Survivors: The Empty City
What parents need to know
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?