Into the Wild (Warrior Cats) by Erin Hunter

This is the first book to the Warrior Cats series, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It’s about a bunch of wild cats living in the forest that live in packs called Clans, and the battles, and the cats growing up and becoming warriors. The books are really action-packed and fun to read! And after reading this story, I just couldn’t look at house cats the same way ever again!

Anyways, to begin with, there are four Clans in the forest: ThunderClan, ShadowClan, RiverClan, and WindClan. There is also a StarClan, which is like the cats’ heaven. Everything is peaceful, until a mysterious omen arrives:

“Fire Alone Can Save Our Clan…”

For generations, four Clans of wild cats have shared the forest according to the laws laid down by their warrior ancestors. But the ThunderClan cats are in grave danger, and the sinister ShadowClan grows stronger every day. Noble warriors are dying – and some deaths are more mysterious than others.

And in the midst of this turmoil appears just an ordinary house cat named Rusty… who may turn out to be the bravest warrior of them all.

-Katharine L.

Into the Wild by Erin Hunter is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

lifeofpi_yannmartelLife of Pi, by Yann Martel, is perhaps one of the greatest books on philosophy ever written, delving heavily into themes of faith and hope, all while telling the exciting story of a boy and a tiger.

The story goes like this: Piscine Patel is a young Indian boy who lives on a zoo. There, surrounded by animals and the beauty of nature, Pi develops a fascination with religion, exploring and questioning every aspect of it. When his family is shipping the zoo across the ocean, a storm sinks the ship. As the sole survivor, Pi is cast to sea on a lifeboat, with only a Bengal Tiger as his companion. While drifting on the Pacific Ocean, Pi survives and slowly creates his own perception of faith and hope.

From the surface, Life of Pi seems like another tale of adventure and survival, much like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. However, I personally think that Yann Martel was more writing about the concept of religion. Even the themes of hope and survival are all linked back to Pi’s faith in God, or Gods.

Right from the beginning of the book, Pi establishes himself as an extremely religious person, becoming a devout Christian, Muslim, and Hindu all at once. When the truth comes out, all of his religious leaders and parents push him to settle on one religion. Pi replies, “‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God” (Martel 69). Whether he is correct in saying this is unimportant, because the purpose is to show the frivolous nature of rivalry between religions. At the same time, he felt that atheists were his “brothers and sisters of a different faith” (28). Of course, when his situation spirals into survival on the ocean, Pi’s faith is shaken, but he finds his own peace with his God.

Life of Pi surpasses an average philosophy textbook because Martel doesn’t monotonously write about philosophical concepts. Instead, he weaves a beautiful story with elements of philosophy introduced alongside Pi’s experiences on the ocean and in his zoo. In this way, the story’s excitement and thoughtfulness work in tandem, each making the other more meaningful.

In conclusion, Life of Pi is a beautifully written book that will leave you questioning your existence without having to endure the boredom of a typical book of philosophy. Perfect!

-Philip X.

Life of Pi is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available digitally from Overdrive.

Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

red_fernI love dogs. I love everything about them. From their furry bodies to their gross slobbery tongues, I love it all.

However, besides loving dogs themselves, I also love a good dog book. The book Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is the perfect dog book, and let me just say this book is life changing. Even if you aren’t a dog lover, or you only really love cats, this book is still life changing, regardless of your animal preference.

The novel follows the life of a young boy and his best friends, his two-coonhound hunting dogs. Together the boy, Billy Coleman, and his two dogs embark on countless fun-filled adventures. However, the story goes beyond the adventure and becomes a coming-of-age novel.

The book will make you laugh, cry, scream, giggle, sigh, and surprise you all at the same time, but in the best possible way. I highly recommend this book to everyone and anyone. Fortunately, it really isn’t subject to just one age group, like many other classic novels, because it is relatable to so many people on so many different levels. All in all, it is a great book, and probably one of my all-time favorite books.

-Olivia S.

Book Review: Shadow Horse, by Alison Hart, and Its Sequel, Whirlwind

shadow_horseShadow Horse starts out with a teenage girl named Jasmine Schuler, who has to go to a court hearing for juvenile delinquents. She is accused of assaulting Hugh Robicheaux, the owner of High Meadows Farm, where Jas and her grandfather had lived. She attacked Hugh since she knew that he had killed his own horse, contrary to the story that Hugh recounted about how Jas’ grandfather had killed the house.

After proven guilty in the court room, she must now go live with her foster parent, Miss Hahn, for 45 days. And during that time, she must find evidence to prove that Hugh had killed his own horse. In the meantime, she learns to accept living on the run-down Second Chance Farm, and she even finds a horse at an auction. The discovery of this animal drastically influences the mystery.

I thought this first book in the two-book series was pretty good. However, in my opinion, the real action of the series doesn’t start until the second book.

whirlwindIn the second book, Whirlwind, Jas goes to her next hearing. Hugh strangely shows up there and threatens Jas to keep quiet about her suspicions. This second book becomes a lot darker than the first. An investigator is hired to help with the case. Jas’ relationship with a farm volunteer is growing. Also, Hugh has a spy somewhere on the farm, who is reporting everything about Jas to Hugh. But who is the spy? And how will they get to the bottom of the mystery and stay safe in the meantime?

