Reviews for Gregor the Overlander


Booklist Reviews 2003 November #2
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 4-7. What if Alice fell down an air vent in a New York City apartment building instead of down a rabbit hole? Collins considers a similar possibility in her exceptional debut novel, a well-written, fast-moving, action-packed fantasy. Eleven-year-old Gregor expects a long, boring summer of baby-sitting his two-year-old sister, Boots, and his senile grandmother. Distracted with thoughts about his father, who disappeared three years ago, Gregor belatedly notices that Boots has crawled into an air vent in the laundry room. He dives in after her, and the two are sucked downward into the Underland, a fantastic subterranean world of translucent-skinned, violet-eyed humans, and giant talking cockroaches, bats, spiders, and rats. Eventually, the terrified Gregor is transformed into a warrior hero who leads a successful battle against an army of invading rats and discovers his father, who has long been held prisoner by the enemy. Collins creates a fascinating, vivid, highly original world and a superb story to go along with it, and Gregor is endearing as a caring, responsible big brother who rises triumphantly to every challenge. This is sure to be a solid hit with young fantasy fans. ((Reviewed November 15, 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Spring
Eleven-year-old Gregor and his little sister fall down a rabbit holeûlike air duct; what awaits them at the bottom is no tea party. The strange inhabitants of this nightmarish land are convinced that Gregor is the warrior spoken of in a centuries-old prophecy who will prevent their annihilation by gigantic rats. Collins sends a reluctant Gregor on the classic hero's journey in this fast-paced, immensely satisfying narrative. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2003 #5
Embarking on a quest of epic proportions is the last thing eleven-year-old Gregor imagines as he faces a long, hot New York City summer watching his little sister Boots and their sometimes-senile grandmother. Trying to repress thoughts about his father (missing for more than two years) and worrying about his hard-working mother--those are the matters weighing heaviest on Gregor's mind at the start of this fantasy adventure. Collins doesn't leave him to this drudgery and sadness for long: soon a terrified Gregor and a conveniently fearless Boots are falling down an air duct (rabbit hole-like) in their apartment building; what awaits them at the bottom is as fantastic as Wonderland but no tea party. Translucent-skinned, violet-eyed humans and giant talking cockroaches, bats, and spiders--inhabitants of this nightmarish land--are convinced that Gregor is the warrior spoken of in a centuries-old prophecy who will prevent their annihilation by gigantic rats. Collins evokes this dark, cavernous world and its archaic, agrarian society with a sure hand and sends a reluctant Gregor on the classic hero's journey. Gregor's reluctance quickly turns to urgent hope when he learns that his father is in the Underland, too, still alive but a prisoner of the rats. The fast-paced, detailed narrative features vivid battle scenes (complete with gore), dangerous alliances, some frighteningly close calls, and the sobering death of comrades-in-arms. Cliffhanger chapter endings propel the story forward to its inevitable but nevertheless immensely satisfying conclusion, which, happily for readers, hints at more heart-pounding journeys to the center of the earth. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2003 August #1
Gregor's luminous, supremely absorbing quest takes place in a strange underground land of giant cockroaches, rideable bats, and violet-eyed humans. When his two-year-old sister Boots tumbles into an air duct in his building's laundry room, Gregor leaps after her and they fall, à la Alice, into another world. Gregor wants desperately to get home-until he hears that his father, who left Gregor heavy-hearted by disappearing two years ago, may be in Underland himself, kept prisoner by enormous, war-hungry rats. A coalition of creatures and royal humans is formed to rescue him, modeled after an ancient prophetic poem that has foretold Gregor's arrival and calls him the Overland Warrior. The abiding ache of Gregor's sadness is matched by his tender care for Boots. Creature depictions are soulful and the plot is riveting; Underland's dark, cavernous atmosphere is palpable. Explanation and subtlety balance perfectly. Wonderful. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2003 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2004 February
One of the boy's earliest memories is of the bread and running. He doesn't even have a name until Uri, another "street" boy, names him Misha and fantasizes a Gypsy history for him. Before the Jackboots come to Warsaw, living with Uri and stealing food is easy. After the Jackboots come with their parades, their tanks, their punishments and their murders, Misha and Uri are herded into the ghetto along with the other Jews and undesirables. Misha is small enough to squeeze through an opening in the ghetto wall, and so he scavenges for himself, his friend Janina's family, and even the kindly Doctor at the orphanage. Spinelli's haunting and chilling narrative sees the events of the Nazi's World War II takeover of Warsaw, Poland, and the fate of the Jews of the ghetto through the eyes of this small child. Untouched by the knowledge of the Nazi's intent, Misha at first is uncomprehending of the monstrous evils that these men perpetrate. Two things come to symbolize hope for this lost child: he statues of angels on the headstones in the graveyard, a sign that God is somehow present in this world (the cover art); and the unlovely but enduring milkweed pods that, when broken, send delicate filigree white strands into the air that will somehow plant new growth on the barren earth. Brutally direct at times, Spinelli's story nonetheless is ultimately uplifting. An unforgettable novel. Highly Recommended. Suzanne Manczuk, Fiction Reviews Editor © 2004 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2003 September #2
