Eleven-year-old Gregor is beginning to realize that life isn't fair. Ever since his father disappeared two years ago, Gregor has had to take on more responsibility for his two year old sister and his senile grandmother while his mother works. And that new job has really hit home as he watches his seven year old sister Lizzie and all his friends head off to summer camp. After watching everyone go, he settles down for a long, hot boring summer of chores and babysitting. Little did he know how wrong he was soon to be.
Later that day their neighbor came to sit with his grandmother so that he could go to the basement and do the laundry. He and Boots head down to the laundry room while he contemplates the irony of being excited about laundry because it gets him out of the apartment. When they get to the basement, Boots finds an old tennis ball and begins to chase it around the basement. Gregor laughs at her antics while trying to figure out why she is so happy all the time. But then he realizes that she doesn't understand about their father disappearing, she wasn't even born yet and didn't know that most people thought he had run off with another woman, but Gregor knew that wasn't true, his dad would never do that.
Gregor was dreaming about what life would be like when his dad gets back when he realizes that Boots has gotten very quiet. He hears a metallic klunk and a giggle and thinks she is trying to dismantle a dryer and so he hurries in the direction of the sound to be greeted by a very strange sight. Boots was squinting into an old air duct that had some sort of steam or mist coming out of it and before Gregor could grab her, she was sucked into the air duct and without thinking, Gregor stuck his head and shoulders into the hole and the next thing he knew, he was falling.
As he fell, he tried to twist his body so that he wouldn't land on Boots when they landed wherever they landed. As he lands, he hears Boots happily exclaiming, "Bug! Beeg bug!" and he turns to see the biggest cockroach he had ever seen and it was holding a torch and rose at least four feet into the air. Boots has no fear of anything, not even giant roaches and is quite happily waving at the bug. And then to make matters even worse, it speaks to him! Much to his embarrassment, it wants to know what smells so good and Boots happily points out that she pooped. The roach is wanting to know if they can come closer to smell her.
They want to know if she is the princess or the queen and Gregor begins to laugh, thinking they are joking but soon realizes that he has insulted them. After they talk among themselves for a while, they decide to take them to the other humans who can explain it all to them. When they get to the humans, they find that they are in an underground community filled with people, giant talking bats, rats, roaches and spiders. He soon learns that the rats hate the humans and would love nothing more than to kill them and that the humans must bathe frequently so that the rats can't smell them. Later that night, he sees his chance and he and Boots try to escape, only to be captured by a group of rats, who keep talking about how he looks familiar. After the Underlanders rescue him, he finds out that his father is alive and a prisoner of the rats. The Underlanders then tell him that he and Boots arrival was foretold and that they must follow the prophecy and rescue his father or all of Underland will be lost.
Gregor, Boots and an assortment of humans, bugs and bats set out on a fantastic journey through the underworld, to save his father and the lifestyle of the people who live there. This debut novel is filled with adventure, fun and wonderfully imaginative descriptions of people and places. It is fast-paced with plenty of action to stimulate the imagination. At the end of the book there is a section called Afterwords which includes and author Q and A, information about the creatures encountered in the book and interactivity.
Suzanne Collins is a successful writer for Children's television including for such shows Clarissa Explains It Alland The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. This was her first novel, and is the first in a five-part series. Collins lives in Connecticut with her family.
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