The Dark Ground

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Overview

Robert wakes up naked and alone in a thick jungle. The last thing he remembers is being in a plane with his family, but there is no sign of a crash or survivors. Then he discovers the shocking truth--he is in the park near his house, but his familiar world has been transformed into an alien landscape. When he finds others in the same position, he enlists their help in getting back home. But the journey is more perilous than Robert could ever imagine.

Upon waking up ...

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Overview

Robert wakes up naked and alone in a thick jungle. The last thing he remembers is being in a plane with his family, but there is no sign of a crash or survivors. Then he discovers the shocking truth--he is in the park near his house, but his familiar world has been transformed into an alien landscape. When he finds others in the same position, he enlists their help in getting back home. But the journey is more perilous than Robert could ever imagine.

Upon waking up naked and alone in a thick jungle, Robert remembers being in a plane with his family but finds no sign of a crash or survivors, then he discovers that he is in an alien place and needs help to make the perilous journey home.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A tantalizing mystery lies at the heart of this first book in Cross's (Tightrope) fantasy trilogy, but its solution is elusive. An enigmatic opening chapter introduces Zak, in the treetops, calling to Cam to "Remember," as he crashes "headfirst, onto the dark ground." Next, readers meet Robert Doherty, on an airplane with his family; he gets up to use the bathroom, blacks out and awakens alone, naked and shrunken to mouse size in a mysterious wood. A quick exploration reveals that he is not far from his house, but an unexplained "rift in reality" separates him from his world. The two threads of the story connect, and Cam and Zak and their gang of fellow diminutive real-world outcasts, take Robert into a cave where they spend their days feverishly stoking fires and fighting off memories of their previous lives. Ignoring their pessimism ("Small is an alien planet, and that's where you live now," Zak tells Robert), Robert sets out with a few of the others to make his way back home, and to find out what happened to him and his family. After a rather dreary adventure sequence, the book's unsatisfying conclusion raises more questions than it answers. And Cross's prose is uncharacteristically repetitive, even rather sloppy at times. It may take volumes two and three before readers can decide whether this alternate cosmology is viable. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In this first book of the "Dark Ground" trilogy, Robert is on an airplane with his family heading home from vacation. Suddenly, he experiences a sharp jolt. He is plunging through darkness. The next thing he knows, Robert is naked, in pain, and in an unknown place. He does not understand how he can be recovering from an airplane crash when there is no wreck to be seen and no other survivors to be found, but that seems to be the case. Quickly, without any tools, he sets about meeting his most basic needs: shelter, warmth, food, water. Time passes, and each day is a struggle. He can't figure out where he is or what to do next. Then, when he is away from his hovel, a fur blanket is shoved inside. It is clear that someone has been observing him. But who? And why? Finding the other people and figuring out their secrets will likely change Robert's life forever. Gillian Cross's fantasy survival story is reminiscent of—but very different from—the Lord of the Flies. 2004, Dutton, Ages 10 to 14.
—Heidi Hauser Green
VOYA
One moment Robert is on a plane, and the next, he is in some alternate world. No plane crash evidence exists, and he struggles with solo survival. He sucks dew off massive plants, chews seeds, digs a burrow, knows it is not enough, and prepares to die. Suddenly food and animal skins appear. Robert plots to discover his benefactor, nearly gets eaten by an "ogre bird," and eventually joins a tribe of people like himself. But what kind of people are they? It turns out that Robert inexplicably has become mere centimeters high. He and his new community are yards away from his full-size home and family, now grotesquely giant sized. Robert and tribal representatives risk the journey homeward, hoping to get the attention and care of the big people. Once noticed, Robert's transformation is a perplexing twist that creates the opening for the next book. Unique but far too murky, this book is the first in a proposed trilogy. The first sections are overwrought with dark descriptive phrases that could be effective if the action and setting were more apparent. The concept is clever, a sort of creepy Honey I Shrunk the Kids meets The Lord of the Flies, but the reality of Robert's situation is delayed far too long. No explanation-or even speculation-is offered for how or why Robert shrinks. Some teachers might appreciate the challenging inference lessons that this book offers, but most readers will not want to be continually teased with vagaries for somewhat minimal payoff. VOYA CODES: 2Q 3P M J (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, Dutton, 256p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Elaine McGuire
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-After having a nightmare while asleep on an airplane, Robert escapes to the restroom to recover. He looks in the mirror, sees a vision of another boy in his own eyes, and is suddenly pulled into a swirling vortex of darkness. He wakes up scratched and naked in a gloomy forest. At first glance, this is a story of survival, as Robert learns to feed, clothe, and shelter himself, but new questions soon arise. He is not alone, and help is offered, at first surreptitiously. When a monstrous bird attacks him and takes him to its treetop lair, Robert views his surroundings and realizes that he is close to his home, but somehow the small ditch that separates his neighborhood from a park is now a bottomless ravine. Compared to normal-sized people and places, Robert and his rescuers are impossibly small and constantly in danger. These are not The Borrowers and there is nothing cute or funny about their lives. The mood is eerie and chilling, and Robert's new friends feel they must accept their present circumstances in order to survive. "Small is an alien planet, and that's where you live now." Still, Robert refuses to forget the past and is determined to find a way back. The first in a trilogy, this is a fast-moving, suspenseful science-fiction adventure. The ending is surprising and satisfying, bringing closure to the first leg of Robert's journey while leaving plenty of room for the sequels and reasons for readers to eagerly await them.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Creative, mysterious fantasy bookends a woodland survival story in this provocative series opener. On an airplane with his family, Robert looks in a mirror, sees a tiny version of himself reflected in his eye, feels a hard crash, and wakes up naked in a forest. Scrabbling for food, water, and warmth, he tries to follow someone who's shared furs and fruit, but he's attacked by a mammoth bird and brought to a gargantuan tree-from where he can see his house across the park. Stunner: it turns out the tree is normal-sized, while Robert has somehow become minuscule. He joins the tiny others in their struggle to survive the enormous woods but finally decides to try crossing the park to see his family. The trek is heart-stoppingly dangerous. Shocking final events and the fact that the deadly serious questions aren't answered (why do people shrink? what's going on?) will leave readers breathless for the next installment. (Fantasy. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780192727183
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2010

Table of Contents

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