I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about most of these books; they’re pretty popular (or have been within the last 10 years or so). I’ve seen them on the display table while walking through Barnes and Noble, noticed them on the bookcase at a homeschool conference and seen copy upon copy lining the shelves at second hand shops. And a few of these titles were made into movies, so even at the grocery store it was hard to miss them, as the marketing was affixed to cereal boxes, soda, chips and well … everything.
Popularity isn’t by any means a magnet, though, compelling me to read something. In fact, it sometimes causes me to be a little leery. The reason being? I can think of a few hyped up series that I’ve avoided because I found out, by hearsay, what the draw was, and it wasn’t something I wanted to read; meaning, the “draw” went against my standards. After a few of these instances, you shake your head, assuming the latest book fad has another improper theme, and leave the series alone.
With the titles I’m about to divulge on, however, there wasn’t any “hearsay” available to me. I’d just have to read them to know. Which is what I did. And now, you get to know too.
I didn’t read the entire series, just the first few books (some of these have fifteen titles!). But it should provide enough content and context to get an idea of what the book is about, where the author is going and what they like to embellish their stories with. So here’s some brief, but hopefully helpful, thoughts. (For a thorough report, visit The Library.)
Overview: The books feel very mystical. The cat’s way of speaking and their beliefs mirror Native American mannerisms and rituals. For example: how they honor the prey they’ve killed for food, ancestor worship, looking to the heavens for signs, and prophetic dreams, to give a few examples. It’s not just a few comments, but pretty fairly saturated into the story. An excerpt about the author found on the back cover reads: “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.”
Overview: A typical “good guy vs bad guy” story so morals are straight forward. There are some mild obscenities sprinkled throughout, most of which are used by the villains. If you’re from the UK or Down Under, the b-word is used once in each book, so be aware of that. There’s no romantic relationships and while there is violence (these are spy books after all) it is not graphic or disturbing. If this was a movie, it would probably be rated PG for action sequences and a little language. I enjoyed these!
Overview: If you’re not okay with your children reading Greek mythology, you’ll want to avoid these books. They retell many of the Greek myths so include mythical creatures, the powers the various gods have, praying to the gods, burnt offerings and mentions (though not with any detail) several of the affairs the gods had with each other or with mortals. If you are okay with mythology, these are very fun, witty and engaging books! Most moral issues are fairly black and white (with the exception of perhaps the stepfather – see below). Their are some school/camp bullies (which the hero needs to stand up to) and a fair bit of name calling throughout the book (which again, is mostly done by the school/camp bullies. The rest is friendly banter). The hero does have a little teen attitude when it comes to school and shying away from his mom’s hugs, but it’s fairly mild.
The hero does have anger issues towards his stepfather. The stepfather is not a nice guy and when the mother decides to leave him, or rather turn him into a statue (because she no longer needs him for her son’s protection) the reader is supposed to feel this end-to-the-marriage/murder is justified. This isn’t a main part of the plot though, as the stepfather is really only at the very beginning of the story and at the end.
Overview: A little owl gets kidnapped and taken to a “school” where other kidnapped owls are taken, brainwashed and forced into labor. The brainwashing is a little weird (and having only read the first book in the series, I’m not sure where the author is going with this) but the little owl avoids succumbing to their attempts and maintains his identity. He tries to be brave, hold onto truth and to think creatively so he and a friend can escape. The friend too, exhibits loyalty as she will not leave without him.
Throughout the story there are “swear words.” Although they are “made up” swear words for the book (so not universally recognized as swear words) they are still such and used similarly. In fact, the little owls even comment on this, and at first gasp when the words are used but later add them to their working vocabulary. For example, “Oh, racdrops!” which the book explains as the following: “Racdrops, short for raccoon droppings, was one of the most daring, dirtiest, worst words an owlet could say.”
Sneak Peek: I’m currently reading this so will post my thoughts when I’ve finished! It’s really long – over seven hundred pages – but I hope to complete it soon. So far I’ve come across the words *ss, b*st*rd, d*mn*tion and bl**dy (each only once) but still somewhat shocking considering that Paolini is a homeschool graduate.