Warriors: Into the Wild

cover image for Warriors: Into the WildHunter, E. (2003) Warriors: Into the Wild.  New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.




Rusty lives the pampered life of a kittypet, fed and cared for by two-legs.  He has been warned by the other kittypets to stay out of the woods and away from the cats who live there. Rusty, longing to hunt, ignores the warnings and ends up having a dangerous encounter with on the fierce warriors who live in the woods, without the help or hindrance of any twolegs.  However, the meeting ends with an intriguing offer to join the ThunderClan and live his days not as a kittpet, but as a warrior.  Will Rusty choose to leave the safety of being a kittypet in order to enjoy the adventure of being part of a clan?  How will a kittypet survive amongst the danger and intrigue of clan life?


This is one of those books that was an occasional chore to get through, but that I can totally understand why so many tweens love it.  It’s all the make-believe adventure games you used to play when you were kids brought to life through cute litte kitty-cats.  What I did admire about the series – and I think is the reason for a lot of its appeal – was how practical the story was at times.  It’s pure fantasy, clearly, but Hunter doesn’t shy away from mentioning (albeit sometimes in code) topics like birth, death, and even neutering pets.  Altogether this gives the series a level of sophistication that tweens are usually unable to create for themselves but very much appreciate.  It also provides a softer introduction to issues that many tweens would find more difficult to deal with in realistic fiction.

Best for ages 8-13


Series website: http://www.warriorcats.com/warriorshell.html


Julie of the Wolves

cover image for Julie of the WolvesGeorge, J. C. (1972) Julie of the Wolves.  New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.




Julie’s provisions have run out, leaving her in the arctic tundra, miles from civilization, and without food. She isn’t alone, however. She is surrounded not only by caribou (which she has no tools to hunt) but also a by a hungry wolf pack. Julie isn’t afraid of the wolves; when she was little and lived as Eskimos used to live, her father taught her that wolves were her brothers. If she can only convince them to accept her as pack – as family – then maybe they will feed and protect her from starvation.


Tweens of all ages will identify with thirteen year old Julie’s feeling of being torn between the world of her childhood and the uncertainty of her future. Many will also be equally fascinated by glimpses into both the lives of wolves and of Julie’s people. It’s easy to see why this slim novel won the Newbery, is a perennial reading list favorite, and prompted countless readers to beg Ms. George for more of Julie’s story.


Julie of the Wolves was also one of the most frequently challenged books in 1990-1999, most specifically for a scene in which Julie’s husband (also a child) attempts to assault her. While the scene was described in one challenge as being graphic, that’s much like calling Speak pornography; the scene in question is short and results in little more than ripped clothing (as well as Julie decision to flee). It may not be the best choice for all younger tweens, especially without adult discussion, but with the average age of puberty for girls having dropped down to age 10, I personally think that non-graphic discussion of sexual assault is hardly an exceptionally inappropriate topic for upper elementary school. I also think it’s useful for children to encounter such topics in a respectful and safe manner at least a short time before – not after – they are likely to have to deal with them. However, each child is different and while I do recommend this title for children as young as 9, one should keep in mind each individual child’s level of maturity.


Best for ages 9-14


Awards and Reviews: Newbery Medal Winner


Author Website: http://www.jeancraigheadgeorge.com/