Monday, January 19, 2009

Review: Warriors: Into the Wild

I'm finally getting around to the Warriors review I promised eons ago. If you haven't yet heard of this series, you may not have tween boys in your house. It seems to be all the rage among the middle school boys in our homeschool group.

I did let Buster read it before I got to it, but I wasn't too worried as I trust the boys who recommended it to him in the first place. However, when I finally picked it up I had a big red flag go up when I read the author's bio, "Erin Hunter is inspired by a love of cats and a fascination with the ferocity of the natural world. As well as having a great respect for nature in all its forms, Erin enjoys creating rich mythical explanations for animal behavior, shaped by her interest in astrology and standing stones. " (emphasis mine)

Needless to say, the interest in astrology did not excite me about this series. In fact, it motivated me to get on the ball and read the first book myself as well as check out the Warriors website.

First, I should mention that Erin Hunter is not a real person. Erin Hunter is a pseudonym for three separate authors who work together to crank out book after book in this series. A fourth author was added to help write a new, but similar, series on bears called Seekers.

As I'm sure you've all guessed so far, these are not great literature. They're dime store paperbacks. However, they are enjoyable stories and it's easy to see why kids love them. It was also surprising to me that they do offer quite a bit for you to baptize and teach moral lessons.

The first book in the series is Warriors: Into the Wild. It is the story of a house cat, a kitten actually, who decides to join a clan of wild cats in the woods. Firepaw turns out to be our hero, not only through his physical prowess but through his honesty and forthrightness.

Let's first address the astrology issue as I think this is important for us to consider as Catholic parents. From page 161:
"All Clan leaders have to spend one night at the Moonstone when they are first chosen. There, the spirits of StarClan [cats that died] share with them."
We also read on page 45:

"Graypaw didn't take his eyes off the dead cat as he replied, 'His spirit may have left to join Star Clan, but the clan will share tongues [verbal fellowship] with Redtail one last time.'

'Star Clan?' Firepaw echoed.

'It's the tribe of heavenly warriors that watch over all the clan cats. You can see them in Silverpelt.... Silverpelt is that thick band of stars you see each night stretching across the sky. Each star is a StarClan warrior. Redtail will be among them tonight."'

These passages are clearly pagan and not reflective of Catholic teaching. As such, since my child had already read the book, I sat down and talked about it with him. I highly recommend having this discussion with your child if he reads this book. It should be made clear that the books are pure fantasy. In the make believe world of talking cats they just may speak to the stars that are made up of their ancestors. But not in real life.

However, here is an opportunity to baptize. We do believe in the Communion of the Saints and that those who have gone before us in grace are in heaven and do intercede for us. So, I pointed this out to Buster and pointed other similarities and differences. Much like I did when we read the Greek and Norse myths.

Also important to point out is that the villain takes his power through deception and murder. While his evil ways do advance his position at first, in the end they bring about his downfall. It's a simple, basic story: good triumphs over evil.

That is one of the primary attributes that makes the series popular with children. Who doesn't want a good hero who wins the day after defeating the bad guy?

Another reason for their popularity is the intrigue of the secret lives of warrior cats. The everyday "kitty pet" leaves the cushy life of a house cat to join a clan of wild cats. He gives up all his comforts to go off and fend for himself and his clan. He can no longer depend upon his human master to bring him his daily meal but must hunt for it himself each day. Yet, the hunted mouse, gained through hunting skill, is so much more delicious than the dry, drab food that comes from a box. Even if it means a less-than-filled-to-the-brim tummy each day.

Then there are also the fight scenes throughout the books. This is certainly an attraction for boys. I must admit I know of a couple of girls who abhorred the book due to the injuries and deaths incurred by the cats. But the boys tend to find the the war scenes exciting.

I also think kids appreciate that the cats are cats. Not like some books (and movies) where the animals walk on two legs and don waistcoats and what have you. They don't have technology or magical powers. "Erin Hunter" writes in a way where you find yourself easily in her fantasy world, imagining how a clan of wild cats might speak or act if it were possible.

I did find a few annoying things, in addition to the whole pagan, astrology bent. This includes a few predictable story lines and the silly names of the cats -- Firepaw, Graypaw, Sandpaw, Tigeclaw. Not exactly original. Also, and this is my own pet peeve, there is the all-to-easy plot device of the main character having a vital piece of information that will save the day, yet he keeps it to himself, looking for the right moment to spill the beans, even though he has tons of opportunity, and instead takes matters into his own hands after it's too late. Sigh.

So, what's the bottom line here? Umm, I'm going to take the easy way out and say "Read it yourself." This isn't one to just hand over without a word. In the end I let Buster pass the book onto Sparky to read making sure to discuss the good and bad found in the authors' depiction of a make believe world of warrior cats.


Unknown said...

If a parent decides to let their kids read the Warriors books (of course, with some discussions), do you believe all the other "Erin Hunter" series of books are about the same?

(In other words, I can't pre-read all the books my 28 students are reading in their free time. But I'm trying to encourage the reading of "reasonable" dime-store books rather than "trashy" dime-store books. Some of the boys have voraciously read all 6 of these Warriors books & I'm considering purchasing another "Erin Hunter" series. Any thoughts? (Maybe this question is outside the realm of your blog, so I understand if you don't want to post or respond to it.) Thanks.

Maureen said...

Hi Colleen!

I think that if you're okay with the first book the rest should be okay. I haven't read them all but I've flipped through a few of them including the first in the Seeker's series. They seem to be pretty innocent overall -- as long as you're aware of the pagan undertones and baptize them.

I do have to admit that Buster keeps bringing the sequels to me, insisting that I should read them all because they are just so awesome.

Sigh. At least most of the rest of my other children actually appreciate good literature over the lame stuff.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Maureen. BTW, today I met with a brother & sister. They took at least 15 of the books I recently ordered--most are from your "For the Love of Literature", but there were 3 Warriors books, too. I'm so glad to have your wisdom to guide my book purchases!

NFP with Chris & Michele said...

so what about the cats mating and going off to mate with other cats after they have just finished mating with one cat? a little premiscuous right?

Maureen said...

Yes, that is definitely not good! Which book is that in? Can you share a page number? It either went totally over my head or it's in a later book that I haven't read. Thank you!