Finally an Heir to The Secret of NIMH?

The Underfoot Vol. 1 by Ben Fisher and Emily Whitten is a story of smart hamsters that are given the mission to destroy a beaver dam before it floods their allies the badgers. As an unconditional fan of The Secret of NIMH, with which I grew up as a kid, I could not pass that graphic novel. The hamsters geared up to the teeth, ready to attack and defend and break through traps added to a history of human experiments on animals were just too tempting. The new twist is that this is a dystopian universe and the humans have been wiped out.

The graphics are very well made, despite a large crew of hamsters we can easily distinguish all of them. The action is clear, and there is a real world created between those pages. 10 to 14 years old should really enjoy this one. Courage, team work, looking beyond the first impressions and learning to listen are very important values of this work – interwoven with all the action and rising tension, it’s a nice work to put in the hands of the younger set.

This isn’t as mystical and mysterious and magical as NIMH. After all there isn’t the scope for a first volume of a graphic novel to cover as much as a whole book. But there are hints to more being there than meets the eye. And there are a lot of darker moments that will get your young reader go through roller coasters. The stakes are very high and the sad parts are going to take some by surprise and pull them down. So I guess there is a bit of a warning for the more sensitive young readers out there.

I am looking forward to reading the next volume – but my real opinion depends on what choices the next volume makes. “The Underfoot” is for all the fans of the old Disney “The Rescuers”, and maybe the very odd Japanese light novel “From the New World”, though that last one was definitely more late teen (“From the New World” was far more shocking in its reveals and treatment of people and smart animals). 

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