Warriors (Manga Book 2): Warrior’s Refuge. Created by Erin Hunter. Written by Dan Jolley. Art by James L. Barry. Tokyopop/HarperCollins. $6.99.
Grandfather’s Dance. By Patricia MacLachlan. Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins. $5.99.
Brief and easy to read, these two paperbacks can serve as enjoyments in their own right or as introductions to the larger works of which they are a part. Erin Hunter’s ubiquitous Warriors series (actually a series of series!) works well in graphic-novel form, where the simple plots and action orientation come through clearly. There is actually more depth to the Warriors tales as they go on, but the surface simplicity is what readers will find in Warrior’s Refuge, which is fine as long as no one expects it to be more than it is. And what is that? It’s the continuing adventure of Graystripe, who is seeking the ancestral homeland of his Clan, and Millie, the “kittypet” whose feelings for Graystripe became apparent in the first manga book, The Lost Warrior. There is inherent contempt for “kittypets” in the Warriors sagas, which after all are about the heroic deeds of cats living on their own in feline societies of their own making. But these manga books, for ages 8-12, are moving in a slightly different direction: Millie proves more useful in Warrior’s Refuge than Graystripe would ever have imagined possible, and her usefulness is tied directly to what she has learned while living as a kittypet. The lessons are not that difficult – a primary one is that not all “twolegs” are evil – but they fly in the face of what Graystripe has always believed. And when his long-held beliefs are confronted with evidence that they may be wrong, he finds himself with some decisions – and choices – to make. Eventually, Graystripe and Millie successfully make their way to ThunderClan’s ancestral home – but the unhappy surprise they find there reinforces the Clans’ deep mistrust of humans and sets the scene for the next book in the manga series.
Grandfather’s Dance sets a different sort of scene. An easy-to-read novella – at 84 pages, more of an extended short story – it represents the conclusion of Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall series. The dance of the title is one that only Grandfather does – at the prairie wedding of Justin to Anna, the sister of Cassie Witting, who is the central character throughout the series. Weddings – simple, homespun ones like this, anyway – are celebrations of family, and of course that is the whole point of Sarah, Plain and Tall. So this wedding story, which brings together far-flung relatives in a world that smells of roses, is a fitting (and highly sentimentalized) conclusion to Cassie’s tales. There are some tears at the end of the book, since this is a tale of endings as well as beginnings, but the final “life goes on” message resounds strongly and will appeal to young readers looking for a little amusement, a good cry, and a hopeful tomorrow.