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books

Book Review: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

bookreview-geekmomgeekkid

When my son, currently eight years old, requested that I read the first book in The Underland Chronicles, a series by Suzanne Collins (yes, that Suzanne Collins), I couldn’t resist. He has become something of a Fan Boy where this series is concerned and pretty much eats, sleeps and breathes it. A kid after my own heart.

gregor the overlander by suzanne collins
FEELS: liked, good role models, obsessable

Gregor the Overlander tells the story of eleven year old Gregor who  falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building in an attempt to rescue his 2 year old sister, Boots, who had crawled inside.

When I say ‘fall’ I mean they both literally ‘fell’ into another world called The Underland which exists directly below our world. In this world there is no sunlight, no moonlight. No real communication with the upside world, except for the occasional overlander that might fall through – a fall that most wouldn’t survive.

Gregor and Boots luckily do survive, only to meet a host of giant versions of pests and creepy crawlers that would make most grown men tremble. Gregor doesn’t love the huge talking rats, cockroaches, bats and spiders initially – nor the human village that has been thriving in the Underland for years – but thanks to his diplomatic two year old sister, an ancient prophecy and a lot of luck, he finds his courage and goes on an epic adventure to help save the Underland from war and get him and his sister back to his family in New York City.

It was hard to read this book and not be coming at it from a mother’s angle. I was often fretting over whether or not Gregor and Boots would ever get home to their poor mother. I cheered whenever Gregor showed bravery or compassion that was well beyond his years – he is a terrific brother and brave when it counts, without being foolish. I loved Boots (everyone loves Boots) and how she might have been the bravest and most impressive character in the story.

I loved the continual theme of not judging a book by it’s cover, not judging an entire race based off one member (or vice versa), on learning to walk a mile in each other’s shoes and the benefits of diplomacy over brute force. There were a lot of great lessons to be learned in this story and it’s a great introduction to fantasy and adventure for kids.

My eight year old is a pretty advanced reader and the kind of kid that will hide under the covers with a flashlight to read into the wee hours of the night so he tends to finish each book in one or two days. I read for about a half hour at night and finished it in about a week.  There are 5 books in the series that each sell for roughly $5 so it’s a decent bargain but if you have voracious readers, they’ll burn through them quickly. We’ve been letting my son get one a month to make it last a little longer.

At the end of the book there are questions with the author as well as a fun code for learning to speak like Boots and a writing exercise so kids (or adults) can create their own Underlands. I’m definitely going to encourage my son to try that out if he hasn’t already!

What is your child’s favorite book right now?

Categories
books & reading memes & carnivals

Kids Picks: The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day

We decided to pick this book up before our big move, in an effort to get my son ready for it and maybe try to explain to him what moving was. No easy task with a just barely three year old with the attention span of a gnat. Still, he is enjoying this book a lot and I think he might understand it better now than he did before we read the book. There are several books out there with this theme, designed to help kids cope with moving but I liked this one the best – especially because it was a Berenstain Bears book. My husband and I both grew up with this series and can still vividly remember reading them as children. So we always love a chance to share one of our favorites with MM and while we hadn’t read this particular title before, it was just as good and Berenstainy as all the other books.

The book describes how the Bear Family did not always live in their beloved tree house and tells about their first home in a cave on the mountain and how even though they liked their old home, there were some things they did not like and eventually they decided to move. It talks about the concerns Brother Bear had with moving, which I think most kids will share: Where will my toys and books go? Where are we moving? Why do we have to move? What about my friends? The answers are simple and reassuring and the story is charming and well told – basically, it’s a classic Berenstain Bears book. I highly recommend it and I think MM would, too.

Categories
family fun

Children’s Classics: on the wasted potential of my youth

I think I may have mentioned I love to read, and have loved reading since I was a young child. I may have mentioned my grandmother taking me to the local library, lying to me about the book limit that there wasn’t, and consequently me taking out 17 books at a time for years for no reason…

Plowing through 17 books at a go, several times a week had the potential to open me up to a world of literature. So it surprised me when I decided to participate in this month’s Children’s Classics Carnival at 5 Minutes for Books devoted to the middle reader range (8-12 years old) that I was at a loss for what book I could write about – indeed a quick search of the classics for that age range yielded a lot of, “Oh yeah, I never did read that, did I?” What happened? I can assure you, I was reading. A lot. 17 books at a time, a lot.

So what’s my excuse for being very poorly read in the 8-12 middle reader range of classic children’s literature – well I was very busy reading what I consider to be the classic children’s book series for the tween readers of my generation and beyond – that’s right, The Baby Sitter’s Club. Oh you’ve heard of them? Oh you haven’t? Regardless, yeah I read them, yeah I still own them, yeah I think the newer books are garbage. Yeah I religiously skipped the first chapter of every book after say the 3rd installment of her hundreds long series, because yeah seriously, they are ALL the SAME. Way to utilize the copy and paste button that may or may not have been available to you then (…and ohhh if it wasn’t, do I ever pity you Ann).

And when I say I own them, I mean I have a box somewhere with quite possibly 100 of them, and I refuse to sell them – my daughters may need those books someday – heck, I may want to read them again someday. And I’m certain if that day comes I won’t easily find them all again – bookstores everywhere are stocked with the most pathetic selection ever and almost always have new ugly horrible covers.

And okay, there’s a chance I won’t really read them all again. I’ve found some of those old chapter books can be painful to read as a grown up – even Nancy Drew made me want to scouge my eyes out with a spork trying to read it recently. Which is strange when I read a lot of the current middle reader books, like the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage, the Harry Potter, the Lemony Snicket, yeah I’m up on all of that. Did the old books I devoured just suck or is there something wrong with me? Although, okay, I’ll admit I don’t re-read many books ever anyway, so there’s that. Sometimes it just sucks to already know what happens I guess.

But I loved the Baby Sitters Club. I watched the movies, I bought the merchandise, I almost never baby sat ever until I was in college, but still considered myself an avid fan. I was disappointed when I too turned 13 and found, lo and behold, I was still very much a kid, the boys were not hunky gorgeous, and I was not cool – what happened? It wasn’t until years of watching Dawsons Creek and Buffy that I caught on to the fact that we don’t like looking up to our exact selves, but older more mature versions of what we’ll never be.

And now I have no idea what I’m talking about, but just wanted to say, Baby Sitters Club – I ❤ you, and I’ll never sell you even if my husband begs, even if we have all boy children – there is still hope for grandchildren, Ann M. Martin, I will find a use for all your works yet. I thank you for entertaining me through those years, for lying to me ever so sweetly about what being 13 would really be like, and for writing so so many books – you had your work cut out for you, I know, knowing that I’d be in the following week looking for 17 new books and it took you a long, long time to start running out of steam – and by then I was ready for Janet Evanvoich. And by then I realized my grandmother had lied to me. It’s okay grandma, I forgive you.

So thank you Ann M. Martin. And goodbye (and by goodbye, I mean, I’m going to try and publish this already so I can write my NEXT brilliant post).