Lauren Oliver; Iacopo Bruno (Illustrator)
Before bed, you’ve got to say “Sweep, sweep, bring me sleep. Clear the webs from my room with the bristliest broom.” Patrick forgot. Now he is not-Patrick.
Liza’s mother is too worried about paying the bills and her father too distracted trying to find his glasses to listen when Liza tells them that Patrick, her stubby, amusing, sometimes irritating little brother, is different. Liza knows the most dreadful thing has happened: During the night, Patrick’s soul was taken by the spindlers – spider-like creatures – and insects are now nesting inside his body. Determined to save him, Liza waits until her parents are sleeping and bravely descends Below. If that’s not scary enough, the entrance is the creepy, damp crawl space behind the bookcase in the basement. Luckily, when Liza falls through the darkness, she lands right on Mirabella – the largest, strangest rat she’s ever seen, decked-out in makeup and wig, sporting a purse and Liza’s father’s glasses! Despite the bumpy introduction, Mirabella agrees to lead Liza to the spindlers’ nests. Is she to be trusted?
Mirabella, sometimes cheerfully, sometimes tearfully (she’s complex!), fills Liza in on the lore and laws of the land and helps prepare her for the creatures – troglods, lumpen, nocturni – and challenges ahead. The descriptions of Below are so cinematic, children will feel they are walking beside Liza the entire time. Her quest is epic and chockfull of obstacles, temptations, and betrayals, all of which combine to set a brisk pace and build tension so that when Liza finally comes face-to-face with the Queen of the Spindlers, readers will be spinning on the edges of their seats. The Queen is a treacherous foe, and Liza is going to need all the help she can get to release Patrick’s soul from the Web of Souls. Friendship, loyalty, and most of all, hope, are essential to her success. The battle is intense, and with Below crumbling all around them, escape seems impossible. The end is mythic in scope and will leave readers cheering.
Reviewed by : JMcD
Themes : ADVENTURE & ADVENTURERS. BROTHERS AND SISTERS. FAMILY LIFE. FANTASY. FRIENDSHIP. RATS. SUSPENSE.
CRITICS HAVE SAID
- "Richly detailed, at times poetic, ultimately moving; a book to be puzzled over, enjoyed and, ideally, read aloud." – Kirkus Reviews
- "This imaginative fantasy emphasizes individual initiative and the power of hope and friendship. With strong, self-reliant female characters and well-defined action, this is a strong addition to fantasy collections." – School Library Journal
- "Olivers magical, mesmerizing quest affirms the saving power of story, friendship, and love." – Publisher
IF YOU LOVE THIS BOOK, THEN TRY:
- Gidwitz, Adam. In a Glass Grimmly. Penguin, 2012.
- Oliver, Lauren. Liesl & Po. HarperCollins, 2011.
- Schlitz, Laura Amy. Splendors and Glooms. Candlewick, 2012.