Reviews

Run Like the River: Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

Collins, Suzanne. Gregor and the Code of Claw. Scholastic, c2007, p2008. 412 pages. PLB $13.36, ISBN 978-0-329-65712-3  ; TR $6.84, ISBN 978-0-439-79144-1

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

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes — the Gregor the Overlander series (The Underland Chronicles).

Plot Summary:

Gregor has returned to Regalia to claim his sword and read the Prophecy of Time, another Warrior prophecy that appears to hold the key to his –and all of the Underland’s– fate. It is up to Gregor to save the Underland, and his sister must also play an important role. The rats are marching for Regalia, and the Regalians must keep them at bay. Can the humans of the Underland win enough allies — warmblood and other — to save their homeland? Or will the rats rule all?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book is intense. Collins really delivers on the peril in this one, and there is a great deal of violence on the page. Characters we know and love are wounded (sometimes mortally), and unnamed figures are killed during the battles. Gregor struggles with the ethics of killing, so the violence (while intense) is not there simply for violence’s sake, but is instead handled thoughtfully. That said, I would still be mindful of a student’s age/sensitivities before handing this one to them. You will definitely be crying by novel’s end!!

n/a

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Horn Book Magazine starred 10/01/07

 

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Reviews

Despair and darkness: Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins

Collins, Suzanne. Gregor and the Marks of Secret. Scholastic, c2006, p2007. 343 pages. PLB $13.36, ISBN 978-1-42874-501-8 ; TR (mass market) $6.84, ISBN 978-0-439-79146-5

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

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes — the Gregor the Overlander series (The Underland Chronicles).

Plot Summary:

It is summer vacation in the Overland, which means that Gregor now has a great deal of free time to spend with Ripred for echolocation lessons. Gregor is less than thrilled with this development, particularly as his echolocation skills are not particularly strong. Ripred surprises Gregor with the news that he wishes to kill a creature who is dangerous, unstable, and who has the potential to be extremely powerful. The next day, Gregor is attacked by three rats who smash his flashlight and show him just how important echolocation is. Ripred goes missing, but Gregor is unsure of how to (or if he should) inform Vikus of Ripred’s intentions before his disappearance. During a birthday party, a bat scout drops off one of Luxa’s crowns, informing her that a nibbler had given it to him and said that Luxa would know what it meant. Luxa makes light of the delivery in public, but as she and Gregor know, it means that the mice are in grave danger. When Luxa, Gregor, and their bonds go to find the mice, the entire colony is empty, save for one dead mouse, her body hiding a strange carving on the ground. They return to Regalia, pack up for a “picnic” (so that they may escape Regalia and search for the mice without alerting the Council) only to need to take Hazard, Boots, Howard, and Nike along. They are soon trapped by an earthquake, and the peril is real. Traveling through Hades Hall to the Firelands in order to return safely to Regalia takes them through some dangerous lands with even more perilous inhabitants … what Gregor and his friends encounter in Hades Hall is enough to push the Underland past the brink and into a full-scale war. Will Gregor and his friends be able to help the nibblers? Or is all lost in the Underland?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book begins to take Gregor into more intense territory — there are absolutely some scenes (highlight here for spoiler >>>) for instance, a mass grave of mice, as well as a massacre that happens on the page that make me hesitate to hand this to a young reader. That said, the book is gripping, and Gregor grapples with some very real ethical dilemmas. A strong fourth installment to the Underland Chronicles that ends on a serious cliffhanger.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

n/a

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Horn Book Magazine starred 10/01/06

Kirkus Reviews starred 05/15/06

Reviews

Blood-curdling adventure: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins

Collins, Suzanne. Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane. Scholastic, 2005. 358 pages. PLB $13.36, ISBN 978-1-41568-450-4 ; TR (mass market) $6.84, ISBN 978-0-439-65624-5

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

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes — the Gregor the Overlander series (The Underland Chronicles).

Plot Summary:

After his last adventure in the Underland, Nerissa handed Gregor a scroll to “reflect upon” while he was in the Overland. As well as his worries about the missing Queen Luxa, this prophecy has kept Gregor pretty occupied of late, particularly since he literally must use a mirror to read Sandwich’s prophecy. The eerie prophecy calls for a curse and a cure…but what can it mean? This question is soon answered when Ripred informs Gregor that he and Boots MUST return to the Underland in order to help a cohort determine how to fix a plague affecting only mammals (warmbloods) of the Underland. Gregor’s mom refuses to let him go, but the “escort” the rats send to ensure Gregor’s arrival in the Underland prove very convincing. Gregor and Boots may go to the Underland…with Gregor’s mother Grace in tow. Quickly, Gregor learns that this was never meant to be a short trip; instead, Gregor and his sister are needed for all of the Underland to seek the cure to this plague and save those whose lives hang in the balance … particularly Ares, Gregor’s bond, as well as other friends from his last adventure. Seeking the cure out in the jungle with Ripred, two other rats, Boots, her cockroach friend Temp, and other assorted adventurers, Gregor must focus on the task at hand while also wishing for his friend Luxa to be found. Will the party find the cure? Can the sick warmbloods be saved?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

I still love Gregor’s voice — hearing him ask “How you doing man?” of his Underland friends is pretty funny, especially given the Regalians’ formal speech. Ripred has a nice role in this one, and he can be counted upon for both his battle know-how and his own (rather dark) sense of humor. There is real peril and loss in this novel, but it is handled well.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

n/a

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Horn Book Magazine starred 04/01/06

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