Monday, January 30, 2023

MMGM- Border Crossings and A Starless Clan: Sky

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Collard III, Sneed B. Border Crossings
January 24, 2023 by Charlesbridge Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Two endangered, rare ocelots set off to find mates. One travels from the US and tries to get into Mexico, but is stopped by a manmade wall. Another, traveling towards the US through the Sonoran desert, manages to get across an area where there is no fence. Using the experiences of these animals, the area around the US Mexico border is beautifully described and pictured, and the flora and fauna are listed. The problems that the border causes for animals and for native plants is discussed in the book, and further information about the environmental impact is given in an end note. I was unaware of the plight of the ocelots, and was unfamiliar with this region of the world. While I knew that the border wall was problematic, and that immigration in this area was problematic, I hadn't thought about the environmental impact. This book certainly provides a lot of food for thought, and Collard always does a great job in bringing a solid science back ground to his topics. 

This is more like Collard's picture books Beaver and Otter Get Along... Sort Of  or Waiting for a Warbler than his slightly longer and more informative Woodpeckers: Drilling Holes and Bagging Bugs or my favorite, Hopping Ahead of Climate Change. It was be a great book to use in classes during the study of biomes, and would be a great read alound for older students studying immigration through the lens of current events. 

Hunter, Erin. Warriors: A Starless Clan: Sky (#2)
November 1st 2022 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

While the Warrior Cats books are my least favorite type of fiction to read (talking animals, vole eating), I fully understand the passion of the fans of the series and have dutifully bought and read every book, including graphic novels, Super Editions and Guides. That said, I have retained very little about the stories, other than that cats change their names at different stages of their lives, they're a bit snobby about "kittypets", and they are always fighting and getting injured. I loved Anne of Green Gables in middle school but never expect my students to want to read it. There need to be lots of different books for many different readers. So bear with me as I navigate the eight pages of characters and four pages of maps that start out Sky, the second book in the 8th series, each of which have six books. There are also 15 Super Editions.

The cats are preparing for leaf-bare, gathering food and checking stores of medicine. Riverclan is in crisis because they have no leader, and they're not really sure who should approach SkyClan (best described as ghosts of deceased cats who sometimes appear to living cats to give advice) to get a recommendation for a new leader. Frostpaw, whose mother Curlfeather has died, is training to be the Riverclan medicine cat, and is expected to receive this advice. It's not going well, and she panics and picks Owlnose, who seems to be the least likely leader. In fact, his reign has several catastrophes, and he eventually decides he just won't do it.

Sunbeam, in Shadowclan, is still upset that Blazefire doesn't want to be her mate, and has indeed decided to be with her ex-best friend! She is also trying to assume the role of medicine cat, but struggling with learning the ropes. There seems to be a lack of older cats due to the traumas and fighting in previous books.

Nightheart is a bit of a wild card, thought of as incompetent by the other clan members, and derided for changing his name from Flameheart, thereby dishonoring his father. He wants to be a warrior, but is struggling with acceptance in his own clan. When several cats have whitecough, and one young kit is very sick with greencough, a general lack of catmint is discovered. This panics the cats, since it is leaf-fall, and soon there will be no herbs to gather. The clans band together to search as far as the Twolegplace to find the crucial herb. Sunbeam ends up working with Nightheart, and the two get along well. Thunderclan and Shadowclan are hard hit with sickness, and the other clans are angry about cats mixing with others, spreading sickness. Since Riverclan can't come to a decision about their leader, it looks like Tigerstar might "take over". He claims it is for the clan's own good, but it is seen as an attack by the other cats. The SkyClan seems particularly unhelpful, and there are many matters not resolved at the end of the book. Shadow, book three, comes out in April of 2023 and will address the warrior code that allows cats to change clans.

I had forgotten the romantic element of the books, but it was interesting to see how invested Sunbeam was in Blazefire, and how quickly she connected with Nightheart. This makes sense; there are constantly cats dying, and kittens being born, but this is young middle grade romance! There is a lot of discussion about cats changing clans that I don't remember from other books, although I do recall some issues with "kittypets" wanting to join clans.

The appeal of these does seem to lie with the battles between the clans, the hunting of prey, and the foraging for medicinal plants. The writers who work as Erin Hunter do a great job of showing how violent and unpredictable nature can be without going into too many gruesome details. These books are popular with avid readers starting in about third grade, and I can see many, many hours of fun "playing" Warrior Cats on the playground with like minded friends. They are definitely an escapist pleasure for middle school students as well, and many of my students reread them repeatedly.

Tui Sutherland (of Wings of Fire fame) and Inbali Iserles both have written similar series, and there are other animal books, such as Lasky's Horses of the Dawn that have a similar feel, but true Warriors fans are usually only placated by the next book in the series!

This had more nods to current political and social issues in the real world than I remember other books having, but I'm not entirely sure that young readers will pick up on this.

For a complete list of Warriors Read Alikes, check out this slide show!


  1. I admire your continued dedication to read beyond your interests. But I love it when I do and it's surprisingly good or if someone immediately comes to mind.

  2. I really want to read Border Crossing! This reminded me to grab a copy at my library.

  3. Border Crossings sounds absolutely fascinating. I never thought about these kinds of implications from the stupid wall. (Sorry about the editorializing here.) I think I pass on the cats books. Thanks for the reviews.

  4. My friend's kids love the Erin Hunter books but I haven't read any of them yet. It's certainly a hugely successful series! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Border Crossings sounds like a book that I will definitely enjoy.. As for the other, not sure if it is for me..