Thanks to Twitter I learnt of this book by author Paul Craig. It is only available as an e-book and I am wondering whether we will ever see it in print as it would make a very good Christmas present. (Just forward thinking here!)
Here's the thing: I have for some time been searching for a book I could read with my nine-year-old. Not for lack of choices out there but for lack of what my son would go for these days. He's a peculiar reader and struggles to find something that he won't find boring after a few pages. He's grown out of dragons, has had enough of wizards, and remains too young for vampires. Enter Paul Craig's book 'While You Are Sleeping'.
From the first chapter, this book was onto something. The fact that it offered my son an explanation to why hair is ruffled in the morning and an excuse from now on that he's not to blame for mislaid socks or scattered toys or vanishing consoles was reason to use this book as a bible from now on. Speaking of bible, there are parts of this book that touch on certain theological issues that would make great discussion points for maturer readers. The names of places, the food and the characters are funny, well-chosen and evidence that Paul Craig has put effort in his choices. They are very hard to forget.
In short, the story is about David, a nine-year-old boy who lives with his alcoholic mother, enormously fat step-sister Kim and abusive step-dad. He is locked in his room most of the time, hungry and ignored. He hasn't learnt to read and write and his only friend in the world is his dog Robbie. His father disappeared when David was young and all he believes he has of him is a bracelet he found in the loft of his old home. For some reason whenever David slips the bracelet on, he feels safe and secure.
The Underworld is a strange sort of realm, parallel to ours with trolls, dwarves and talking animals. The underworld is where the chaos makers live. Eric, one of the gang, kidnaps David and brings him to the underworld. He is unaware that by doing so, him and his friends will be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime; An adventure that involves danger, Ultimate Beings and ending up in the worst and most frightening place in the underworld: The Gulag.
This is a very funny book, not without flaws (it needs at times serious editing I must say), but still worth giving a go. Our view (my son's and I) is that the author should have chosen a different accessory to a ring in the story. There is one part in the book where you could imagine them all standing there going "My Precious" if you get my drift. Some parts reminded of other novels struggling to find an independent and different role in this story but really these are things that are quickly overcome when you speed through the pages eagerly wanting to find out how it will all turn out for David. A lovable character that makes you wish he finds the break he has long deserved.
To read more about the Underworlders click HERE