Guardians of the Taiga: Wild Rescuers, Book 1

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Guardians of the Taiga: Wild Rescuers, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Minecraft wolf-girl heroine shines in exciting book debut.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The story, transplanted from the Minecraft world, uses some of its terminology (e.g. "biome), and  passes along quite a lot of knowledge about biology and ecosystems. The brainy narrator unapologetically uses an advanced vocabulary, ranging from "Rube Goldberg" to "theodolite," then thoughtfully includes a glossary at the end of the book where she explains words she thinks you might not know. Including "taiga: a northern subarctic forest primarily composed of coniferous trees including pine, fir, and spruce." In one scene, Stacy reads the wolves a story that's clearly a Harry Potter book.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about friendship, loyalty, steadfastness, clever problem-solving, a love for reading, writing, and learning, and respect for nature. Look out for one another and try to avoid behavior that will bring trouble on everybody.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stacy is smart, resourceful, and devoted to her wolf family, the only one she remembers. She feels a strong sense of responsibility for their well-being. She also adapts quickly to surprise changes, and can change her views when she gets new information.  The wolves, from the stately Everest to the silly Wink, are devoted to Stacy -- and to her mission of rescuing animals, so much that they've given up hunting. (They do eat fish and chicken.) Some humans are cruel to animals and careless with nature, but others are kind and considerate.

Violence & Scariness

Several rescues involve scary situations, like caves and molten lava. Wolves killing livestock leads to trouble. Animals are killed and injured by various means, from hunters to forest fires. Stacy was injured and lost her parents in a past incident she can't remember.

Language

Occasional mention of "butts." 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Guardians of the Taiga is the first volume of a new book series based on the popular Minecraft-inspired Dogcraft  adventures and YouTube videos of StacyPlays, aka Stacy Hinojosa, and featuring characters based on the author and her own dogs. You need to suspend disbelief a bit here -- the story involves a girl raised by wolves in a world strongly resembling our own, who manages a pretty high level of education and standard of living while rescuing forest critters from hair-raising perils -- but the story hits a lot of sweet spots, especially for animal-loving kids and their parents. As the title suggests, there's a lot of information about nature and how ecosystems work, as well as a brainy narrator who doesn't talk down to her readers, includes a lot of vocabulary (such as "taiga") that might be new to them, and thoughtfully provides a glossary to explain it all at the end.

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What's the story?

GUARDIANS OF THE TAIGA takes readers to the "biome" (world in Minecraft, where this story originated), where Stacy, who figures she's about 12 now, lives with a pack of wolves she considers her family, ever since the day a few years early when she woke up with a splitting headache in the middle of the forest with them hovering protectively over her. About her earlier life she remembers nothing (though she does remember how to read, write, and speak English). After a life-changing incident, she and the wolves make it their mission to save their fellow forest residents when they wind up in danger -- whether from hunters and irate villagers or rushing rivers and molten lava. They don't trust humans and prefer to stay far away, but another wolf pack that's moved into the area may force the issue.

Is it any good?

Main character Stacy and her wolf family are fun, appealing, and determined as they go from one hair-raising adventure to another in this action-packed leap from Minecraft to the book world. As Guardians of the Taiga, the interspecies pack puts all its members' talents to work trying to keep their forest neighbors -- and themselves -- safe and happy. StacyPlays opens up a whole new world for her Minecraft following, and between her exciting, science-packed narrative and Vivienne To's lively illustrations, the Wild Rescuers series is off to a great start.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories involving kids being raised by animals, and what happens when other humans find out about it. Do you know any other examples? How do you think Stacy and her pack compare?

  • Guardians of the Taiga is the first book based on a long-running  series of adventures in Minecraft. Why do you think the storyteller might want to expand into books? What can you do in books that you can't do in Minecraft to tell your story -- and vice versa?

  • Author StacyPlays (Stacy Hinojosa) based her stories on an imaginary version of herself and her dogs in a fantasy world. If you and your animal companions were to star in your own stories, what would they be like?

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