Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gregor and the Marks of Secret - Suzanne Collins

Summary:  Now, with the third prophecy fulfilled, Gregor is drawn ever deeper into a brewing crisis.  For generations, rats have run the mice--or "nibblers"--out of whatever lands they've claimed, keeping them constantly on the move.  But now the mice are disappearing, and the young queen Luxa, who credits them with saving her life, is determined to find out why.

When Gregor joins her on a fact-finding mission, he's relieved that this time, at least, there's no prophecy on the line.  But when the true fate of the mice is revealed, it is something far more sinister than Gregor or Luxa had imagined--and it points the way to the final prophecy he has yet to fulfill.  Gregor's role as warrior and his abilities as a rager are put to the test in this suspenseful, action-packed penultimate installment of Suzanne Collins's thrilling Underland Chronicles.  (Summary from back of the book and image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/)

My Review:  I know these are children's books.  And yet, the content is very adult.  The parallels between the plight of the mice and the Holocaust are undeniable.  I don't dare elaborate for fear of ruining the story further, but I can only imagine a child reading this the first time and being appalled.

All that aside, Collins's messages are spot on.  Having read the Hunger Games series, I'm noticing a theme: war is bad; violence is bad.  And while I agree with this for the most part, I do believe there is a point where you must defend yourself, your family, your freedom.  What I like about Collins is that she sends the message in this book that violence should never be the first course of action.  She stresses thought, planning and collaboration and if necessary violence, but only if absolutely necessary.  Not that all the characters have the same opinion, but if that isn't accurate to life I don't know what is.  As a teacher, this series is choke-full of ways to teach literary devices and literary elements.  Her character development is gradual and so real it is almost like developing the relationship in real life.

While the violence is definitely worth mentioning, especially for cautious parents in this regard, I think the overall value of the book and its message outweigh the reasons against reading it.  Just like the previous three books, this book has death and violence that is sorrowful and I can only assume would be very painful or disturbing to sensitive, young readers.  Use your discretion when reading and recommending this book to a child.  A slight warning: this book leaves with a big cliff-hanger.  I will be starting book five...now.

Rating: 4 Stars

Sum it up: The most moving, disturbing and thought-provoking installment yet in Gregor's Underland experience.

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