A World Below
A World Below

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Annotation: Mr. Baker's eighth grade class thought they were in for a normal field trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, but their journey takes a terrifying turn when an earthquake hits and the students are plunged into a frigid underground lake, forcing them to fight for survival and find their way back above ground.
Catalog Number: #191155
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: High Low High Low
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 261 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-481-47822-2 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-5883-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-481-47822-9 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-5883-3
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017015619
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
A field trip to Carlsbad Caverns takes a turn for the worse when an earthquake plunges Mr. Baker's eighth-grade class into an icy underground river. Eric manages to crawl ashore quickly, but he's separated from the group. Silvia finds herself uncomfortably in the lead of the rest of the class, and she urges them on to find Eric, who's using the tips he learned from his favorite survival books to struggle through the caverns alone. Unbeknownst to the class, however, they've tumbled into a section of the caverns occupied by a community of people who took refuge in the caves generations ago and are so wary of surface dwellers, they'll kill the intruders on sight. King's at his best when describing the kids' survival efforts and the unusual fictional flora and fauna they discover while they're stranded. The plotline about the underground community is less successful, particularly the explanation of the origin of the kingdom, which is fairly clumsy. Still, readers who love survival thrillers might appreciate the kids' high-stakes adventure in a fascinating location.
Kirkus Reviews
King's (OCDaniel, 2017) latest sends readers tumbling belowground in a quest for survival.Brown-skinned, biracial Eric and Latina classmate Silvia each bring their own metaphorical baggage into the limestone caverns below the New Mexico desert, beyond their daypacks filled with water bottles and snacks. When an earthquake sends them and their classmates tumbling into the unexplored abyss below the famous Carlsbad Caverns, they not only face a challenge to survive, but must also do battle with their inner demons. Meanwhile, King Carlos, of the mysterious underworld Midnight Realm, fears he is facing literal demons as the student intruders encroach upon his kingdom. After four generations underground, he and his people have thoroughly internalized his Hispanic great-grandfather's warnings against the cruel race that lives above. Though oversized flora and fauna threaten at every turn, the true challenge for each of the three principal characters is to overcome their faulty beliefs about themselves and others. The narrative shifts focus among each as readers follow them through the subterranean landscape and on their own psychological journeys as well. For those both above- and belowground, healing from generations of exclusion and feelings of otherness is a consistent theme, which is, alas, quickly wrapped up and tied with a too-simple bow of forgiveness and inclusion. Careful readers will also wonder at both the paucity of Spanish surnames in this New Mexico school and the plot-driven choice of Carlos' ancestors to speak English rather than Spanish when they took up residence below. Nevertheless, the quick-paced adventure and positive message of setting aside past hurts are sure to appeal. A multifaceted journey from darkness to light. (Adventure. 8-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 58 When Mr. Baker shares with his eighth grade AP class that they will visit Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico instead of the two-night stay in Albuquerque that last year's class experienced, his students are not pleased. They reluctantly show up the day of the trip with snacks in tow and sensible shoes for all the walking they will be doing. What they did not prepare for is the earthquake that strikes suddenly and swallows the class deep into the earth. After their teacher disappears through a crack, the teens are forced to fight for their lives. One of the students, Eric, manages to pull himself out of the swift-moving water but is helpless to rescue the others as they frantically swirl past him. Eric is frightened but through persistence and determination manages to eventually reunite with his class. In the meantime, Silvia has panic attacks and receives therapy for it. She bravely leads her classmates through the winding and booby-trapped caverns. The students discover the deeper they progress in the caverns, the more bizarre underground life existsincluding oversize bugs and spiders. They even discover a secret society underground but are sworn to secrecy about its existence. Standard character tropes are usedjocks, popular girls, loners. Protagonists are fairly well fleshed out. Readers will enjoy seeing Eric and Silvia emerge as leaders despite initially struggling with personal setbacks. The conclusion sets up for a forthcoming sequel. VERDICT A swift-paced survival tale that's a cool blend of Lord of the Flies and Journey to the Center of the Earth . Julie Shatterly, W.A. Bess Elementary School, Gastonia, NC
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
School Library Journal (2/1/18)
Kirkus Reviews
ALA Booklist (7/1/18)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Word Count: 53,769
Reading Level: 4.7
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.7 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 193700 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.2 / points:14.0 / quiz:Q72803
Lexile: HL670L
A World Below

Twenty Minutes Before


THE BOY SAT ON A throne made of mushroom stalks and branches, slung together in an arching, triangular shape and lashed tight with vines. Thorns and brambles had been missed in the soldiers' haste, and now they dug into his legs and back, pinching and twisting and sharp.

But the boy did not flinch. He was as motionless as the throne he sat upon.

The boy had dark hair that spilled down his face in dry, knotted clumps, reaching his shoulders. He was thin but muscular, with the narrow jaw of a thirteen-year-old protruding below pale, thin lips and black eyes. He was still considered a boy, even there in the unforgiving dark. But this boy was the King, and there was a judgment to be made.

His soldiers brought the offender before him, dragging the frantic child by two skinny arms. The edge of the Ghost Woods stood behind the King, the towering white and crimson fungi and gnarled barbar trees watched the scene impassively. The chamber was deathly still.

The offender was even younger than the King--as pale as the mushrooms and stained with dirt and fresh blood from a cut above his right eyebrow. His hair was long and unruly as well, hanging down past his shoulders and tangled with snake vines--it looked as if they might have grown from his skull. He was ten or eleven years old, but his eyes were hard and seething with hatred. The sight of them made the King stir.

