Wallace in Underland is a book that appeals to all age groups. The user friendly language makes the book unique. Dialogue and illustrations add value to this work. It is a fact that we do not have to reinvent the wheel. This book according to the author was inspired by Alice in Wonderland.
The first illustration in the book which is of Wallace Johnson, the nine year old boy who is the main character, says it all. He is unhappy, bored and miserable. Having lost his mother when he was only two his father Howard Johnson tries his best to bring him up. This proves difficult on the third floor of a flat. The two moved out of their house when Wallace’s mother died.
Every evening after supper Howard Johnson washes up, moves to the lounge where he drinks beer and watches television. Wallace plays with his computer, toys and reads a handful of books that he owns. This becomes a way of life for father and son.
During the day it became a nightmare for Wallace to venture outside to play. Jamal Henderson a bully and his three friends made life difficult for Wallace whose situation at home was already complicated.
Despite being between a hard place and a rock, one day the frustrated Wallace decides to take a chance and venture outside. He manages to wander off farther than he had done before and was enjoying it until Jamal and his friends spotted him.
This was followed by shouting and a chase by Jamal and his friends. Being caught meant pelting that would leave Wallace’s body aching for days. The only way out was to sprint.
It was unfortunate that the wall that Wallace was faced with would make it hard for him to escape. Boxes that where nearby were of no use as Jamal and his friends would easily find him. He became desperate and frightened.
Just then a big rat approaches him offering to help. He is taken aback by the talking rat but soon follows it. The rat asks Wallace to squeeze himself through a small crack in the wall. He thinks it is a joke but makes a quick decision to try it. To his surprise he goes through. The rat follows him. He is amazed as he is not on the other side of the wall and is certain that he is falling. This is a frightening experience for him. He soon lands on a comfortable soft sponge followed by the rat which lands on him. The rat complains that it is never an easy way to get home. It then introduces itself as Ralph. That gives Wallace an opportunity to introduce himself.
When Wallace demands to know where there were he is told that he was in the Kingdom of Underland where the King was expecting him. Ralph does not give Wallace a chance to ask more questions. The two quickly make their way through a tunnel. Wallace is asked to keep close to Ralph as the Underlanders were not fond of humans.
Underland was home to pets that had gone through all sorts of abuses. Some had been abandoned after services in circuses, homes and other institutions. The likes of Ralph had to run away from traps and poison. After an hour Wallace wondered how long it would take to get to the King. Just then they had an encounter with a mean black serpent that demands to know Wallace’s business in Underland. As Ralph tries to avoid the question, the serpent loses it temper. It reminds Ralph that it was the guardian of ‘Underland’ whose duty was to check out everyone entering the kingdom. Ralph gives in, explains the mission and they are given permission to continue with the journey.
The second encounter is with Milo the large Mole Rat who could not just move out of the way. He also demands an explanation which he gets but begs to join the two as he was lonely. This is granted. After an hour they finally get to King Fillmore a large frog of almost Wallace’s height. The King goes straight into the mission that he has for Wallace. As a human he was the best to deal with a tribe of wild cats that had created havoc in a once peaceful Underland. Four emissaries had been sent to deal with the cats but were never seen again. They were obviously eaten.
For Wallace that was a tall order but he agrees to undertake the mission. Pleased with that decision King Fillmore bestows Wallace with the title of ‘Sir Wallace the Bold’. Ralph and Milo were bestowed with the titles ‘Pages of the Royal Court’.
The three bid the King farewell and set out on their mission. At least Ralph had an idea where to go. Wallace leads the party as the wild cats would easily have Ralph for dinner. After walking for hours through the sloppy, rocky, winding bumpy tunnel Wallace’s feet start to ache. He is at a point of giving up and going back to his boring home. Before he could make his intentions known Ralph he picks some sounds and Milo confirms smelling something. As it turned out it was some monkeys and a chimp playing a pebble game. The monkeys did not mind Ralph and Milo but were not amused to see Wallace. The Chimp leader of the pack had grown up in a circus but was rendered useless when he became old. A pet monkey had also been abandoned because of old age. The rest of the monkeys support their pals protest against unfair treatment. Ralph finally manages to convince the monkeys that Wallace was not the mean type. In order to get rid of Wallace and his friends the Chimp referred the three to baboons who were just as bad as wild cats. Baboons hung out with wild cats.
The baboons turned to be rude and were not interested in giving away information about the wild cats. Despite the stalemate the journey had to continue. Finding the wild cats became a nightmare. Each animal that Wallace and his Pages came across had its own demands. First the Badger bullied the three and wanted a toll pass. Patsy the pigeon would only give information for a fee. Two Pekinese dogs blocked the way as they fought fiercely blaming each other for having been thrown out of a cosy home. All these challenges gave Wallace wisdom. He was not bored anymore and was determined to complete his mission.
The best way to find out how Sir Wallace the Bold accomplished his mission is to get the book.
This book which highlights the ills of bullying and abuse must be read. Every library, learning institution and home should make an effort acquire it. It makes a good Christmas present since we are approaching the Festive Season.
Ambassador Charles Ray is a seasoned author who writes both fiction and non-fiction. His poems have been published in several anthologies and he contributes article in various journals. He has love and passion for writing. To date he has written twelve books. The latest being “Die Sinner” published this year (2011). Despite his busy schedule he makes time to write.
Virginia Phiri, is a Zimbabwean author. Her recent works are Destiny and Highway Queen.
Causes Charles Ray Supports
The Nature Conservancy
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial