Another series (I love series! Following a character through different adventures makes them even more real to me. And following them as they grow up is even better.). This is the first series by Suzanne Collins, of The Hunger Games fame. In fact, this series led me to the Hunger Games. I loved it so much that the minute I finished the fifth and final book, I googled her name, and it just happened to be the day that The Hunger Games was published.
Gregor is an 11 year old boy who lives in apartment in New York City with his mother and grandmother and two sisters. His father disappeared mysteriously two years before the story begins, and the family has not heard from him since. One day, while Gregor was in the laundry room in the basement of the building, he and his sister, Boots, fell through a grate, and into the Underland. In this dark and mysterious world, humans live beside giant rats and cockroaches and fly through the air on giant bats. There are huge spiders and ants and many other oversized animals, but there is no peace.
Gregor reluctantly becomes the great Warrior of an ancient prophesy, and, with his family, is drawn again and again into the conflict, leading the people of the Underland to eventual peace, alongside their 11 year old queen, Luxa.
This five book series is fantastic. It is very much an Alice in Wonderland feel, a different world where Gregor can leave behind poverty and learn his potential. There is sadness and joy and a feeling of authenticity to the story. When I visit NYC, I want to lift manhole covers and peek behind rocks to find the hidden entrances to the Underland. I want to fly on my own bat and meet the snarky, rude and surprisingly gentle Ripred the Rat. I want to visit Regalia, and explore the castle. I spent five books rooting for Gregor and Luxa, hoping they would prevail, hoping for peace and happiness. It is a magical realm, filled with endless possibilities. The books suck you right in, and if you are anything like me, you will lose a LOT of sleep because you can not put them down. And if you do manage to close them for the night, you will lie awake wondering what happens next.
While this series is aimed towards the 9-11 year old set, there is quite descriptive violence and death in it. Depending on the child, it may or may not be appropriate. The violence was always very relevant to the storyline, never gratuitous.
Gregor the Overlander, Gregor and the Prophesy of Bane, Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, Gregor and the Marks of Secret and Gregor and the Code of Claw are all published by Scholastic.