(All these pictures came from legitimate websites and I created none of them myself.)
Need something to read? Run dry on your usual selections? Looking to try something different than your typical picks?
Do what I’m doing right now: Start the Warriors series by Erin Hunter.
Before you begin: Be aware that this is not your average juvenile literature series. For one, you need to have free time to devote to reading. There are a total of six sub-series, and in sub-series 1-5 there are 6 books each. (The sixth sub-series was just released on the market recently, so we have yet to see the completion of that.) Then there are 7 super editions — which are intended to be additional material to the original tales, and therefore need to be read afterwards (another super edition will be released later this year). Then there are the field guides (4), and the manga (8 — but 3 in each series of that). And after that comes the novellas (9), which are, again, supplemental to the original stories.
So, this is a lifetime commitment, folks. But, at least you’ll never be left wondering what to read next!
Also before you begin: Unless you enjoy, or feel you need, spoilers, don’t do any prior research on the plot, characters, or anything — except the titles and reading order. (On this last bit, I would be lost without the guidance of my oldest son, White Fang, who has read all of the books — manga included — at least twice.) Spoilers abound on the internet, because of the thousands and thousands (yes, literally!) of fan groups, discussion forums, and communities where fans share their Warriors-inspired art, short stories, and videos. (That’s the really impressive thing about Warriors — it’s not as instantly familiar to many people as, say, Harry Potter or The Magic Tree House, but it has a huge and intensely loyal following, and has consistently been on the children’s bestseller lists since the early 2000s.)
Why it’s worth it: Looking for drama, romance, action, character growth, plot twists? You’ve found it. Need friendship, loyalty, triumph, tragedy, betrayal, forbidden love, tearjerker moments, and scenes where you revel in a protagonist’s success? Warriors has it all.
And it’s very unlike any other series I remember reading as a kid, and unlike anything else my son has read in the past decade. Remember The Wind in the Willows, or the tales of Beatrix Potter, with animals purposefully behaving and dressing and talking like people? It’s charming, but not very realistic (of course), and while those books are great for what they are, it means that their appeal is limited, usually to a certain age group. Warriors is unique in that it’s told totally from the cats’ point of view, no human involvement whatsoever. And they certainly act like cats — and feral cats, at that. These aren’t our sweet little furball pets.
These cats live on their own terms, their own turf, in their own culture, and you as the reader is guided through all of it. It’s well-written, with clean language (appropriate for kids), and there are plenty of sub-plots to keep you going. And you’ll doubtlessly develop a fondness for certain characters, or a loathing/fear/sympathy/heartaching-love of others. It’s that kind of series.
Also be prepared for: There are very serious conflicts discussed here — survival of the feral cats, cat-on-cat battles, kittens being born, and the like. It’s all handled in a manner that doesn’t talk down to kids, but the explanations aren’t overally gory or too graphic. But don’t try to get your first-grader into these. Aim for ages 10 and up.
The other reason I recommend that is because of the range of emotions involved with these characters. They live in the wild, and tough stuff happens to them — their friends and family die, former allies turn against them, they fall in love with someone that they can’t be with. (Seriously. This is not Beatrix Potter, folks.)
Tools needed for reading Warriors: Yes, there are things you need before undergoing this endeavor! Mindsets and thinking patterns as well as actual physical objects.
- Don’t have any preconceptions or expectations. Just let the story take you where it goes.
- Time free of distractions. Make sure the kids are in school, in bed, or at granny’s house. You have to be able to concentrate to follow the complex storyline.
- A pen and notepad could come in handy. There are many secondary characters, and keeping track of who’s who is a little tough sometimes. You may want to take notes.
- Tissues. No, I am not kidding. The other morning, a character died when I totally wasn’t expecting it, and I almost dropped my tea cup. Then, when I finished that book last night, there was an unexpected ending, and I had SUCH a lump in my throat…for about 8 hours. Yes, seriously. (I dreamed about Warriors cats all night!)
- Once you become more familiar with the story, become suspicious. After completing the first book, I could see that the author was building some serious hints towards major plot shakeups. It’s good, because it’s simple enough foreshadowing that younger readers can catch on to it, but it’s also fun as an adult to guess and anticipate, and be surprised or satisfied.
To anyone who has read this series (that means you, White Fang!), please, no spoilers!!! Every now and then I’ll give an update on my progress.