Survivors: The Empty City



Exciting start to dog fantasy series.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Young readers will learn about different kinds of dogs, their behavior and their particular talents. They'll also get a look at the dire effects of earthquakes, both on city infrastructure and on the lives of humans and animals. Kids who are into mythology will enjoy the tales about the Earth-dog, the Sky-dogs, and other beings in the dog's-eye view of the universe.

Positive messages

Strong messages about belonging, working together, getting along, learning from one another, the importance of everyone's different talents, and staying to take care of your pack when they need you rather than going it alone. Also: It's good to have friends, especially during hard times.

Positive role models

Despite being a Lone Dog who craves the solitary life, Lucky has a strong sense of responsibility and fairness, and teaches the other dogs vital skills. The other dogs, conflicted about their responsibility to their absent owners vs. their need to survive in a new environment, reveal many hidden strengths, from the little dogs' talent as sentries to the Newfoundland's ability to swim.

Violence & scariness

The dogs hunt to survive; they are also attacked by enemies from gun-toting humans to foxes and other dogs guarding their territory. They also deal with post-earthquake hazards from live electrical wire to gas leaks. A human who was kind to Lucky is killed in the earthquake.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Survivors: The Empty City is the first volume of a new series by "Erin Hunter" -- the author name for a collective of different writers whose previous multi-volume animal fantasy series, Warriors (about cats) and Seekers (about bears), have been huge successes with middle-grade and older readers. Writer Gillian Philip makes her Erin Hunter debut with this tale of dogs fending for themselves in the wake of an earthquake. There's some violence, as dogs cope with their enemies and hunt their prey (they are attacked by gun-toting humans, foxes, and other dogs guarding their territory). And one human character is killed in the earthquake. But mostly there are positive messages about friendship, belonging, and the importance of everyone's different talents.

What's the story?

To the dogs, it's the Big Growl of the Earth-dog, a favorite theme of their mothers' tales, but human readers will recognize the devastation of an earthquake, which strikes the dogs' town one night. By morning they're trying to stay alive in THE EMPTY CITY, a strange world of collapsing buildings and many dangers, without a human in sight. Lucky, who's lived on his own since he fled his abusive owners as a puppy, wants to go it alone, but when a group of formerly Leashed Dogs helps him out of a tight spot, he realizes their pampered life has left them completely unprepared for the challenges of their new environment and decides to repay their kindness by teaching them survival skills.

Is it any good?


Erin Hunter's previous animal series have a large, devoted following, and this one is off to a promising start. Survivors is told from the dogs' point of view as they make their way through an earthquake-devastated world in search of safety and a new home. As with many first volumes, there's a lot of groundwork, from learning to see the world through dog eyes to understanding the different characters. Lucky, his pack, and the lessons they teach each other ring true in the human world as well as the canine: friendship, having each other's back, appreciating each other's differences. More sensitive kids may be distressed by the dogs' hunting to survive, though it's more matter-of-fact than gory; others will have trouble with the wholesale abandonment of dogs by humans who supposedly loved them and deserted them in the night when disaster struck.

Families can talk about...

  • Have you read any of Erin Hunter's other books? How does this one compare? Why do you think animal fantasy books are so popular?

  • Which of the dogs do you like best? Why?

  • Does your family have a disaster plan that includes your pets, so they won't be left to their fate, as these dogs were, if you have to evacuate?

Book details

Author:Erin Hunter
Topics:Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Cats, dogs, and mice, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:August 21, 2012
Number of pages:288
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 17
Read aloud:8 - 17
Read alone:8 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Learning ratings

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 9 years old December 28, 2012

Read Warriors

Ehhh... Well the violence is at it's minimum compared to warriors. I'm more of a cat person anyway I have 4. READ WARRIORS IT'S AWESOME!!! Maybe for a dog person it would be enjoyable. But half the book makes no sense!! Are these different Erins I'm baffled.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Kid, 12 years old October 7, 2012


Follow Lucky and his new friends as they attempt to survive after a giant earthquake ravaging the city he lived in. With all the humans gone, how will they survive? Ehh.. this book was okay. There is nothing really to watch out for. The violence is at it's minimum compared to other Erin Hunter books.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 10 years old April 17, 2013

great book for dog people like me

i think this book is great so far im at page 53 and im writing a book report about i think at the end the book will be great and the dogs call humans "long paws" i enjoyed the book so far i give it a 8.5 out of a 10 and im only ten and it just caught my eye in my school library unlike all those cat books no offence and for dog people like me they will really like it and for cat people they might like it so hope youll read it and have a great day.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


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