A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Endling #1: The Last is the first book in a new trilogy by Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan, Wishtree, the Animorphs science fantasy series). In this book she combines her skill for writing fast-paced fantasy series with her characteristic beautifully wrought prose to craft a story that gets readers chewing on the idea of animal extinction and stewardship of the planet. There's some graphic violence. The main character's entire family and pack gets slaughtered by humans, and characters on both sides of the fight have swords, teeth, and claws, and they're not afraid to use them. Both the protagonist animal and the main human are girl characters who are brave and adventurous.
What's the story?
In ENDLING #1: THE LAST, Byx is an endling, the last of the dairne species, animals who are doglike, but who walk on two legs, talk, and can sense whether someone's lying. After Byx's family and packmates are slaughtered by humans, she's captured by a young female human, Khara, who brings her to an island of scholars in hopes that Byx will be protected. But when they arrive, they find the town planning a "eumony," a funeral for the species, and realize the humans they thought were allies may not be trustworthy. Byx and Khara are joined by two other fantastic animals, a small, chatty, loyal wobbyk, and a fierce feline from the species felivet, whose numbers are also dwindling. Will the friends escape the humans who want to kill them? Are there more dairnes still living on a faraway sentient island, as is rumored? The friends quest to find out as they battle for survival.
Is it any good?
This imaginative animal fantasy, with its detailed world, is action packed and keeps readers turning the page to find out if the narrator's the last of her species or if there’s still hope. Endling #1: The Last uses fantasy to present the threat of extinction, which frees up author Katherine Applegate to call out the guilty species. In this world, humans are treacherous and seldom to be trusted because of their "endless greed and ambition." Humans don’t "understand the balance in life. They do not understand that their will to dominate and control, to use and abuse, is destructive to all." This verdict is softened somewhat by the character of Khara, a human warrior who joins the band and fights to save Byx.
Not all fantasy authors write with a literary flourish, but Newbery winner Applegate treats readers to thoughtful, beautiful language that arrests attention without stopping the action. The sun's described as "flushed as a ripe peach." Khara peers through thick fog that "had crawled in from the sea, obscuring the world and softening the moon to a fuzzy orb, like the last days of a dandelion." Despite the blood and gore, or perhaps because of it, and because kids are asked to take the point of view of an animal, readers are prompted to think about the threat of extinction as it looms.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the theme of animal extinction in Endling #1: The Last. Why do you think Applegate uses fantasy to spotlight the problem? How do you think it applies to the situation of our real animals on Earth? What can we do to stop their extinction?
The animals in the story have a dim view of humans, as does Khara. Do you agree with it or disagree? Which parts strike you as true? How can we deal with real humans who are contributing to the extinction of species?
Can you picture the fantasy animals that Applegate's created when you read her descriptions? Do you think you would've imagined them the way the pictures in the art do?
- Author: Katherine Applegate
- Illustrator: Tony Piedra
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: May 1, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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