If you like…The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, try Gregor the Overlander

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LWWAlways a fan of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, I remember my first experience reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 4th grade. I had seen a cartoon of this particular novel before, so the story was not unfamiliar, but the book…oh, it was so much more. Once I wrapped my mind around the vocabulary, I found myself lost in Narnia, and continued to consume the rest of the series from start to finish.

Over twenty years later, I was to discover an author by the name of Suzanne Collins. You will know her through your experience with Hunger Games, no doubt, but my first experience with her writing was through her middle grade series, The Underland Chronicles. In reading Gregor the Overlander, my mind was once again captured by a fascinating realm, talking animals, and the true meaning of heroism.

Similarities…Lucy discovers Narnia, a fantasy world of talking animals and mythical creatures, through a wardrobe, through which she eventually leads her three older siblings. Gregor chases his two-year-old sister and tumbles through a grate in the apartment laundry room to a world far beneath New York City, where humans have never met the sun, and yes, there exists talking animals…although these are bit more of the creepy variety…rats, bats, insects, etc. The children in C.S. Lewis book are dealing with being removed from their family in WWII London, while Gregor is dealing with his family’s reaction to the long absence of his father. Both Gregor and the children in Narnia learn things about being brave, about fighting the enemy, and about sacrifice. Both books are suitable for children ages 8 and up.

OverlanderThe biggest differences? Well, although both books are middle grade, the Underlander Chronicles are probably more accessible to the current generation of readers. They contain a little more humor, and do not have underlying themes of faith, like those of C.S. Lewis. However, both books accentuate universal humanitarian principles that I think any parent—or reader—would feel inspired to contemplate.
So, Hunger Games fan or not, give the Underlander Chronicles a try. You have nothing to lose but a few hours, which I think will be well worth your time.

And then, watch out for those grates in the laundry room. Or wardrobes, if you happen to have any of those around!

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