and roaches are in the middle. But an ancient prophecy talks about the coming of a warrior from the Overland to unite them to defeat the rats, and the Underlanders think that Gregor is the warrior of the prophecy.
Is it any good?
In this first part of a planned five-part series, first-time children's novelist Collins gets it just right. There are strong characters, vivid descriptions, flawless pacing, breathless excitement, laughs and scares, and a vision that makes this fantasy very different from the flood of fantasies filling up bookstores since Harry Potter. This is one that will keep kids turning the pages and begging for the sequel.
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