What made this book unique was the unusual circumstance that brought Jas to Second Chance Farm. Who would have ever thought that a girl guilty of assault on a horse farm would spend her probation days at another horse farm? However, had that not happened, Jas would never have had an opportunity to try to solve the mystery. In the end, it was better for her to be on probation, despite the obvious drawbacks of the situation, like curfew hours.

If you love horses or murder mysteries, or a combination of both of these, then you would enjoy this book series. I would recommend these books for younger teens, since they are relatively basic reads. However, they have a good plot, and once the action starts, it is quite a captivating series. I felt it was pretty realistic, especially since the reason behind Hugh’s actions is unfortunately something that could happen in real life. Overall, I really enjoyed reading these books, and would rate them 4 out of 5 stars.

-Leila S., 8th grade

Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

red_fernThis book by Wilson Rawls is about a boy named Billy Colman with his two excellent coon hunting hounds, Little Ann and Old Dan. Billy gets his dogs from a magazine order, and saves enough money by determination and hard work. He always receives tips on hunting from his grandpa. On their first hunt in the river bottoms, the dogs beg for help occasionally. Then Old Dan finds the raccoon scent and heads off with Little Ann at his side. The raccoon pulls a simple trick by swimming across the river. Two hours later the pups has treed their first coon in the tallest sycamore tree in the bottoms. Finally after many hour of chopping the tree, the sycamore falls, and the hounds race off to find and kill the coon.

Near the end of the book, Billy enters a competition for hunting. Billy, his grandpa, and his dad goes to the contest. Before hunting, the judges held a beauty contest, and Billy enters Little Ann. He quickly grooms Little Ann and brings her to the tables. Little Ann wins the beauty contest. At the end of the hunting competition, Billy’s dogs win the contest. But– spoiler alert: there’s a sad ending for these dogs!

This terrific book is truly amazing. I think that the book is great for animal lovers. My opinion about the book is that the story is truly amazing and I bet everyone who reads this story will love it.

-Samantha S., 7th grade

Book Review: Starlight, by Erin Hunter

warriors_starlight_coverOut of all the ten books I have read of the Warriors series, this one was my most favorite. Starlight, by Erin Hunter, is a story about wild cats that move into a new home. They have to learn how to survive in surroundings that are much different from their past home, as the forest is now being destroyed by Twolegs (humans).

The four clans of warrior cats– Thunderclan, Windclan, Shadowclan, and Riverclan– try to settle in their new home by seeking food, shelter, and boundaries to set up defenses to protect their own territories. When the Windclan leader dies and there is no place for the clans to speak with Starclan, the clans’ warrior ancestors, the cats think that all hope is lost. But one certain character will not give up in order to unite the clans together. Will Brambleclaw succeed or will chaos take over?

Throughout the whole Warriors series, I have grown to love the main characters’ personalities. All of the cats are very skilled warriors who are caring, courageous, honorable, and selfless. In addition, they fight like leaders to protect each of their clans. There are many scenes in the book when the warrior cats fight and this is what made Starlight so fast-paced. The suspense made me want to keep reading to the next chapter and I couldn’t put the book down! In my opinion, I would rate this book an eight out of ten and would recommend it to kids ages ten to sixteen who enjoy fantasy and action.

-Riley W., 6th grade

Book Review: Thunder Dog, by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory

thunder_dog“My head is spinning. So much has happened in such a short time, and my mind reels, going over the events and trying to make sense of the explosion…” – Michael Hingson, p. 123-124

Michael Hingson is an ordinary man. He’s flown a plane, had several jobs, drives sometimes, has friends, is a Christian, and is married. And he’s permanently and totally blind.

This true story is what happened on 9/11/2001 when a blind man and his guide dog were on the 78th floor in the World Trade Center’s North tower as the first hijacked plane hit. Michael and Roselle were paired as man and guide dog for twenty-one months previously, and everything in their lives together seemed to lead up to this. Since Michael can’t see anything, he depends on what he hears, feels, smells, and breathes. He also depends on Roselle, and has to trust her very much on this terrifying day. They helped each other. They were a team working as one.

I personally loved this autobiography. Through books, I can say I’ve experienced what it’s like to be homeless, be a winner, be a gorilla, live through segregation, be a spy, live in a “crazy” family, live in a giant peach, and many other things. Oh, and now be blind. It’s a very gracious experience, and Thunder Dog has given me a new appreciation for people with disabilities.

I really like all of the details in this book. This is one of those books where you can travel back in time to a certain day, yet be home in time for supper. We all have some huge tragedy or trauma in our lives. We can choose to learn from it and teach others, or spend all our lives feeling bad for ourselves. Michael chose to teach others.

Although this book is wonderful, I do not suggest it for teens/tweens under 12 years old because it is an adult book. But it really depends on individual maturity level. For those who do choose to read this, from me to you, good reading!

-Danielle L., 6th grade