The Empty City
This adventure/fantasy novel is the first in the "Survivors" series written by Erin Hunter. The novel is published by Harper, a division of HarperCollins publishing.
The Empty City is written for ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Lucky is a Lone dog who must learn to survive when an earthquake kills most of the longpaws (humans). At first he travels with his friend Sweet, but she is a Pack dog who soon leaves him to find other dogs. Lucky must fight cats, raccoons and other dogs to scavenge for food the longpaws have left behind.
A ragtag pack of dogs saves him from a group of foxes. Among them is Lucky's sister, Bella. The former Leashed dogs look to Lucky for leadership to help them survive a world without the longpaws. He trains them to hunt for food and get in touch with their natural instincts again. Although they resist giving up hope that their masters will one day return for them, they eventually bury the objects they carry to remind them of home as an offering to the Earth-Dog.
Lucky gets them settled in a safe place before he tells them it's time for him to head out and be a Lone dog again. They thank him for all he's taught them. Before he gets too far away, he hears the sound of a dog fight. He knows his friends are again in trouble and turns around to save his pack.
Other Belief Systems
The dogs believe in their own mythology of dog-gods, which include Lightning, the swiftest dog warrior, and the Sky-Dogs who watched over him. Also, there's Earth-Dog, who was jealous of Lightning's long life. Earth-Dog tried to trap Lightning so she could steal his life force, but the Sky-Dogs lifted him up in a tornado. When storms rage, it is Lightning returning to Earth to tease Earth-Dog.
Lucky's mother told him that there was once a Storm of Dogs when dogs had to fight to survive. She warns that the Storm of Dogs may come again. Another story is of Omega-Wind, the smallest of her pack. She was forced to serve the others in her group. She would run into the forest and hunt for herself, always leaving behind some of her kill as an offering to Forest-Dog.
When the great Storm of Dogs came, Wind was chased away by one of the giant dogs that came down from the mountains. She ran into the woods. Forest-Dog remembered her offerings and helped her escape. Now she is a Lone Dog with no Alpha and no Master.
Lucky often prays to Earth-Dog for help. He calls on the other dogs to look inside themselves and find their lost dog-spirits. Lucky buries an offering of food to Earth-Dog, as thanks for her help in surviving in the wild. When he sees a human die, Lucky believes the man's spirit will join with the world.
Lucky hurls insults at dogs that hold his friends prisoners. He insults their mothers, claiming that they were tailless and that their father licked cat spit.
Lucky's paw is injured in the Big Growl, an earthquake. Throughout the book, he and the others must fight other animals and dogs to survive. Lucky remembers how his master would kick and hit him. One of the dogs is nearly killed when she breathes in fumes from a natural gas leak.
A group of Dobermans discusses killing Lucky's friends and leaving their bodies as a warning to other dogs. Lucky bites their Alpha dog, tasting her blood, before he escapes. A man shoots a deer. He fires a warning shot at the dogs to scare them away. Lucky has nightmares in which his friends are killed by other, larger dogs. He dreams of drowning in their blood.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics :
If you were a dog, what type of dog would you like to be: a Wild Pack dog, a Lone dog, or a Leashed dog? Why?
Why do the dogs call humans longpaws?
* Discuss some of the other words they use, such as Big Growl, treasure pouches and loudcages.
* What does each refer to, and how might that name have been given?
* What are some events around you that could be given names like these?
Why does Lucky liked being a Lone dog?
* Why does he resist becoming the head of a pack?
* Why do other dogs resist becoming Pack dogs?
* Would you resist becoming the head of a pack? Explain.
* Would you resist becoming a Pack dog? Explain.
Why do the Leashed dogs like their masters?
* If you have a pet, how do you take care of the animal?
* If you don't have a pet, what kind of pet would you like to own?
* How would you take care of it?
What catastrophic event takes place in this book?
* How do longpaws and dogs react to it?
* If you had to leave your home in a hurry, what one item would you take with you? Why?
Alcohol: Lucky remembers his owner smelling of fire-juice. It made the man smell bad and walk funny. It also made him mean.
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