Reviews

Oh, rats! Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins

Collins, Suzanne. Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane. Scholastic, 2004. 312 pages. PLB $13.36, ISBN 978-1-41559-729-3; TR $6.84, ISBN9 78-0-439-65076-2

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes — the Gregor the Overlander series.

Plot Summary:

While Gregor’s family is doing better emotionally, money is extremely tight. To help his family out, Gregor spends Saturday mornings “helping” his neighbor Mrs. Cormaci … although Gregor can’t help but feel that Mrs. Cormaci sometimes makes up errands or chores for him to do. Every Saturday, however, Mrs. Cormaci pays Gregor for his work, feeds him well and sends him home with food for his family, and usually gives him a little something for himself, too (a waterproof flashlight, her son’s old boots, etc.). One afternoon, Gregor takes Boots sledding in Central Park, only for his baby sister to disappear. The Crawlers of the Underland have taken her back down below! When Gregor goes to retrieve Boots, he finds that he has a part to play in yet another prophecy, that of a creature that will destroy the Underland: a giant white rat called the Bane. To save the Underland, Gregor will need to find and kill the Bane. A group of Regalians joins Gregor as well as Temp, Boots’s giant cockroach friend, and Twitchtip, a rat chosen by Ripred to help Gregor seek the Bane.

In this latest trip to the Underland, Gregor learns more about the people who live there as well as about himself.

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

A student recommended this to me after I handed her the first in the series. When the student found out that I’d never read past the first book, they immediately recommended that I keep going. This book is great — Gregor reads as a believable middle schooler. When things get super dramatic or frustrating, Gregor lets you know with an “Aw, jeez” or two. He says things like, “Come on, man!” to rats and bats alike, and his sassy attitude can keep the humor going even when things are bleak. Gregor also never gives up, stays true to his word, and faces certain danger and likely death with poise. This book does NOT disappoint, and I would happily hand this off to any student looking to continue the adventure from book one.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

n/a

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Horn Book starred 04/01/05

Reviews

Fly You High: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Collins, Suzanne. Gregor the Overlander. Scholastic, 2003. 311 pages. PLB $13.36, ISBN 978-0-329-61400-3; TR (mass market) $6.84, ISBN 978-0-439-67813-1

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes — the Gregor the Overlander series.

Plot Summary:

Eleven-year-old Gregor shoulders a lot of responsibility. His father disappeared more than two years ago, and even working all of the time, his mother can barely keep food on the table. It’s up to Gregor to take of his two younger sisters Lizzie (age 8) and Boots (age 2) as well as keep an eye on his grandmother, a character who appears to be in the early stages of dementia. 

One day while doing the laundry, Gregor loses Boots behind the dryer. When he goes to find her, he falls down the same chute as his younger sister, and they fall down into the Underland. There, he finds himself in Regalia where a strange group of people live … and have lived there since the 1600s. A mysterious prophecy finds its hero in Gregor from the Overland, and Gregor and his sister must help the Regalians if he has any hope of ever returning home.

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

I loved this one, so while I read it almost a year ago (and have a bit of a fuzzy memory on the details), I know it’s a good one to recommend to kids looking for fantasy and adventure. The peril is real — the rats are vicious, allies can turn at the drop of a hat, and the Underland guarantees no one’s safety. It’s a page turner with fun characters, too.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I would hand this book to anyone looking for an Alice-in-Wonderland type story. Gregor must quickly adapt to the bizarre world around him, and his New Yorker’s opinion on the goings-on of the Underland are perceptive and often funny.

