Doug Underbelly just wants to be a normal seventh grader, but the fates are stacked against him: he and his dad live in a house that looks straight out of a scary movie, and the only meals his dad makes are from the eels that are plentiful around the house grounds; the weird girl at school follows him around, too. And it doesn’t help that he’s covered in mud and worms most of the time… but that’s what happens when one is king of the mole people, as Doug is. He doesn’t really want to be their king, but it was thrust upon him, and even though the throne is awfully uncomfortable and his royal advisor most definitely is plotting against him, he’s doing his best. But there’s trouble rumbling down below: the Slug People are getting fidgety and fussy, and it looks like the Mushroom Folk and the Stone Goons are going to get involved, too. What happens when giant worms start rising up and wrecking everything above ground? Doug has to get things under control, and quick – and maybe that weird girl will be more of a help than he expects.
This laugh-out-loud middle grade book is the first in a new series that kids are going to devour. It’s got gross-out humor, there’s some touching moments, and Doug is the underdog character that we all love to cheer for (and laugh at). He’s got a fatalistic yet snarky outlook on life, and his attempts to be normal – from signing up for sports and drama, to deciding he’ll crush on a popular girl, because everyone else does – are sweetly hilarious and painfully relatable. Magda, the “weird girl”, is a goth girl with brains and depth, and she keeps Doug on his toes. Doug’s royal entourage/mole people buddies are sweetly literal and not terribly bright, but loyal.
Kirkus says it best: “The Wimpy Kid’s got nothing on the King of the Mole People—he’s got more laughs and more mud”. Betsy Bird has a fun interview with author Paul Gilligan on School Library Journal, and you can find an excerpt, trailer, and downloadables – including your own crown – at the publisher’s King of the Mole People website.