King of the Mole People by Paul Gilligan is a hilarious and well-structured hybrid novel. Like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Timmy Failure, King of the Mole People is largely text, but there are illustrations throughout.
The main character, Doug Underbelly, is a kid doing everything he can to be normal. He has just started at a new school, and hopes this will be a chance to avoid some of his bad past experiences of being socially awkward and a target for bullies. Unfortunately for Doug, being normal is not the plan of the “mole people,” the group of subterranean creatures who are obsessed with “up stuff” (human stuff) and want Doug to be their king. Being king of anything might sound great, but Doug discovers being a monarch is very hard work, especially if your subjects need help understanding everything from Taco Tuesday to wedding ceremonies.
King of the Mole People is very funny. Doug is regarded as a king because, among other reasons, he hits himself in the head with a shovel, and there is a royal guard who only says “booog” when he speaks. The book also has a serious message, though, about being yourself even when the world wants you to be “normal,” or just like everyone else. Doug struggles to find himself (and to lose his dad’s homemade eel sandwiches), but in the end, he discovers that he is not meant to be just like everyone else.
The only part of King of the Mole People I didn’t like was the first chapter or two where Doug is just getting insulted and picked on by bullies and even his teacher! This part of the book is not badly written or even unnecessary, but it was still hard to read because Doug is so miserable.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes slapstick comedy or hybrid novels. If you have read and enjoyed Timmy Failure by Stephen Pastis or Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, you will want to get your hands on this book.