by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic Press, 2006. This is the fourth book in a great adventure series for 9 to 12 year olds. Gregor has helped to find the cure to the plague that hit the underworld in volume three. (I reviewed Curse of the Warmbloods here.) His mother is still recovering from the plague and living in Regalia, the human's city far below New York. Gregor visits her often and takes echolocation lessons from Ripred, his rat friend. He is beginning to develop a complex friendship with Luxa, the twelve year old queen of Regalia. The sexual tension between these two is a major theme in this volume. Gregor is caring for his family and becoming a warrior, leaving childhood behind and beginning to realize his feelings for Luxa are more than just friendship. She is queen of Regalia and he is a boy from New York. His outlook vacillates between feeling foolish and wondering if she shares his feelings.
When Luxa gets a call from her mice friends for help Gregor insists on coming along. They end up taking a party of friends, including Gregor's three year old sister Boots and Luxa's adopted younger brother Hazard. The funny thing is, all the mice have disappeared. They cannot find an inhabited colony anywhere. They get drawn further and deeper into the Underworld looking for the mice and trying to solve the perplexing problem of what could have happened to them. When they come across hundreds of murdered mice Luxa declares war on whoever or whatever is killing them. Gregor is hoping to find a way to avoid massive violence, in spite of his being a warrior. Another major theme in this volume is the struggle between negotiation/mediation and violence/aggression as problem solving strategies. I find it quite relevant to events in the real world today. I think you could have some very stimulating discussions with kids about how they deal with aggression, rivalry and vengeance in their own lives and what they think Gregor and Luxa should do.
I am enjoying the Underland Chronicles so much! It is making it easier to wait for Harry Potter to arrive. I can't wait to read the fifth and final book Gregor and the Code of the Claw. Anyone else read these?