"The Worm," Captain Salez said solemnly, taking up his post beside the King.

"What is his crime?" the King murmured.

The King clasped his trembling hands in his lap to still them.

The haphazard throne had been built on the border of the woods just an hour earlier by his men. They had been hunting for a Night Rat when the cries had gone up: A Worm had been found hunting on the King's Land. The King knew the crime. He also knew the punishment.

But there were formalities to follow. All offenders were to be tried by the King.

Captain Salez straightened. "This Worm was discovered skinning a freshly dead Night Rat on your land, my King. The boy's spear was still lodged in its torso when discovered. The Worm then tried to flee and harmed one of your soldiers in the process."

The King nodded slowly. He wished his father were here, but he was long dead now. Sometimes he imagined that his father was sitting beside him, hard as stone, passing judgment. The boy knew what his words would be: The Law is paramount. It must be death.

"Do you have anything to say in your defense, Worm?" the boy King asked.

The young Worm looked up at him, his lip twisting. "I have committed no crime."

He was thin, but wiry and strong for his age. He would have been a good soldier.

"You have heard the charges," the King said, frowning at the boy's impertinence.

"I heard them," he spat. "But Jana says your land is ours too. So . . . I did nothing wrong."

The King's attending soldiers--twenty strong and armed with sword and spear and jagged knife--stiffened at the comment. The boy shouldn't have mentioned Jana. There was no name more hated in the entire Midnight Realm than hers--the one who had plunged them into war and who now called herself the Shadow Queen, a blatant challenge to the King.

The boy would suffer now, if his soldiers had their way.

The King studied the Worm thoughtfully. The boys' ribs were visible above a roughly sewn loincloth of rat hide and yew leaves. His gaunt cheeks seemed sickly and alien, buried beneath grime, and yet he looked much the same as the King and his soldiers. Of course he did.

"What is your name?" the King asked.

"Nennez," he replied proudly.

"Are you alone?"

"Yes," he replied, looking offended. "I need no help to hunt."

"Do you know the sentence for trespassing on the King's Land?" the King asked.

The boy finally turned his proud eyes down. His knees were shaking now. "Yes."

The King sat back in his throne, feeling the jagged thorns poking into his flesh. It was an easy decision, in truth, but it didn't feel like one. Nennez looked like the younger brother he had never had--they might have grown up together in the Hall, stalking roaches. He had done nothing wrong but try to feed himself. Did he truly deserve death?

"The Law is clear," Captain Salez said, as if sensing the King's doubts.

The King just stared at Nennez. "If you were spared, what would you do?"

The soldiers all looked at their King, uncomprehending.

Nennez seemed equally stunned. "I . . . I would go back to my people."

"Will you stay off my land?" the King asked softly.

The boy's bottom lip was moving now, quivering like a fish on the line. "Yes."

The King paused. It was unfathomable to let a Worm go for trespassing. But he was already tired of passing death on Worms. Two had gone to death on his orders.

"Go. Tell Jana to keep your people away. And try to be--"

He didn't get a chance to finish. Suddenly the Earth shook like a writhing animal in a net, casting the King from his throne. The cave came alive with screams and panic as the sound of cracking, splintering stone filled the air. Nennez took off in a flash, using the panic to his advantage, and the King felt Captain Salez's strong hands heaving him to his feet.

"Get back to the village!" Captain Salez shouted, waving at the other soldiers.

Captain Salez dragged the King toward the tunnels, shielding the boy's head from the falling rocks. The last thing the King saw was Nennez vanish into the darkness, and he wondered if the Mother had decided to punish them all for his mercy.

He could almost see his father walking behind him now, a cold expression on his face. Weakness will be punished, he said sharply. There can be no weak Midnight King.

Captain Salez pulled the King back into the tunnel, and his father disappeared.

I am sorry, Father. I will be strong. I will not break the Law again.

Excerpted from A World Below by Wesley King
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

“A swift-paced survival tale that’s a cool blend of Lord of the Flies and Journey to the Center of the Earth.” —School Library Journal
“A sharp meditation on the seemingly universal difficulties of being young, smart, and uncertain.” —BCCB
“A multifaceted journey from darkness to light.” —Kirkus Reviews


Winner of the Red Maple Fiction Award

A class field trips turns into an underground quest for survival in the latest middle grade novel from the author of Edgar Award winner OCDaniel.

Mr. Baker’s eighth grade class thought they were in for a normal field trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. But when an earthquake hits, their field trip takes a terrifying turn. The students are plunged into an underground lake…and their teacher goes missing.

They have no choice but to try and make their way back above ground, even though no one can agree on the best course of action. The darkness brings out everyone’s true self. Supplies dwindle and tensions mount. Pretty and popular Silvia does everything she can to hide her panic attacks, even as she tries to step up and be a leader. But the longer she’s underground, the more frequent and debilitating they become. Meanwhile, Eric has always been a social no one, preferring to sit at the back of the class and spend evenings alone. Now, he finds himself separated from his class, totally by himself underground. That is, until he meets an unexpected stranger.

Told from three different points of view, this fast-paced adventure novel explores how group dynamics change under dire circumstances. Do the students of Mr. Baker’s class really know each other at all? Or do they just think they do? It turns out, it’s hard to hide in the dark.


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