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 11/15/03

Kirkus Reviews starred 08/01/03

Publishers Weekly starred 09/08/03

Reviews

The fight is on: Olympus at War by Kate O’Hearn

O’Hearn, Kate. Olympus at War. Aladdin, 2013. 389 pages. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-1-44244-412-6; PLB $13.86, ISBN 978-1-53793-453-2; TR $7.69, ISBN 978-1-44244-413-3

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology Retelling

Part of a series? Yes — The Pegasus Series (this is book 2)

Plot Summary:

Olympus is in danger…again. The Nirads aren’t finished with Olympus, and every Olympian is braced and waiting for the monsters to return. Emily, however, has even more to worry about — where is her father, and what could the CRU be doing to him? She cannot bear to leave him in their clutches, so she and her friends decide to sneak back to Earth to save him. Unfortunately, Cupid catches a ride with them so as to be far away from Olympus if any Nirads show up. Cupid’s presence means that the group (already in need of camouflaging Pegs’s wings) must work even harder not to attract the attention of the CRU, the evil government agency bent on capturing and dissecting non-Earth beings. This added to the fact that more Nirads have been spotted in the CRU’s facilities makes the stakes higher than ever. Will Emily save her father? Will everyone make it back to Olympus? And will Olympus still be standing if they do?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This second installment in the Pegasus series delivers on the action once again. Action comes in waves, and the group constantly uses the “Divide and Conquer” approach … one that usually adds more drama and danger than if they had stuck together (kids!). There are a hair too many convenient moments when adults just take these kids-of-indeterminate-age* at their word, but the book is still compelling and keeps readers turning the pages. A hint of romance is introduced in this book as well: Emily has a crush on Cupid, and Joel and Paelen are clearly upset about it (and Cupid’s flirting with Emily).

*We’re told in the first book that Paelen looks sixteen, and in a Paelen point of view chapter, he perceives Joel as being a bit younger than Paelen himself, but ages are never actually specifically discussed. Sometimes the kids seem more like teens, and others they read like middle school students.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I stand by my recommendation from book one: this is a great series for kids looking for more mythological retellings. Percy Jackson fans will enjoy this one.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

Reviews

Ride like the wind, Pegasus! The Flame of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn

O’Hearn, Kate. The Flame of Olympus. Aladdin, c2011. 385 pages. Hardcover $15.44, ISBN 978-1-44244-409-6; PLB $13.06, ISBN 978-1-53793-452-5; TR $5.19, ISBN 978-1-44244-410-2

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology Retelling

Part of a series? Yes — The Pegasus Series

Plot Summary:

Olympus is in danger. A merciless group of monsters storms the gods’ home and wreaks havoc on everything in sight. Olympians — accustomed to immortality — find themselves no match for these dangerous Nirads. Paelen, a thief and disliked by all on Olympus, decides that the chaos of this deadly battle is the perfect time to steal Pegasus’s bridle and become his master. While he promises a dying Mercury that he will do his best to help the Olympians defeat their attackers, his desire for power is too great.

As Olympus battles this evil force, a storm rages in New York City. Emily, a young girl whose mother has died of cancer only three months previously, must weather the storm on the top floor of her apartment building alone while her police officer father tries to help keep the peace in the city. During the terrifying storm, a pounding on her roof calls for her to investigate … only to find that Pegasus has landed on her home! He is badly injured, and she knows she will need help to set his wounds. Against her better judgment, she reaches out to troubled classmate Joel, a huge kid with a lot of anger issues who also happens to love mythology. United in their purpose of helping this amazing being, Emily and Joel begin to see each other as allies and even friends. Emily immediately bonds with the wounded Olympian and realizes that the fate of her new friend’s home rests on her shoulders…can she help Pegasus find the Flame of Olympus and save all of the Olympians?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book was recommended to me by students, so I was eager to learn more about the world of Pegasus. I was taken by surprise that O’Hearn combines Roman and Greek terminology and figures; while it was jarring to me as I started, I didn’t find it to be a problem. This book has it all — danger, adventure, heists, and drama. Emily will stop at nothing to help those she has sworn to protect, and seeing a human girl face off against giant monsters, evil government agencies, and other foes makes for a great read.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I would hand this book to anyone looking for a readalike for Percy Jackson and the Olympians. There are lots of mythology retellings out there vying for readers, and this is one that definitely delivers.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a