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Book Review: ‘Prince of Underwhere’

Santa Barbara resident Bruce Hale once again strikes comic gold.

At first, it’s hard to believe that Santa Barbara resident Bruce Hale could come up with a funnier child’s book series than the Chet Gecko mysteries. However, the further one reads into his newest series, Underwhere, the more obvious it becomes that Hale has struck comic gold again.

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The first book in the new series, Prince of Underwhere, does a good job of introducing our young heros. Zeke, the underachiever, is a smart likeable boy.

The reader gets the feeling he could be a rocket scientist, a Nobel prize winner or at least a straight A student, if only he could channel all of his misdirected energy. It is completely believable that Zeke turns out to be the lost Prince of Underwhere because his character has all the hallmarks of the hidden hero.

Zeke’s twin sister, Stephanie, is the opposite. She is the straight A student, the good child and is as restrained as Zeke is carefree. These two characters play off of each other in perfect harmony, supplying most of the charm and humor of the story.

The supporting cast is everything one would expect for the hero’s journey. There’s Hector, the best friend, who alternately urges our hero on and attempts to rescue him from his worst ideas. There’s cousin Caitlyn, who’s babysitting while the parents are out of town. Caitlyn is the perfect self-absorbed teenager, and is easily manipulated by the villain.

The adults in the story are either somewhat hapless, or in on the nefarious plot to rule the world. In other words, perfect foils for our child heroes. And, lest we forget the most important supporting cast member, the wise mentor role if filled superbly by the slightly sarcastic talking cat, Fitz.

Hale is a master punner, and he uses this talent to great effect. In this series, he also alternates easily understood text with comic panels. Children will love the alternation, which serves to delineate the real world from the world of Underwhere.

The Underwhere series is perfect for young readers ages 8 to 12 and will provide a welcome respite from mandatory summer reading lists.

» Prince of Underwhere

» By Bruce Hale

» HarperCollins

» ISBN 13: 9780060851248

» Hardcover, 176 pages

» Published December 2007

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