In a cavernous world beneath New York City, humans who long ago emigrated from the "Overland" live side-by-side with super-intelligent bats and loyal giant cockroaches. In a charming tip of the literary hat, debut novelist Collins introduces her young heroes Gregor and his little sister Boots into a wonderland through a trip down a long hole-in this case, an opening in a wall of their apartment building's laundry room. While passionately trying to find a way back home, 11-year-old Gregor learns about the Underlanders, their history and their unusual customs. Before long, Vikus, the noble patriarch of the Underlanders, reveals to Gregor an ancient prophecy-and why he believes that the boy is the foretold "overland warrior," come to liberate them from the giant rats. The relationship between Gregor and two-year-old Boots embodies much of the book's charm, and Gregor himself grows up before readers' eyes. His love for his lost father factors heavily into his personality; in a stunning turn of events, he discovers the reason for the disappearance of his father-who also plays a role in the prophecy. Collins does a grand job of world-building, with a fine economy of words-no unnecessary details bog down either the setting or the invigorating story. In her world, a child singing "Patty-Cake" can change the course of history and a stoic rat can mourn the fact that although he is able to read, he cannot write because he has no thumb. Unlike Gregor who cannot wait to leave, readers will likely find it to be a fantastically engaging place. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2003 November
Gr 4-8-In this accessible, almost-cinematic fantasy, Gregor and his two-year-old sister fall into an amazing underground world. Taken in by people who have lived beneath the earth for centuries, the 11-year-old learns about the giant-sized talking creatures that also reside there, including bats, cockroaches, and vicious rats. Gregor just wants to get home, but a prophecy hints that he may be the "overlander" destined to save the humans from the warlike rodents. He is reluctant until he learns that his father, who disappeared from their New York City home a few years before, is a prisoner of the rats. Gregor is not an eager hero, but with common sense, quick thinking, and determination he grows into the role. His sister, who provides some comic relief, also plays a key part because of her ability to befriend creatures, especially the giant cockroaches. Plot threads unwind smoothly, and the pace of the book is just right. Exciting scenes and cliff-hanger chapters are balanced by decisions and interactions that drive the action. Gregor is not the most compelling figure at first, but as the story progresses he becomes more interesting, maturing through the challenges he faces. Supporting characters are generally engaging, particularly the enigmatic warrior rat that claims to support the protagonist's mission. This is an engrossing adventure for fantasy fans and for those new to the genre.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2003 October
4Q 4P M J Eleven-year-old Gregor anticipates a long, boring summer babysitting his two-year-old sister, Boots, and keeping an eye on Grandma, who has lost touch with reality, until he heads down to the cellar of his apartment building to do the laundry. He is distracted, thinking about his father, who disappeared almost three years ago, and just as he puts a load of clothes in the dryer, his sister crawls into an air vent. A strange wisp of steam curls around Boots and suddenly she is gone. Terrified, Gregor dives through the air shaft after her only to find himself falling endlessly down into a frightening and dangerous world inhabited by giant bats, cockroaches, and rats. Befriended by a group of humans, he finds that his arrival has been foretold and anticipated-Gregor alone possesses the power to defeat the rats and save the kingdom of Regalia. By championing Regalia's cause, he also fulfills his greatest desire: to find and rescue his father. As with Tad in Rebecca Rupp's The Waterstone (Candlewick, 2003/VOYA February 2003), this classic reluctant hero has his dreary, mundane life suddenly transformed by fantastic adventures. Gregor, an extremely responsible and endearing big brother, sets out to save the world with Boots in a backpack. His youth is tempted by danger, fear, and death, but in the end, he is triumphant, Regalia is saved, and his family is reunited. A refreshing combination of sensitive characters, innovative devices, and an unusual setting make this an appealing purchase for younger fantasy fans.-Nancy K. Wallace. Copyright 2003 Voya Reviews

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