Seek out the seekers

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

With Into the Wild, the first in the Warriors fantasy series about feral cats, Erin Hunter revealed what seem to be conflicting interests: giving the feline characters human personalities even as they are celebrated for their animalistic instincts for hunting and survival.

The appropriately-named author is at it again with The Quest Begins, (HarperCollins, $16.99, 293 pages, age 9 and older), the first in another animal series, the Seekers. This one offers prominent themes about the dangers of global warming and diminished wild places.

But a word about Erin Hunter: "She" is actually four authors -- British writers Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry and Victoria Holmes (who collaborated on the Warriors series) and American writer Tui Sutherland.

The seekers are three bears whose stories are followed separately until almost the end of the novel. Kallik is a young polar bear traveling with her mother and brother across ice and toward land, racing to beat the "burn sky" and the melting of the ice.

oklo is a grizzly cub, traveling with his mother and sickly brother over mountainous territory to a salmon river. And Lusa is a small black bear living in a zoo but eager to learn about and experience the forests and mountains of the wilds.

Each story involves hunger, hardship and the loss of family that turns the young bears into solitary travelers. Except for giving them human traits of thought, personality and speech, the authors keep the bears as wild creatures, hunting to satisfy their hunger and oblivious to the motives of the "flat-faces" (humans) and their "firebeasts" (cars).

Nancy Gilson, The Columbus Dispatch Arts Editor, provides "Book Looks."

Presumably, during the rest of the series, the bears will journey toward land that is still wild and cold enough for their lifestyles. The scarcity of salmon and other food, the melting of the ice cap and the domestication of wild animals are evils they must deal with.

Their alternating, intersecting stories are handled smoothly, and most chapters end as cliffhangers. And, at the end of this first installment, the authors supply the first two chapters of book two, Great Bear Lake, to be published in January.