Book: Prince of Underwhere

Prince of UnderwherePrince of Underwhere
Bruce Hale
illustrated by Shane Hillman
2008 (HarperCollins)

Zeke, Stephanie and Hector chase Hector’s cat one day and fall through a hole in a construction site into a strange underground world known as Underwhere where everyone wears their underpants on the outside of their clothing and mooning someone is seen as a respectful greeting. Zeke is unexpectedly named the lost prince of Underwhere and honored by the people there. This brings him and his companions into the fight that the people are currently waging against a mysterious “underlord” who is trying to take over both Underwhere and the upper world. There are zombies, dinosaurs and more potty jokes than you could shake a stick at in Underwhere. Meanwhile, in the upper world, there is a famous rapper who is coming to town and he mysteriously invites Zeke and his companions to a big press event. Everyone seems wild about this rapper except for our heroes who pretty much think he’s an idiot. And then things get really complicated.

There is a lot of potential in this book and it really feels like Hale and Hillman had a great idea when they came up with it. The parts of the story taking place in the upper world are in plain text while the parts in Underwhere are in sequential art form, which works incredibly well for telling this story. It creates a great differentiation between the worlds and creates a very real otherworldlyness about Underwhere. Given that this book is a pretty easy reading level as well, those visual breaks between chapters of text could be really good for boosting the confidence of reluctant readers while not altering the challenge of the book itself at all. As much as I like the idea and the format, though, I have some major issues with this book.

The biggest problem here is that there’s simply too much going on. There’s the lost prince thing, a siege on a city, figuring out who the underlord is and what he’s doing, the government spies, a mystery that largely gets lost in the shuffle for most of the book, zombies, dinosaurs, a quest to collect a set of artifacts that is also pretty much ignored for most of the book, and bits of family drama on top of it all. Oh, and the hint of pirates. It’s just too much for one book that’s not even 175 pages long! This is going to be a series (they’ve already announced that the second book will be Pirates of Underwhere), so why couldn’t they have left some of this stuff for later books? Because of everything that was stuffed into this one there wasn’t any kind of story resolution at all! I’m not saying every plot thread should be tied up (what would the rest of the series be for if they were?), but at least one storyline should wrap up because as it was I got to the end of the book and just wondered where the payoff was. This is an early chapter book where potty humor goes a long way, but it can’t do everything. You still have to have a solid story or kids will wonder what the point was and just go back to reading Captain Underpants. This could have been great book, but wasn’t because it never got the serious reworking it needed. Where was the editor in all this?

I was extra disappointed that this book didn’t work because it does have so much potential. It’s just too much packed into one book. I really think that this could have been great, but Hale and Hillman didn’t give any of the plotlines the time or attention they deserved and the result was that they all felt throw-away and as a reader, I ended up wondering why I should care about anything that happened. I don’t recommend this one. I wish I could, but I just can’t.

- Publisher’s Description
- Bruce Hale’s Website
- Shane Hillman’s Website
- Buy it from Amazon

This book is scheduled to be released on December 26, 2007.

Post a Comment