My eleven-year-old charge Valerie is obsessed with the fantasy series Warriors about cat clans in the wild. We have similar tastes in reading, and when she told me that these were now her favorite books, surpassing the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, I knew I had to start reading them.
A few weeks ago Valerie gave me the first book in the series Warriors: Into the Wild, where a house cat named Rusty (called “kittypet” jeeringly by the feral cats) is taken into the cat family ThunderClan to train as a warrior. He is rechristened Firepaw and sets about apprenticing under the leader of ThunderClan, Bluestar. The story follows the classic hero-in-training archetype, but is told using cat characters rather than human ones.
The author Erin Hunter really knows her cats. I envision her living in a farmhouse out in the country, the place where humans (Two Legs) drop off their problem cats, reasoning that they’ll like it better in the wild and that the humans in the house will take charity on the kittypets if they’re not able to fend for themselves right away. I think she must always have a pair of binoculars by her side to spy on the cats swarming around her house so adept is she in describing cat behavior–“a nervous lick,” their curiosity, how their pupils retract in bright light. She weaves this in seamlessly, so the reader is completely enveloped in the cat world, and “sharing tongues,” or grooming, doesn’t seem weird. The book reminds me very much of the classic Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
Every day after school, Valerie comes to my apartment and quizzes me about how far I’ve read in the book, and then we have long, involved discussions about the different cat characters–who our favorites are, who my cats would be if they were warriors and had not already visited the Cutter (the veterinarian). I have taken to calling my cats Juniormint, Ellie, and Marlin kittypets and wondering what’s going on in their little cat skulls as they stare out the window entranced by the pigeons on the fire escape.